Are We Asking The Wrong Questions?

For a while, I've been convinced that the question "Who Am I?" is not only confusing but counter-productive. It tries to identify as static something that is, by nature, dynamic. Some years ago, I started thinking about happiness and lately I've understood how "Am I Happy?" is just as rigged a question as "Who Am I?". Indeed, be it happiness or the self, these are ever changing entities. We 'know' we are happy but the moment we stop and try to bring it down to 5 bullet points, we're not as certain anymore. We 'know' who we are but the moment we try to pencil it down, the words feel eerie and disturbing.

Extending that understanding, I thought this might be the case for any feeling we have, or really any thing that makes up our life. "Am I rich?" and suddenly what I have is not enough. "Am I in love?" and suddenly the feeling puts his hand on the back of his neck and doesn't look that sure anymore. "Am I kind?" and suddenly every instance where I haven't been comes to mind before I try to summon the times where I was. Wealth, love, kindness are all dynamic. To spot the light of perception on them is to put them on the spot. And most often, they don't have answers. They're airy, dynamic by nature.

> I'm not making the case for not asking questions but rather for seeing them as clues. Why are we asking these questions in the first place. What is it that brought them to the surface. Questions about one self are mirrors more than torches. Have you ever noticed that 'static' questions hinder your thinking?

> I prefer questions that focus on what can be done. For someone trying to figure out his next professional move, "What can I do to get what I want for me and my loved ones?" is so much more useful than "What is my passion?". Would you agree?

How Do You Live With Your Ghosts? :°

In “A beautiful mind”, scientist John Nash is a schizophrenic genius who sees people who don’t exist. Eventually, he notices one of the ghosts he keeps imagining never ages. At that moment he understands it was a figment of his imagination all along. From there on, Nash, played by Russel Crowe, accepts that his ghosts are never leaving and that he’ll have to live with them and masterfully ignore them.

This is a beautiful metaphor of the emotions we’ve outgrown or chose to shelf. There are love stories we choose to leave in the past, bursts of anger and judgemental hubris we learn to ignore, split-second reflex answers we now see in a microsecond and keep to ourselves. Now, we look at them silently like an old friend whose company we’ve understood won’t lead us anywhere good. We breathe and walk away. We leave them be, voicing out their own monologue. So it is that we learn to live with our ghosts. 

> Which ghosts have you learned to ignore?
> How do you go about it?

Would you Tell your Kids about Krampus?

I am reading what might be one of the most mind-chattering authors I've ever encountered. The amazing Maria Popova introduced me to David Foster Wallace and my mental jaw has been dropping ever since. I'm reading "Consider the Lobster" and in a chapter called "Some Remarks on Kafka's Funniness from Which Probably Not Enough Has Been Removed", he writes:

"It’s not that students don’t “get” Kafka’s humor but that we’ve taught them to see humor as something you get—the same way we’ve taught them that a self is something you just have. No wonder they cannot appreciate the really central Kafka joke: that the horrific struggle to establish a human self results in a self whose humanity is inseparable from that horrific struggle. That our endless and impossible journey toward home is in fact our home. It’s hard to put into words, up at the blackboard, "believe me". You can tell them that maybe it’s good they don’t “get” Kafka. You can ask them to imagine his stories as all about a kind of door. To envision us approaching and pounding on this door, increasingly hard, pounding and pounding, not just wanting admission but needing it; we don’t know what it is but we can feel it, this total desperation to enter, pounding and ramming and kicking. That, finally, the door opens … and it opens outward—we’ve been inside what we wanted all along. Das ist komisch."

This distorted perception of humour we have today echoed Krampus in my mind. Austrians have a tradition whereas, for Christmas, instead of parading with Santa Claus and his lutins in the street, they send in drunken college dudes dressed up as the Krampus monster. Not a funny sight, especially when the sole goal is to frighten kids. I kid you not! This is Austrian humour! I get the sense that humour, in its old, classical, continental version was a darker thing. I'm reminded of Kundera's critique (praise really) of Gargantua and admiration of Rabelais, of Joseph Campbell's sublimation of trickster gods as a majestic archetypal figure with an alien, yet necessary, sense of humour.

