The Large and the Small

Two videos watched several years apart, yet both left a similar lasting impression on me.

The first one, "Journey to the Andromeda Galaxy," made me truly grasp the vastness of the universe. As an engineer, I already knew it was immense... but not to this extent. Take a look, it's a fascinating mini-documentary that completely disrupts our perception of space and time scales.

For the infinitely small, a short video: a protein "walking" on a microtubule. As I speak to you, billions of proteins are calmly walking inside your cells.

As Pascal once said, we find ourselves lost between these two infinities. Good night.

On Maternity

We often forget the people who make our lives easier.

We dwell too long on those who cause us problems.

Those who smooth the path, give us a boost at the right moment, discreetly help when we need it the most, tend to fade from our attention in favor of others: those who create drama, complicate situations, pose a threat. They say a problem solved is one less thing to think about. In doing so, the helping hand can easily be forgotten along with the problem it resolves, while the devil thrives in the complications it creates.

"The brain fades in favor of the world," said Alan Watts. If I perceive the sound of the river and the sunlight, it's because I'm not constantly preoccupied with the existence of my nervous system and the activity of my neurons. The machine disappears in favor of the experience.

In many respects, maternal instinct works in the same way. By silently providing for all the vital needs, the mother allows the child to focus on the world rather than their hunger, thirst, or fear. She herself cannot remain the center of attention for too long, as it can create an attachment that hinders awakening. Her purpose is to fade into the background for the sake of everything else.

Fishing day

In the series "I found a treasure trove of lockdown drawings that I post when I'm in a hurry," here's a lockdown drawing that I'm posting because I'm in a hurry:

Fishing Day (Procreate)

A memory of a time when there were still insects and fish. Hurry up, they're disappearing quickly.

The Camera Effect

Often, when I watch a documentary, I wonder how people who claim to be so affected, so depressed, sometimes so mean, can appear so open, so sincere, and have so much perspective when telling their story. The hysterical one is perfectly calm. The compulsive liar tells the whole truth. Those presented as suffering from intellectual or emotional delays demonstrate an extraordinary clarity and intelligence in their introspection.

It's not staging or manipulation. It's the camera effect.

One day, in the midst of the routine, a director called them and showed interest in their lives. He asked them questions, wanted to know more about them. There seemed to be no cost to this interest, no trap, nothing to give in return. Trust was born. Then, on the day of the interview, a whole team sprang into action: lights were set up, equipment moved, furniture rearranged, and at the right moment, this machinery fell silent to capture their words. The director, the cinematographer, the sound engineer, the assistant—everyone was attentive.

We all seek to prove that we exist.

Not being seen is probably the mother of all fears. On a small scale—the annoyance of being jostled by a stranger in the street—or on a more essential level—the feeling of being ignored by parents, by friends, by the world in general.

During an interview, this fear fades away. The lights, the camera, the attention of the entire team are focused on oneself. There is time. One feels heard. The barriers one had set up to protect oneself, the reflexes one had created to prove that one is there, to attract attention—all of that can be put on hold.

We reveal the remarkable person we would be at every moment if the world paid attention.

The Beach Again?

Yeah, sorry: I can't help myself. But every time, I'm amazed.

Trouville beach in May.
"Life is Beautiful" in seashells.

It's incredible that the tide wrote a message in French so clearly when it receded. Nature is amazing!

The Stagemaster: Second Step

Received this week at a particularly opportune time (if only I believed in signs):

Certificate of Deposit of my screenplay at the Library of Congress.

Written in six months, left to rest for almost five years, and recently found the right ending before registering it at the Library of Congress. "The Stagemaster" is a screenplay for a dramatic comedy set in Great Britain, written in English and I am now able to start sharing it. English-speaking contacts are welcome.

What is Reactivity (And Why It Might not be Good for You)

In business, of course, it's a quality. We want it everywhere.

In essence, reactivity is the ability to analyze and react to a situation that is outside the scope of what was originally planned. When you've devised a plan that obviously isn't working anymore ("is it normal for the basement to flood like this?"), you have to be able to put aside outdated solutions ("so we don't turn the power back on?") to initiate actions that are more in line with the reality of the problem ("maybe we should tell the kids to come back upstairs?").

So if you're asked this question in a job interview: yes, you're reactive. Thoroughly.

