The French Art of Not Giving a F*ck

Book review

When does a book sell more copies because of its title rather than its cover? When it’s called “The French Art of Not Giving a F*ck”!

cover of the french art of not giving a f*ck

Fabrice Midal, the author, is a philosopher and ‘one of the world’s leading teachers of meditation’.

So it may come as a surprise that a practitioner of the esoteric should give his book such a blunt (but funny, you have to admit) title.

More serious than it sounds

With its title, I was expecting The French Art of Not Giving a F*ck to be a humorous read. While parts of it are, Midal’s overall purpose is to make us aware that we spend much of our lives living up to others’ and society’s expectations of perfectionism by ‘adopting norms, rules, and models that don’t necessarily work for us.’

We are all products of our conditioning, that is inevitable. But Midal encourages us to step back for a moment and look more objectively at the tremendous pressures we put on ourselves and the demands we make of ourselves because of this.

The French Art of Not Giving a F*ck: Offering alternatives

Midal proposes alternatives to the commands screaming around in our heads, and these are reflected in the subtitles of his chapters. So Chapter 1, titled ‘Fuck Meditating’, offers the alternative ‘Do nothing’. He goes on to explain that there need be no pressure to force ourselves to meditate in a certain way or to use specific techniques. We’ll only be able to meditate when we stop trying. Revolutionary? Or just plain commonsense perhaps.

And ‘Fuck Being Calm’, instead ‘Be at peace’. Have you ever been told to ‘calm down’? How did it make you feel? As Midal says, ‘saying “Calm down” never calms anyone down’. The feeling we seek is peace. He acknowledges that people may reject the notion of not being calm ‘when expressing emotions in any lively way has become taboo … society tells us to be cogs in the machine – perfectly calm, perfectly smooth, truly effective, smiling … ever-successful, from morning till night’.

I’m stressed already! Yes, I understand this. If someone tells me to ‘be at peace’ I will ‘calm down’ a lot quicker than if that person tells me to ‘calm down’!

Midal continues to turn our accepted conventions on their head in the chapter ‘Fuck Being Conscious’ and invites us instead to ‘Be present’. In his meditation classes, he teaches ‘full presence, rather than full consciousness’. That makes sense to me. It’s what my own yoga and meditation teachers say.

More F* chapters

There are fifteen ‘F*’ chapters in The French Art of Not Giving a F*ck. In this reasonably short book (185 pages including notes, appendices and further reading), Midal has a simple hope for us. That we dig through the layers of complexity in life and find happiness, not the ‘watered-down … sugar-coated, comfortable’ kind, but happiness as a ‘genuine adventure, complete with unexpected twists and turns’ that can be scary but infinitely exhilarating.

I hope you enjoy the read.

Midal, Fabrice, The French Art of Not Giving a F*ck, 2018, Allen & Unwin, Crows Nest NSW Australia (first published in France under the title Foutez-vous la paix!)

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