you know what. I sampled the first 45 minutes of this audiobook while I was walking outside yesterday. Not for the content but because I was curious why it's popular. On my quest to understanding the essence of human nature more deeply, if something appeals to millions (8 million copies sold I just checked), I need to look into it.

I say not for the content because I find myself to be in the "converted" camp on this topic. There are a very few things I give a f*ck about in life (though I don't phrase it quite that way normally). The list of things I don't bother to give a f*ck about can fill the rest of this planet. I don't flinch if someone cuts me off while driving (small potatoes). Nor do I care about fame or status related things. Bigger stuff, that gives some people a lot of grief in life I imagine. My friend Stephanie once told me, one of the reasons she thinks we're friends is that I am "one of the most drama-free person" she knows. I remember that as one of the highest compliments.

So I was mostly curious about what I would think of this book. And my brain was looking forward to the exercise of hypothesizing what specific traits of human nature make this appealing to so many. Here's what I got from that first 45 minutes:

Two things.

  1. "Life is suffering" truth telling. I didn't expect the back story of Buddha and the essence of Buddhism philosophy to be covered in this book. I recognized where he was going immediately because of this Coursera class I took last summer for fun. My notes, in fact, say exactly this First Noble Truth = Life is Suffering. Including the part about how pain and suffering are an evolutionary feature, not a bug. There is something comforting about having a book tell you "It's okay and expected that you will suffer in life. Good things will happen to you if you accept the nature of suffering". My theory is people resonate with this type of directness and lack of sugar-coating and coddling found in other self-help books.
  2. Humor. I found myself laughing out loud a few times. Humor is one of those things that connects people and no one is immune to a good pun and subtle play on words (you know it's true, admit it!).  For someone who doesn't typically use that word in their vocabulary, I found the use of profanity well done for the most part. (It's like what Mrs. Erickson (my high school math teacher) said about Good Will Hunting. She shared that she liked the movie and when someone mentioned 'what about the cursing' I remember being surprised by her saying"it was tastefully done"). Also I think the excessive use of f*ck appeals to people. It's one of those primal thing.

So that's what I think so far – pain and suffering and humor. That's why this book is popular.