A few days after the new lunar year started, the mythic, mystic, discreet yet impactful music duo Daft Punk released a symbolic video message to announce the end of their activity as Daft Punk. Active since 1993, the French Touch team used to appear as Robot with two futuristic masks, which became the faces of the group during the following 20 years. Robots were a meaningful artefact, the forerunner of a digitalization and automation of the global society, while they repeatedly denounced the associated impacts as damaging and manipulative (“the Brainwasher”, “Television rules the Nation”, “Harder better faster stronger” among others). They were also a powerful artefact to protect the two humans behind the mask, keeping an invasive star system at a respectful distance, protecting their privacy. Robots self-destructed. Their final act. Sad?
One can say that an ending is not the end. They have done their homework*, they have been through a journey of discovery*, they chose to be human after all*, and probably wish to enjoy the random access memories* of Life. The robots are becoming Thomas and Guy-Manuel again. Embodied. Exposed. Vulnerable. A forerunner of a new era ?
Each of us made her own way through 2020. Each of us felt vulnerable at some point. Faced our primary body needs while the engrained dominating life stereotype required us to focus on our hypothetical intellectual value. Yet the announcement of several lockdowns made many of us run to pile up on toilet paper. Food delivery (wo)men became a symbolic and real umbilical cord. As social distancing has been enforced, the belief that being closed to another human was unhealthy took over our minds, and, consequently each of us felt the physical loneliness and isolation. Within our own human bodies. With specific yet misunderstood, ignored, unvoiced sensory needs. Hunger, thirst, breathing and Body secretions are the in and out flows that we can easily measure, manage and monitor. They are many business models playing around, built on the belief that what can get measured is manageable. It is not enough to be relieved and maintain a true integrated health (mental and physical). Simply feel good.
Suddenly we had been asked to stop moving physically, while our brains had to continue to deliver deliverables. Fatigued ?
What has been forgotten that lead to a massive wave of mental health imbalance today (that might lead to another wave of chronic diseases) ?
Each of them has been massively impacted by the behavior we, humans, have adopted over the last year. All have been bullied. Possibly enhancing our awareness towards them. The common culture mainly favored sight and hearing, considered as the noblest senses.
The current market success of Videoconférence businesses, video streaming platforms, and increasingly VR/AR systems exemplifies the grip on that sense. We have benefited from those high tech tools and leveraged them in order to maintain a continuous visual connection between us and the world : family and friends living anywhere on the globe, colleagues stuck at home with their children, business partners. They also represent a new way to learn through video tutorials, AR/VR specific training and mixed Reality e-learning and entertainment. As Daft Punk leveraged the power of electronic and automated machines, our lives are, in a way, simpler with digital.
We have abused our sight. Staying indoor divested us from the natural light’s benefits : vitamin D, photon energy and protecting characteristics that limit the myopia’s development within? children and teenagers, better circadian regulation, all for free ! Switching in digital mode with an overdose of screen use for professional and entertainment excuses truly hurt our eyes, affecting our sight for the long term through digital eye strain and retina damages, and disturbing our sleep patterns. Among others. Intellectually speaking, our screens are a window to the world. Reduced to a 13’ screen.
Our sight has abused us. To quote Stephen R. Covey, “we see the world, not as it is, but as we are – or, as we are conditioned to see it”. Each of us choose where and what to look at, deliberately or not. What is the image of the world and the situation your screens are giving you to see ? What is the image or private data you are giving to the corporates who control our screens ? Keep in mind that a window is a two-ways connector.
After an overdose of webinars, conferences, Z*** meetings, streaming videos, I’ve reached the point of (hopefully wise) selection. It is already 10 years since I stopped watching TV/video news. I’ve also chosen to look through my IRL window to the blue sky, welcoming this gentle natural light on my eyes. Looking at the natural seasonal cycle of Nature’s life. Look at what seems beautiful to me. I am not alone with such intentions. We can choose what we want to look at and see. Do you see a heavy rain darkening the sky and wetting all your clothes or a beautiful free source of natural water to nurture the Nature that will grow, provide some food and, decrease the temperature ? Sight contributes to our own very personal creation of reality. “To create is to have seen the first” (unknown author). Sight is indeed strongly related to creativity, a personal ability that leads to innovation. An essential ability in our volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world for anyone willing to lead a company, a team, a country towards an envisioned future.
Envision your future means creating it. Being aware and attentive to you own capability to see is key to nurture your singular humanity.
This sense is one of the first to be developed in the human fœtus. It is one of her first ways to get a sense of the environment. Hearing and the hearing system which translate a physical translation into an electric nervous impulse are key to collect multiple sources of information that we are not aware of, otherwise.
How many of you did enjoy the chance once again to hear the sound of silence, birds, nature, the wind awakening the trees by waving their branches and other simple things during the 1st phase of lockdown a year ago ? How many of you did spend entire days listening to conference calls, phone calls, plethoric podcasts, almost free music streaming ? Some had to bear the WFH mixed with family cacophony, some had to bear the deafening silence of loneliness. Our sense of hearing has been pushed to the extremes. Saturation and a kind of void. A similar observation can be made about the content of what has been given to listening. Noise in information, intox, fake news, nonsenses, with a clear lack of clarity, and lot of fears and contradictions that all kept us confined. Musicians has been required to leave the floor. So, musicians offered balcony symphonies, condominium electro parties and shared the creativity process through social media. “Giving life back to music” to spread vibrations of Life.