> Do you think we've gotten softer as a culture and that it's led to a shift in our comprehension of Humour? If yes, as we've gotten softer, have we lost something of the crude, yet essential, perception we used to have of reality i.e. we stopped talking about the door that opens outward?

> In other terms maybe, would you show Krampus to your kids? How and why?

What Is Your Icing on the Cake?

I've had two insights on love lately:

A special someone pointed out the glory of independent souls. How a relationship is really a strange equation in that 1+1=3. In that each entity is already quite happy and fulfilled on her own and a relationship is only there to add icing on the cake. A cake that's already quite amazing!

This echoed a comment a friend of mine had made earlier that month. He was seeing a girl whose mother was underwhelmed by him as she wanted her daughter to marry a prince. Literally. Only he didn't mind the sub-par treatment or the situation. He was so thrilled by life already that it all seemed like ... icing on the cake.

If you push the thinking, everything is icing on the cake. Or can be. Everything is extra. And you can be thankful for every single thing.

> How do we remind ourselves that everything is actually icing on the cake?

> Total gratefulness echoes Buddhism's effort not to be enslaved by any desire. That whatever you want and pursue will not complete the bliss but only add to it. That you always live in a state of "enough". If you were to design a smartphone app, how would it remind you that 'this' is 'enough'?!

Have a good sunday Impossible Family :)

Can you suspend worry?

Today’s philosopher left us nearly nothing of his philosophy. He never wrote a thing and the transcriptions of his disciple were lost. Still the essence of his thoughts survived throughout centuries.

The main principle of Pyrrho's thought is expressed by the word acatalepsia, which connotes the ability to withhold assent from doctrines regarding the truth of things in their own nature; against every statement its contradiction may be advanced with equal justification. Secondly, it is necessary in view of this fact to preserve an attitude of intellectual suspense, or, as Timon expressed it, no assertion can be known to be better than another. Thirdly, Pyrrho applied these results to life in general, concluding that, since nothing can be known, the only proper attitude is ataraxia, "freedom from worry". ("By suspending judgment, by confining oneself to phenomena or objects as they appear, and by asserting nothing definite as to how they really are, one can escape the perplexities of life and attain an imperturbable peace of mind.")

Does it make sense? That if things are indeterminate, then, there is no place for worry? If one accepts the uncertainty related to the very "nature of nature" (as Paul Klee would put it), then worry vanishes:

The proper course of the sage, said Pyrrho, is to ask himself three questions. Firstly we must ask what things are and how they are constituted. Secondly, we ask how we are related to these things. Thirdly, we ask what ought to be our attitude towards them. Pyrrho's answer was that things are indistinguishable, unmeasurable, undecidable, and no more this than that, or both this and that and neither this nor that. He concluded that human senses neither transmit truths nor lie. Humanity cannot know the inner substance of things, only how things appear.

This echoes the four buddhist equations - careful, this article causes headaches ;). It also echoes Daniel Dennett’s qualias. If we cannot understand, measure or agree on a common objective quality then that quality does not have grounds for existence. Logically speaking. It doesn’t mean there is no reality beyond the one we perceive but it’s perfectly useless to account for it in our thinking. It is a skyhook.

The impossibility of knowledge, even in regard to our own ignorance or doubt, should induce the wise person to withdraw into himself, avoiding the stress and emotion which belong to the contest of vain imaginings. This theory of the impossibility of knowledge is the first and the most thorough exposition of noncognitivism in the history of Western thought. Its ethical implications may be compared with the ideal tranquility of the Stoics and the Epicureans.

Question time!

Is this magical thinking? Have you experienced it? As a kid I used to think worry is the "salt of life", it is why we wake up and stay awake! Can a life without worry exist?

Do You Suffer of Capturitis?

8 months ago, I wrote about a wordless world. No need to re-read the reflection as it's about something that can't be put in words :) A quote by philosopher Bernard Stiegler in the article sums up the reflection however: "In a society where musical partitions don't exist, we can't separate composition from interpretation".

This is relevant to us today. Just like musical partitions capture music on paper and make it possible to share a given tune and replay it, our words make it possible to capture our thoughts and share them. Others can then process our own ideas. There is no doubt something is always lost in translation. Words approximate reality.

