Smells Like Teen Spirit de Patti Smith

Of course, you've been listening to this on repeat for years, while I, foolishly, have just been listening to the original – which is also very good, let's be clear about that.

But this version has something... charming. And rebellious at the same time.

I would really love to make a music video for this song.

Presence and Action

I'm starting to think that only presence matters. That there's ultimately no such thing as a good or bad action, a good or bad decision: only good or bad reasons to act.

But first, what does it really mean to "be in the present"?

Physically, of course, we can't be anywhere else. No one has ever set foot in the past or the future. So technically, we're all "in the present." But we can be in the present without being "in the flow" of the present.

Being in the flow of the present is about receiving and allowing oneself to be transformed by what is happening at every moment.

When everything is going well, events, sensations, and thoughts arise, follow their course, and then disappear. This short cycle allows us to be constantly open to what is happening here and now. We can receive the next ray of sunshine, the next idea, or the next conversation because we haven't remained stuck on the previous content. Everything constantly renews itself in interaction with the context.

Yet often, we get stuck.

We "cling" to an idea, a thought, or an anxiety that, consciously or unconsciously, we keep looping. This vortex occupies all mental space: the rays of sunshine and the upcoming conversations are blocked out. The present continues to unfold, but we no longer take it into account; we no longer allow ourselves to be transformed by what is happening. We are "stuck" at the point in the past where the thought we are entertaining was formed.

Buddhists call this attachment.

I am "attached" to mental content like a boat tied to the shore. The result is the same: I am no longer carried by the flow of the current.

Here are a few examples of attachment. One: I must go to a certain place for a certain reason. The journey is merely an unimportant transition between me and my goal. Anything that delays me is an obstacle. I am too attached to the destination to be open to what is happening. Two: I have decided to say a certain thing to a certain person. The conversation is just a necessary step to trigger the reaction I want. I am too attached to the outcome of the exchange to be open to the human being in front of me. Three: I have decided that a certain event must unfold in a certain way. Any deviation from my predictions is a failure. I am too attached to my vision to be open to what is actually happening – including pleasant surprises.

In each case, I prioritize the idea over reality; I am too attached to my mental construct to receive – and therefore, to work with and benefit from – what is actually occurring.

Now, I am coming to believe that nothing is more important than being in this flow of the present. It is surely more important than the action itself.

By this, I mean that it is impossible to judge the quality of an action without real presence. If I am stuck in a mental space that is not updated, all the indicators I look at to make my decisions are outdated. I am reacting to a worldview constructed in the past rather than the one manifesting in front of me.

Conversely, when I am in the flow, there is no need to make a decision. The action, like a reflex, adapts to the situation. There is no longer a good or bad decision. Only action.

So, my role is not to intellectually ponder what should be done or seek the ideal solution. It doesn't exist. My role is to gently untangle each attachment I encounter, one by one. Then, let the current take over.

UPDATE: If you have doubts, here's a nice confirmation by Francis Sanzaro in this New York Times article.

I'm Conducting an Experiment

You probably don't know this, but for over a year (or a little less, I haven't done the math), I've been writing a journal.

Every morning and often several times during the day, I throw words onto the page with no literary pretensions. My goal: to analyze my current state. Untangle looming anxieties. "Describe the obstacle," as I often say, meaning that instead of getting stuck or procrastinating, I try to describe what's blocking me in as plain and disengaged terms as possible. And often, it works.

Now, when I reread my journal – which doesn't happen often – I find that it's... how should I put it... not unpleasant to read. At least, not as bad as one might imagine. Less disjointed and less intensely personal than you might think. It's... readable. Sometimes, to my surprise, even quite interesting. With moments of realization, ideas, and just as much humor as in what I write for others.

I think everything should be this easy.

Especially since I recently read a post about writing 1000 words a day. A challenge the author took on, and it had a huge impact on their life, both personally and professionally. And I thought to myself, "But... I'm already doing it!!!" Except I don't publish it, of course. It's my journal. It's too personal. Too poorly written. It's a tool for progress, not content meant to be shared.

And today, I say: fuck it.

I'm going to write in my blog just like in my journal. Gradually, I'm going to practice sharing what seems unshareable. Especially since, in reality, the readership of one doesn't exceed that of the other by much.

There are several reasons why I think it's a good exercise and, in the end, a good idea.

First, it's always this idea of learning in public (or "working with the garage door open," as they say in the United States): not waiting for the product to be finished or for learning to be complete before sharing what we do. Otherwise, we never share anything. Austin Kleon talks about it a lot in "Show Your Work."

Next, it makes what I write more current, more intimate, and more personal. You see, what makes me so talkative in my journal is that I write to explore the concrete problems that involve my favorite character: me. Everything is serious, everything is urgent because these are the problems I'm trying to solve right now. It's impossible to find the same verve and flow on a topic that doesn't have the same subjective relevance, no matter how interesting it may be in the absolute sense.

Finally, it's the approach I took with the video improvisations last year. Remember? A ten-minute video every day, rain or shine. The goal was to shed the weight of technique to be more spontaneous. I want to do the same thing for writing.

So, I wrote this post from start to finish in about ten minutes without correcting, without rereading, without asking too many questions. I'll do one pass – and only one – of proofreading to remove some repetitions and a couple of swear words. And that's it.

UPDATE: Alright, I did two proofreading passes. Some progress, nonetheless.

The Profane and The Sacred

First, let me be clear: I'm not religious in the slightest.

Even though I was baptized, received communion, and went through all that, I dropped it all around the age of twelve, and the years have only solidified my rejection of organized religion.