In Eastern philosophy, it's a more mixed quality. Becoming less reactive is even a measure of progress: a Buddhist who is not proud of his behavior would say "Sorry, I was being reactive" or "I was acting from a place of reactivity."

In that context, reactivity is acting immediately on the basis of one's thoughts and emotions. Without buffering, without temporizing, without giving them a chance to evolve.

For Buddhists, thoughts and emotions are transient. Like everything else in this world, psychic contents appear, take their course, and then disappear. The wisdom lies in observing this dance without getting trapped by each passing mood.

Often, Buddhists tell us, we give too much credit to our thoughts. We imagine that every idea is the mental representation of an underlying reality; that every emotion that points inside is the consequence of something that happens outside; that there is a 1:1 ratio between the physical world and our image of it. In this view, it is crucial to act without delay since thoughts are reality - or are, at least, extremely faithful ambassadors of it.

Except that a modicum of introspection quickly puts this idea to shame.

When not artificially entertained, thoughts... pass. Emotions pass. Everything passes. And usually very independently of the reality to which they were thought to be attached.

In fact, the same reality can present itself very differently throughout the day: disturbing in the morning, indifferent at noon, more motivating in the evening. Three perceptions for the same object. But to witness this change (what Buddhists refer to as impermanence or anitya), one must not have acted hastily in the morning. By jumping into action right away (being reactive), we don't give ourselves the chance to see that first emotion disappear in favor of the next one, and then the next one, and so on, revealing the essentially ephemeral nature of our psychic contents.

This is especially important because, as Acharya Prashant writes in Advait in Everyday Life (don't let the cover fool you, this book is a treasure trove): the seed and the fruit of action are one.

In other words: action initiated in anger will only bring more anger. The enterprise built on fear will only lead to more fear. The emotion at the source of the action will be the emotion at the end of the action, no matter how successful the project is.

Think about it: do you know many millionaires who quit business after their first big score? Politicians who don't want more power once they reach the first office? Mafiosi who give up violence once the first rivals are eliminated? Far from neutralizing it, action validates and encourages the original emotion.

Conclusion: action is rarely the right solution for dealing with unwanted emotions.

Transforming the external world will not end this sadness. Accepting or rejecting this deal will not neutralize that anguish. Using verbal or physical violence will not stop this anger. On the contrary: this decision may ultimately exacerbate the negative emotions and problematic thoughts it was supposed to stop.

So what to do?

This is both the paradox and the solution: there is nothing to do. If you don't artificially nurture them with a desire for action, the thoughts arise and disappear on their own, without anything required of you. For, as the other said:

"Whatever has the nature to appear, will also disappear." 
-- Buddha

So: when I'm worried, sad or anxious, first I deal with the emotion - by doing nothing - and then, only then, I act. But often, at this point, action is no longer necessary. Which leaves me time to write all these bullshit articles.

Poll of the Day

- Is seafood conscious? - Asshole!

I found a treasure trove of containment drawings in a misplaced folder. You are not out of the woods.

Be Bored! (Essence of Productivity)

When I find the time, I'll write a recap article about my approach to productivity and how far I've come in this area.

Contrary to what I used to think, productivity is not the art of doing more ("Here, I have a free hour between sports and my cooking class, I'm going to learn the trumpet!"). Productivity is the search for an alignment between who we are - what we believe in, what we want in life, what is important to us - and the way we spend our time every day. Too often, the hours, days and years are consumed by routine, urgency and fatigue. We end up on autopilot in service of a job, the grind, or personal goals that are no longer current.

Finding an overall direction of our own and then ensuring that this direction infuses every minute of every day is what productivity is all about.

But since I don't have time - irony! - I'm going to share this video from Pursuit of Wonder, a channel I used to follow back when I was on youtube a lot. If you skip the beginning sponsors, you'll get a glimpse of a philosophy that I share: the importance of emptiness, of idleness, of boredom.

It's a channel I recommend. I like the topics they choose - philosophical essays rooted in stoicism, Zen and bordering on science fiction - I like the guy's hypnotic voice, I like the simple but clear illustrations.

Other videos that I liked: in a somewhat science fiction genre, there was The Machine. As a moral tale of sorts, there was The Nova Effect. And a bit more like a story: Every person is one choice away from everything changing. Enjoy.