My question is not about the use of words (sharing, replaying ideas etc.) however but rather about the harmfulness of capturing thoughts with words. The first critique of writing made by Plato more than 2400 years ago uses an Egyptian myth to convey the idea:

"Thamus [an Egyptian god] replied, “Most ingenious Theuth [another Egyptian god], one man has the ability to beget arts, but the ability to judge of their usefulness or harmfulness to their users belongs to another; and now you, who are the father of letters [i.e. writing], have been led by your affection to ascribe to them a power the opposite of that which they really possess. For this invention will produce forgetfulness in the minds of those who learn to use it, because they will not practice their memory. Their trust in writing, produced by external characters which are no part of themselves, will discourage the use of their own memory within them. You have invented an elixir not of memory, but of reminding; and you offer your pupils the appearance of wisdom, not true wisdom, for they will read many things without instruction and will therefore seem to know many things, when they are for the most part ignorant and hard to get along with, since they are not wise, but only appear wise."

My Evernotes have been piling up for years and years. I have 307 notes today and search them on a regular basis to surface past insights. I call this disease "capturitis". If you feel like hearing some poetry, here's a spoken word poem about our collective ailment :) But I wonder.

What if we never took a single note again? What if we never captured a thought? What if musicians never used partitions again? What would music sound like? Would the world be a cacophony?

Say we stop capturing our ideas, prolong the fermentation, and stop writing in our journals, what will our thinking be like? Does "not capturing" mean we are "trusting" our minds to preserve our best insights? If so, does that mean capturing our ideas through words hinders our true wisdom?

The Goroka tribe in Africa believes “Knowledge is only rumour until it is in the muscle”. By taking it out of the muscle, are we short-circuiting the knowledge process?

Are You Negative Enough?

The poet John Keats was one of these bursts in history. A beautiful yet rapid explosion whose echo survives in the hearts of those who appreciate ephemerality. Keats left writers, and really all humans, one of the grandest, most humbling guiding principles. It stemmed during a conversation with Charles Wentworth Dilke:

"I had not a dispute but a disquisition with Dilke, on various subjects; several things dovetailed in my mind, & at once it struck me, what quality went to form a Man of Achievement especially in Literature & which Shakespeare possessed so enormously—I mean Negative Capability, that is when man is capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact & reason"

3 years after this grand realisation, having risen to the same rank as Lord Byron and other superb contemporary poets, Keats died. At 25, in Rome, in the last stages of tuberculosis, he would wake up crying as he would notice he is still alive.

Negative capability. Remember that musician, rock star, sports champion you respect and look up to. Remember how effortless she or he seems when he is performing. She makes it look So easy! It isn’t because it isn’t hard. It is because of the comfort she exerts despite the pressure.  

It is the art of dancing when there is no music left, to dance when there is no dance floor. Dance for me, dance with me my friends! As Burkeman puts it, “negative capability” explores a new meaning of the word “negative”: “not doing”. But “negative capability” is one of these beautiful semantic mixes that hold the seed of an epiphany in that suddenly, “not doing” becomes a skill. Feel the fear and do it anyway ... or not, really :)

And with that, a question to my dancing friends:

> Stating Dilke’s biggest flaw, Keats wrote: “He will never come at a truth so long as he lives because he is always trying at it”. Burkeman, in “The antidote” writes, “it was the trying - the ‘irritable reaching' " - that was the whole problem. But do you see? To try and “solve” your anxiety towards uncertainty is to fall is the same pitfall. To try and solve the problem with the same "problem-solving" approach is to mimic the snake trying to bite its tail. When was the last time you realised this? Have you?

> How then can we transcend - ouh! new-age words :° - the tail biting? How can we Joots (Jump Out Of The System)? Should we stop asking the question maybe? Is it even a mistake to think about it? Or is it rather a subtle emotional and mental (as if these were different) equilibrium we need to reach often enough until we’re able to maintain it more durably?

Are you Paying Respect to your Mind?

The #Impossible Campaign is like Cross-Fit for the mind. We're stretching our muscles through a collective workout where we push each other further and further to new insights. We stretch our minds, like we would our muscles, to expand them. To me, this is the function of philosophy. To help us face the singularity of thought. The unknown of our mental universe. What lies beyond the Bing Bang of our minds. The unimaginable, incomprehensible, unfathomable truth.