When asked, I say I'm agnostic and atheist – which might seem contradictory. Agnostic because I haven't explored the entirety of the universe, and there could very well be something out there, for all I know. A purpose, an equation, a metaphysics that one might choose to personalize and call God. Why not. But deep down, I think we can't know, and we might as well not bother – which is the stronger version of agnosticism. But – and here comes my atheist side – if there is indeed something, I am convinced that it has absolutely nothing to do with what religions, past or present, have been trying to sell us for centuries. To me, the Bible, Torah, Quran, and the like are bad fiction used to maintain a form of control.

That's where we're starting from.

Yet, over the past few years, I've discovered a certain spirituality within me.

Spirituality, for me, would be a connection with something greater than oneself. Not necessarily in the usual sense of a god.

It could be a connection with nature, for instance.

I'm talking about nature in the broad sense: that grand whole that has existed since the big bang, probably before, giving birth to galaxies, stars, planets, which in turn allowed the emergence of life in all its forms: bacteria, plants, animals. This gigantic ever-transforming soup that, through laws we're only beginning to understand, is the origin of everything we know. That some parts of this whole develop their own consciousness and are capable of experiencing themselves and the world, that this physical-chemical-biological complexity gives birth to such a simple experience ("I am") that allows each of us to unravel the thread of our lives without needing to comprehend the underlying mechanisms, I find there's magic in that. At the very least, a mystery. Undoubtedly, a beauty.

But above all: this small dose of spirituality is enough to define a boundary between the profane and the sacred.

The profane view of the world would see nothing more than an accumulation of matter and physical laws that we need to seize to benefit ourselves. There would be no mystery anywhere, no questions, no wonder, and from there, no respect to cultivate towards anything. Only resources to exploit. Life would then be just another fuel in service of our vision of comfort and progress.

This thesis, so well defended by Bernard Stiegler in this recently discovered video, also brings me back to what Alan Watts – my guiding philosopher – said on the matter:

Namely, the relationship between humans and nature is built upon a double misconception. The first: that our role is to dominate nature. To fight and control the elements to impose our will. The second: that we are in a position to save it. That the planet – or certain parts of the planet – would need us to continue existing. These two options, far from being equivalent in their effects, stem from the same fundamental omission:

We are nature.

We, humans, are as much nature as rocks, trees, ants, or dolphins. We are made of the same matter, arising from the same physical and biological evolution, and are destined to disappear in similar ways. (For instance: by transforming our ecosystem beyond the limits of our own survival – which, in the history of species, is nothing new.)

This doesn't mean there's no difference between humans and other species. Of course, there are differences. But when we return to the fundamentals – living, surviving, finding meaning – it seems to me that our belonging to the living is a better analytical prism than what sets us apart.

Because if we are nature, nothing we do can be against nature.

We are part of the grand whole. The challenges we face are part of the grand game. And the mystery and magic at work in the universe also express themselves through us.

It's Not The Beach, IT'S THE SEA

That's completely unrelated, so I consider that I haven't broken my vow.

Breaking the waves.
The foam provides and ideal backdrop for fishermen silhouettes.
The hardest part is training the seagulls to enter the frame at the right moment.

Unfortunately, I believe you'll be stuck with beach photos until I move away.

What The Heck Is Art Anyway?

I discovered this person yesterday in this video. He's become my favorite human being. (I hope I don't find out he's a scoundrel... Doesn't look like one. You'll let me know.) French only, sorry.

The example of the Sámi hunter piqued my interest, and I remained captivated: the sumptuous nature of art, the role of aesthetics in society, the connection with the divine, politics, or industry—I found all of it fascinating. It's something to be seen and pondered upon.

UPDATE: I've been told that he went to prison in his youth for bank robbery. Rare are the philosophers who truly live their philosophy to the end...

Page 100

Just reached page 100 of the novel I've been writing... oh... for fifteen years.

I would say there are about ten pages left until the end, so I should finish it in one or two years.

This is Not Water (And Not Art)

At the Franciscaines to work. I see there's an immersive installation starting in 5 minutes. Since I have a friend in there and she has never been able to convince me it's worth it, I drop off my bag at the cloakroom and go in. We'll see.

The installation is called "Dernière Minute" (Last Minute), but it could have easily been called "Particle Generator" because that's all it is. For half an hour.

It starts with thirty seconds of voiceover where a woman talks about scattering her father's ashes in the sea - probably to make the committees and Arte believe there's some depth to it. Then, it's never mentioned again.

At first, it's nice. The first minute. (That should have been the title!) Particles on the floor and walls that resemble water or smoke. Then... it stays the same. For 29 minutes. Moving dots. Then lines. Then dots and lines. Then more water... even though the actual sea is literally a hundred meters away.

(You can imagine the dystopian future where we'll be dragging children into these kinds of installations to give them an idea of what it's like to "walk in water." I assure you, it's nothing like it.)

After ten minutes, very unpleasant flashes. Everyone closes their eyes. We look at the walls. What's the point? ("But of course! It's the pain of mourning! The rupture of... blah blah blah!")

So yes, it's beautiful to look at in photos. That's why I went. But when you're there, it's hollow. Artificial. It doesn't tell anything. It feels like they came up with every possible geometric combination to make it last half an hour. For the illustration of a concert or live performance: sure, why not. But on its own...

The usher encouraged us at the beginning to "move, interact." We quickly realized it's quite gimmicky, and towards the end, almost everyone was sitting down.

Vous allez avoir les fesses mouillées !

The only thing I gained from it? Ten euros.

Oh no, I lost those too.

What a load of crap.

Night Photography

I use my phone's camera to take photos of my son or - as you know - far too many beach photos. Last night, I discovered the night mode feature, which is quite impressive.

Gateway to the underwater world.
Fishermen leave their toy chests lying around.
A river runs through it.

It made me think about all the things we used to have to set up in the past to achieve the same result - well, maybe not so terrible: just a tripod. But still, progress.