Here is a passage from the NY Times book review of Timothy Ferriss’s new book “The 4 Hour Body”:
He can use without irony…lines like: “I was enjoying French food and a bottle of Bordeaux with a 25-year-old female yoga instructor new to San Francisco, fresh from the Midwest.” This poor woman lets slip that she’s unable to have an orgasm. Mr. Ferriss, as any humanitarian would, makes it a point to fix this problem for her. “I was able to facilitate orgasms,” he writes, “in every woman who acted as a test subject.”
I started writing a diatribe about Ferris’s passage, but I stopped myself. After all, I haven’t read the book. Despite what I might think about this passage, I wish him and his readers the hardest bodies. May his words heal the masses.
But I think the Times reviewer nails it. It wasn’t so much what Ferriss wrote, but the way he wrote it, i.e. “without irony.” As Oscar Wilde put it, “A little sincerity is a dangerous thing, and a great deal of it is absolutely fatal.”
The world is bloated with sincerity. Look through most newspapers and all you see is sincerity and its evil cousin, seriousness. We read headlines about Wikileaks and oil-spills and crazed gunmen and we absolutely know the world is screwed.
But what if the answer to all the world’s woes isn’t more sincerity, more seriousness, more knowledge? Knowledge dooms. Knowledge is a record of what has been, and what likely will be. We know we are screwed because we have been. Knowledge seldom permits what could be, because what could be cannot be known. It hasn’t happened yet.
What if instead of more sincerity, seriousness and knowledge, the world needed more irony? The Greek root of irony is “eirōneia,” meaning simulated or feigned ignorance. What if even the small act of pretending to not know has the power to loosen our grip on the doomed nature of reality? What if irony was the key to transformation?
Let me explain what I mean in a very sincere fashion. Continue reading “The 168 Hour Work Week and the Case for Irony”