Take "Should we torture a kidnapper we caught to know where he hid his victim?". It's a Tough Question. It's uncomfortable. It begs for a "Yes" or a "No" but subtly breaks out of both. Same when you stunt your muscles with Cross-Fit. This thing is such a surprise, "a muscular singularity", that muscles have no option but to grow.

However, there is an attitude to adopt for this growth to occur and Daniel Dennett explains it well. He distinguishes between "philosophy" and "philosophy appreciation". While the latter simply engages in "compare and contrast" (Leibniz's Monadology was a great illustration of 17th century rationalism), the former asks whether the philosopher is right (for truly, Leibniz was trying to "get to the truth" by thinking about Monads). Dennett suggests a thought experiment where you find out about a conspiracy to blow up some monument, call the police, explain the situation and they answer saying: "Oh! This reminds me of that amazing movie I saw once!". This is "compare and contrast"! And that is one crazy police officer :) What you want is someone who takes you seriously and questions "whether you are right".

Dennett concludes about how to read philosophy saying: "Respect the philosopher you're reading by asking yourself, about every sentence and paragraph, 'Do I believe this, and if not, why not?'". So here's my question now:

> How do we call this attitude? Is this curiosity? A Scientific attitude?

> How do we make sure we carry this attitude with us all day every day? What's a mental habit to develop so we can ensure this becomes a reflex?

> Why should we even care? :) Is it a form of paying respect to others' thoughts or really just to our mind eventually? Isn't the latter and the former really the same :O


Are you Distracted enough?

You've studied negative numbers in school! I did too! But I haven't realised how amazing they are until I left school! I find "-1" amazing for instance! It's 'minus' one! See what I mean? We fond a way to manifestly express something that is not manifest! There were 4 sheeps in the field. Now there are "4 - 1" sheep because of the Wolverine who ate one! We've found a way to express absence with presence! Wow!! For us to even think this up, in my mind, it means absence is an obsessive mental knob we keep turning. Subconsciously, most probably. But now get ready for a brain-gasm: 

I'm sitting in LA next to a pool and feeling cold. Now. I'm 'feeling' cold. However. When I frame my experience in an absence-minded way, a switch flips in my mind: I'm feeling cold because I'm not feeling warm or because warmth is absent. The second this pops in my mind, the experience of the cold is suddenly different. I am cold, of course, but the experience does not ripple through the mind as heavily causing irritation and a mild sense of anxiety. How does this relate to absence (or anything really)?

In a past Impossible post, we talked about how the centre of gravity is an amazing metaphor for the Self. There is no "Self" inside you. There is no "I". It isn't a pebble inside your brain pushing neurons around and provoking other thoughts. Nope. Just like the centre of gravity, it is an abstraction. More so, this specific abstraction, unlike most others in your mind, is the sum aggregation of all your feelings and emotions. Hence, when I realise I feel cold because of the absence of warmth, the gravitational coefficient of cold in the sum-all of my emotions suddenly decreases. Mediation accomplishes that by reminding you of the breath!

Think of these as planets! A universe inside you. The second you forget there are other 'planets' inside you and focus on a single one, your centre of gravity is heavily pulled towards it. All this to ask the following:

> Are you focusing on Distraction? When you get the feeling you're being pulled into a one-dimensional thought, a tunnel of sorts, do you consciously try to 1) flip the idea itself by thinking about the absent element that underlies it 2) expand your focus to remote elements (breath, the actual universe etc.) to reduce the gravitational pull of that idea?

> Do you have any other mental tricks to avoid your mind turns into a black hole :D

Are you practicing cures or reliefs?

The #Impossible Campaign asks tough questions every Sunday. Feel like joining or just following the conversation? Don't be shy! Reply :)

Today's Impossible question stemmed from a conversation with the lovely Andrea. The observation is simple: It's obvious that alcohol and drugs are often a means to bury some of our worries. An effective - though detrimental and ephemeral - form of relief. In that perspective, it's worth expanding our spectrum and thinking whether after-work activities such as working out, running, going crazy at a party etc. can also be viewed as forms of relief.

30 to 45 minutes of dopamine and epinephrine inducing activities such as sprinting or lifting or swimming excel at eclipsing anxiety. We know they don't tackle root causes however. Running won't ease our fears. Swimming won't drown our emotional insecurities. So, what will?

Nietzsche would be selling more books nowadays had he titled a book "A guide to slaying dragons". But ... well :) A dear friend of mine made a stark distinction between relieving practices and cures. Cures are a no-turning-back type of intervention. He suggested sitting down for 4 hours, in silence, and respect a single rule: "Don't do anything physical". You can scratch your nose of course but the point is, don't try to "meditate" or focus on your breath. Just sit there and wait for 4 hours. You'll know when to stand up. Now, why is this a "cure"?

Evolution did give us biological mechanisms to cure ourselves. They're far from subtle actually: When you can't handle anxiety, stress or worries, your emotional state will translate into a physical condition and you'll be sick, burn out, collapse or [insert favourite excuse to spend a week home]. Think of the 4 hours of nothing above as a way to pay back to your body the interests you owe it. It creates an otherwise un-existing space to start recycling the mountain of concerns you've been piling up. Now:

Are you practicing "reliefs" in your daily life? Which ones? Have you considered "cures"? Does the following metaphor make sense: "Paracetamol will ease your headaches. Unless you're wearing over-corrective lenses"? And! How New Agey vs rational does was this post?! Good morning Impossible Friends :)

Are You using Death properly?

Kierkegaard is coming back again this week! Give it up for the philosopher of anxiety and death!

"It is certain that death itself never offers us any explanation - well then we must simply do understanding ourselves, and a serious understanding goes like this: that if death is night then life is day, and if we cannot work at night then we can work during the day. And so the short, hurried cry of seriousness - like death’s short cry - is: do it today. For death in all seriousness energizes as nothing else does. Like nothing else it stimulates to wakefulness. Death causes the sensualist to say: Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we shall die. But this an evasive lust for life, that despicable way of things in the world where one lives to eat and drink, not eat and drunk to live. In a deeper soul the idea of death might arouse feelings of impotence that will cause his courage to falter; but for the truly serious person the idea of death gives just the right pace to life, and the right direction in which to use this pace. No bowstring, tensioned to give the arrow pace, can match the pace brought to the living by the thought of death when it has been properly tensioned in seriousness. For is is then that seriousness, working to the limits of its powers, takes hold of the matters of the day. No task is too trivial for it, no space of time too short."

Our use of the Death concept today goes along the lines of Carpe Diem but Kierkegaard makes the case for a more nuanced approach. So here's my question:


> What do you think of when you think of Death? What comes to mind and what do you usually decide to do or plan next?

> Do you think the approach you just thought of is energizing you? Is it making you anxious?

What do you "come back to" every moment?

Today we start with Danish "enfant terrible" Kierkegaard. In the following excerpt, he makes a eulogy of the post horn from which it is impossible to draw the same note twice. Hence, he employs it as an allegory of the impossibility of repetition:

"Hail the post horn! But the journey is not worth the inconvenience suffered, for one scarcely need move from the spot to be persuaded that there is no repetition. No, one sits quietly in one’s room, when all is vanity and has passed away, and yet journeys more swiftly than one does on a train, despite the fact that one is sitting quite still, Everything shall remind me of this."

"Everything shall remind me of this!" How ambitious! How can one remember moment after moment that nothing repeats itself? That every single instant is unique and hence ephemeral? And why would one want to do so in the first place?!

I used to always keep an eye on my ideas. "The most important thing moment to moment is for me to capture my ideas" and so I ended up with a gigantic evernote and a noting habit. When meditating, the "most important thing" is the moment or activity at hand i.e. my footsteps, my surroundings, the sounds, my movements etc

Whatever you choose to "get back to" moment after moment, my assumption here is, as David Foster Wallace and Bertrand Russell (in "The Conquest of Happiness") put it, that we thrive best once we're able to "bring our mind back" moment to moment to anything we choose to. So here's my question for the week


> What is your moment to moment anchor? The thought or 'mantra' you often come back to

> Did you ever try and choose the "Now" or present moment as a perpetual anchor? How did that go? And if you did find it beneficial, what are you comparing it to?

Can you glue a broken heart?

Today's impossible comes from our Impossible Joana Casaca Lemos! Btw, if you want to suggest an Impossible, reply with your burning question!

I have been trying to rationalise something which might be quite impossible to rationalize. That is romantic passion and the subsequent, inevitable heartbreaks. I find it interesting how heartbreaks can have such a drastic impact on someone's life. Romantic passion and heartbreak, two emotions which have fueled and still fuel much of artistic expression, as both a spiritual experience and a physical experience. For a long time I’ve been gathering various points of view from literature, art, science and trying to compose something to make sense of it all - if any - titled "A design methodology for the Heart”.

You gotta love our Impossible family!! "A design methodology for the Heart"!! As it happens, a week later, I was discussing the following start-up idea with a designer friend in Sao Paulo:

You insure your car against accidents, why not insure your heart against heartbreaks?
Insurance for relationships. You pay a monthly fee and you get paid back whenever you break up. It'll pay for the chocolate, the therapy, the meetic subscription, the tinder premium fee etc. Breaking up doesn't have to be so scary, get insured!

Only half-kidding to be honest. You see, I want to go into a relationship full-heartedly and want to love like there's no tomorrow but I know so well it'll sting like a (insert name of a dangerous beast) when it's over. I don't think this is "the way it is". A week ago, I coined the term "Emotional Innovation" with artist / entrepreneur / genius and friend Joao Paulo Cavalcanti. Anyone who meditated has see it happening! So!


How can we use what we know about evolution, project planning, pleasure/pain, neuroscience and our brainsto love like we should and can despite the threat of the break-up? Insurance? One-word mantras? Social institutions? Start-up? Life planning (Not getting into a "relationship" before 30)?

Are you bored?

The highlighted bit kept me thinking:

"All human beings, then, are boring. The very word indicates the possibility of a classification. The word “boring” can designate just as well a person who bores others as someone who bores himself. Those who bore others are the plebeians, the crowd, the endless train of humanity in general; those who bore themselves are the chosen ones, the nobility. How remarkable it is that those who do not bore themselves generally bore others; those, however, who bore themselves entertain others. Generally, those who do not bore themselves are busy in the world in one way or another, but for that very reason they are, of all people, the most boring of all, the most unbearable… The other class of human beings, the superior ones, are those who bore themselves… They generally amuse others — at times in a certain external way the masses, in a deeper sense their co-initiates." 

In the quote, Kierkegaard considers busyness a distraction from living! Interesting as well is the use of "nobility". Similar to Nietzsche, it points to a desirable state of being. What this means is: Kierkegaard is advising we get bored. I agree! However, he goes further by saying "those, however, who bore themselves entertain others". Why?


Is it true that to "entertain others" i.e. to be interesting, one needs to be "bored with himself"?


Look up, think through, don't be shy, reply :) I can't wait to read your thoughts guys. The past weeks have been a-m-a-z-i-n-g!!! I feel like my brain's expanding through yours :O Impossible family, you make my soul larger :* Thank you!!

How Important is Discomfort for You?

"For some time now I have been wondering what it was that caused me to leave my post as a secondary school teacher. Looking back, a post like that was the very thing for me. And today it dawned on me that this was precisely the reason - that I had regarded myself as ideally suited to the position. Had I carried on in my post I would have everything to lose and nothing to gain. So for this reason it seemed proper to relinquish the post and take employment with a travelling theatre company, since I had no talent for such work and therefore everything to gain" - S. Kierkegaard, in "Either/Or"

I found it amazing how Kierkegaard lived his philosophy and puzzling how he willingly opted for discomfort. You might be considering a change in your professional life or your personal relationships: Changing countries, joining a theatre group, learning a tough skill etc. Each of these carries its own dose of discomfort. In "The Rise", Sarah Lewis reminds us of "the lost art of learning to stand where we would rather not and expand in ways we never knew we could."

And so here's my question. Discomfort is on the rise in our society today: "Fail fast, fail more, fail soon" in the start-up world, "Creativity is about walking in the dark until you find the light" in the scientific and creative worlds. And with each comes the corollaries of courage and risk-taking ("stay foolish, stay hungry"). These social leitmotivs are all around us. But is discomfort necessarily that fundamental to personal growth?


Where does discomfort rank in your decision-making?

If you were to choose between a lower-paying but more challenging job in a country where you barely speak the language and a higher paying, safer one in the UK, would go "all Kierkegaard" and opt for the former?

More so, would you willingly leave a "dream (safe) job" for one that will expand your self and ensure personal growth?

What is your "Calling"?

"The mind, conditioned as it is by the past, always seeks to recreate what it knows and is familiar with. Even if it is painful, at least it is something familiar. Nothing scares the egoic mind more than the unknown, the idea of something new, something different. The mind always adheres to the known. The unknown is dangerous because it has no control over it. That's why the mind dislikes and ignores the present moment." - Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now


We could discuss conditioning, being comfortable with discomfort, the beauty of the 'now' and a million such nice things. But the quote is here to echo years of findings regarding the Einstellung effect: The negative effect of previous experience when solving new problems. More specifically when it comes to our professional lives.

When taking a decision about the future of your relationship with your work - one of your three important marriages as David Whyte puts it - where does your mind go? Does it consider the practical (salary, location, relationship etc.)? Does your day-to-day happiness outweigh the latter? Or does your vision of what you'd like to give the world take over?

Whether it's a mixture of the three or not, I'd like to suggest you consider your "calling". Now, a calling is not a half-naked voice from a distant future (though why not?) calling you to fulfill your potential. Rather, it's an echo. It is the voice of your past. Precisely because your past experiences have forged who you are, they can serve as a compass. What you accomplish will bring you even greater joy if it fulfills, literally, your past selves' dreams. Your past ... Is your future.


Do you have a calling?

Do you consider your past dreams when you look to build your future?

What is Your question?

In a curious way, Google is all about answers. So you could say that Google is increasing answers over time, but what’s interesting is that answers are becoming cheap; they’re almost free, and I think what becomes scarce in this kind of place that we’re headed to is questions, a really good question, because a really good question can unleash new questions.

In a certain sense what becomes really valuable in a world running under Google’s reign, are great questions, and that means that for a long time humans will be better at than machines.

Machines are for answers; humans are for questions.

The world that Google is constructing—a world of cheap and free answers—having answers is not going to be very significant or important. Having a really great question will be where all the value is.
— Kevin Kelly

In this case, fear can be an amazing excavation tool and it's to most sure-fire way to surface insights. Instead of doing it when you're 40 or, if you're 40, "later", let's do it now. This week's discussion is easy but incredibly hard. It is about the usual suspects we love to hate. Dangers we avoid ... at our own peril! The only defense is offense as someone might've said. Goes like this:

  1. Bring up the timer app on your phone
  2. Choose "3 minutes"
  3. Ask yourself - "Which question am I afraid to answer?" ... 3minutes
  4. Reply here with the answer

I'll share mine with everyone who joins the thread! Can't wait!

Religion as a start-up?

Alain de Botton makes the case for creating contemporary religions. Strip God out of existing religions and take the best in them. Some examples:

  • Judaism has the Mikvah, a day a year where you stand in a pool and while in there, you recall which things you want to be forgiven for. Amazing excuse to introspect!
  • Mid-september, Buddhist monks look at the moon and read poems about the fragility of life. How's that to appreciate life's beauty!

Our cult of Spontaneity might have developed and spread with romanticism: "Don't tell me what to do, I know what to do". We've kicked religions out of our lives. Meanwhile the market for self-help books keeps soaring. Human beings are in need for urgent guidance. We're confused. The important bit though is that it's perfectly normal. We've created mythologies since the dawn of time to guide us, or at least put to rest our existential angst.

So this week's discussion starts with the following question

> Can these rituals (mikvah, buddhist poetry party) exist outside of religion? Does this work without God? In other terms, if the pope declares "guys, the bible is just a metaphor actually", would christianity still beCan we meditate, gather as a community, confess to a man etc. secularly and without any spiritual mystery underlying the whole construct?

> If an entrepreneur was about to start a "Religion As A Service" (RAAS), what should he keep in mind?

Can't wait to see hear your neurons firing up :D

IMPOSSIBLE Is Changing. Are you Ready?

Hi everyone!

Today's not a question but rather a series of answers :) 

During the past few months, I've thought about the future of "Impossible". In parallel, after each Impossible many of you - Vaite, Dave, Sam, Cecile, Johanna, Baptiste, William, Adrien, Olivia, Joya, Francis - were getting back with amazing feedback and thoughts about the ideas portrayed.

These conversations were mind-boggling and breath-taking. They made me want to open my inbox more often! They made me think harder and further about meaning. To those friends, and others - you know who you are - thank you. This opened my eyes to the magic of thinking together. It made it clear the answers were distributed across and among us.

The search for the meaning of life, the universe and everything is - the Hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy and - The Impossible Campaign's ultimate goal. It is also a collaborative quest. We are the Interstellar crew and meaning is, just like Nolan's Gargantuan black hole, something beyond which nobody knows what lies.

Hence, from this Thursday on, The Impossible Campaign will have a new banner: "The Meaning of Life ... In your inbox". I'll explain the concept below but if this sounds like something you or your friends might enjoy, reply to this email and cc them, I'll do the rest. And if it doesn't feel like something you'll enjoy, the "unsubscribe button" is below.


What is this new Impossible format?
One topic a week. One discussion a week. Usually gravitating around Life, the universe and everything: Tough questions we often can't figure out alone.

Uh! This is weird! Why should I collaborate? I've never done anything like this before
Every time you resist figuring out the meaning of life, the universe and everything, a small baby kitten is micro-waved. Are you a baby kitten killer? ... That's what I thought

Besides the kittens, 'Meaning' is humanity's next frontier. An "earth-bound black hole". Kinda the one thing no one has a definite answer to. Because there isn't? Because it's very personal? These very questions push the boundaries of our thinking.

Is this a game? 
Maybe. But when you've thought about and discussed whether there is such a thing as an "I" for a week or if relationships should be re-imagined, you can be sure you'll look at your daily life differently.

What should I write?
Anything that comes to mind. And you don't even have to contribute. Just watch from the sidelines and jump in when you feel like it.

Won't this take up time and distract me from my work?
Great question! Maybe next week's topic should be about work's role in our lives!

Will I have to pay to be part of this?
This is an experience. And one I'm enjoying thoroughly. If I feel it's taking a big chunk of my time but providing value to people, I'll get back to you guys about this.

I kinda like this. How can i help?
The more people, the more interesting the discussion. If you have friends you believe can bring value to the discussion and would enjoy being part of a weekly thinking thread, reply and cc them. Let's do this :)

Re-imagining Relationships

The Philosopher's Mail is a twist on newspapers engineered by The School Of Life. Articles have titles such as "François Hollande and Soren Kierkegaard" or "Interview with the soul of Angela Merkel". Some simply feature great philosophers. In the one about Sartre, one can read:

"To be Sartrean is to be aware of existence as it is when it has been stripped of any of the prejudices and stabilising assumptions lent to us by our day-to-day routines. We can try out a Sartrean perspective on many aspects of our own lives. (...) Think of your job through Sartrean eyes: you and many others swathe your bodies in cloth and congregate in a large box where you make agitated sounds at one another; you press many plastic buttons with great rapidity in exchange for pieces of paper. Then you stop and go away. The next time the sky gets light, you come back"

The world is weirder than it seems. But rather than being a debilitating fact, this is an invitation to be free. We can do whatever we want. "The admission that life doesn’t have some preordained logic and is not inherently meaningful can be a source of immense relief when we feel oppressed by the weight of tradition and the status quo". So let's put on Sartrean lenses and re-imagine relationships. Completely. How about:

  • Daily gratitude sessions. The same as Martin Seligman's 3 daily blessings only done together in a couple to realize how amazing it is to have found someone you enjoy being with and share daily trivia with them :)
  • Weekly feedback session with each partner having written notes. Review of the best and worse interactions. Not a criticism session but rather a "This thing you did made me feel X"
  • Monthly silent dinner night out. Simply enjoying each others' gazes and flipping the "silent couple" image on its head.
  • Yearly common project. A co-created piece of art, a garden, a new common hobby etc.

Who's in a couple and would like to discuss this further? Reply to this email and I'll create an email group for us to exchange ideas :) Btw, the average open rate of this newsletter has been a consistent 75% !! Mailchimp says it's an "industry record" :D Thank you Impossible Fam !!