In the middle of this noise and uncomfortable – soon comfortable – void, some of us have started or continued to listen to their inner voice, coming from the body, emerging from the unconscious. Removing the noise. Ignoring the mental voice that anyone can recognize with the sentence “You should, you have to, you cannot, never/ever…”. 2020 was for many an awakening year. We have heard the wake up call, understood the pandemic as an alarm. Listening to your inner voice has to be discovered, explored and learnt. Because it is not written in class books, whatever class you enroll in. It is the soul speaking to the spirit through the body. You have to build self-esteem and inner confidence to be able to let it speak. To appease the voices of your other inner part that wants to protect you. Then your intimate voice, one can call intuition, desires? to be stronger than the surrounding noise. Going beyond the daily injunctions and role models, all coming from multiples sources. To forgot the others voices around you. Even the caring ones, the most difficult to ignore. Because we are so used to hearing without listening. Listening is hearing what is not said. It is feeling the vibrations you get from the environment and the Other.
Hearing is also the sense that helps us to speak, to learn a common language in order to communicate with someone both totally different and identical. Without hearing, we must find other way to express our commonalities and uniqueness. The ultimate extension is to sublimate the voice as a musical instrument, which both spreads a meaningful message and powerful vibrations. We all have in mind a voice that makes us feel something special. The loved one; our parents; someone we’re afraid of and simply someone who touches us deeply through her singing.
The ability to speak and express yourself comes from the ability to hear and listen. Cherish it.
2020 brought two constraints to this sense. The virus itself seems to drastically diminish it once contracted (up to 80% of patients suffers from partial or complete temporary taste disorder), and the closure of public food places such as restaurants. We miss our big family meals as they are a moment of communion in appreciation. Eating together is a social act that builds confidence (we eat the same thing, so it is not poisoned), sense of belonging and attachment. As we have been requested to not share that precious moment, we feel isolated, rejected. It is destructing the social part that is necessary for a human.
It was the opportunity for many to re/discover their taste for cooking at home. Taste is a vivid and intimate sense. Combined with smell and touch, the perception by the tongue of something (or someone) is transformed into aunique and amazing sensorial experience. Primarily, it helps us to feed properly, as the feeding activity is vital, our tasting organ immediately activates the reward circuit in the mind. Similarly to what we experience withhearing, the taste is a sense that is developed early during the pregnancy, that bonds the fœtus to her mother as they share the same food. The relation to food is highly cultural and anchored in individual habits of which it is very hard to change. The taste supports our connection to Nature as we are nurtured by it. We used to eat what surrounds us, what Nature provides us. 2020 was the great return to local food as the key to resilience and national security. “We are what we eat”. Suddenly, we’ve realized the importance of what we eat for our physical health, mental capacity and security. The Chinese medicine practitioners used to speak about the Chi (vital spark – energy) of food: less the product is transformed, higher is the Chi. The Ayurvedic medicine is mostly based on the typology of food. Those secular beliefs and practices seem to be supported by multiple scientific studies demonstrating the damages of industrial processed foods on health. Chronic illness and silent epidemics of obesity and diabetes are spreading among the world as the speed of fast food chain opening increases. Fast is the enemy of taste. Taste is the introduction to a transformative and nurturing hidden process. It can’t be accelerated. Metamorphosis requires times and tolerance (patience). Aren’t we speaking about food intolerances ? One must familiarize herself with her own microbiome, the biggest symbiosis of our human body ecosystem: virus, bacteria, and other living particles are outnumbering our human cells. There are communication with them as the biggest nervous network, more than in the brain. The taste is the tip of the iceberg. The bottom is the gut. Our 2nd brain. The centre of the emotions. Check the way you use the word taste. The sense is strongly related to the notion of love/disgust (the latter directly coming from latin roots for french word for taste “gout”), attraction/rejection. In the literal sense as well as the figurative. Why do you cook / eat ? What makes the life tasty ? “If love is the answer, you’re home” (Thomas Bangalter, Daft Punk).
This sense is intimately joined to the sense of taste. In a similar way, our nose, our olfactive organ, has been hurt over the year. By the virus itself, one of these symptoms of 86% of patients is temporary anosmia (for 7 to 9 days). Then by the measures in place to prevent the transmission of the virus: the masks ! “Cover up that [nose], which I can’t endure to look on” (Molière). Smell is the sense which is the most directly connected to our emotions, through both emotional brain center and memory center. The perception and feeling relating to smell are the result of a mix of culture, education and life experiences. One of its primary roles is to detect a danger (another animal, a poison, a fire, rotten food or water). Olfactive molecule are volatile and its perception éphémèral and elusive. Smell is an intangible and ephemeral memory with a strong emotional weight. For the French philosopher Rousseau, it is the sense of imagination and desire, impacting deeply on the psyche and probably reviving our animality. Olfaction is highly related to our relationships, notably through the social act of eating together. Losing this sense leads to depression for 30% of patients, who feel diminished. While we are quite intolerant to bad smells (its definition varies from cultures), smelling body odor provokes anxiety. In between these twoextreme cases, an odor is an element of social and personal distinction. Originally created to hide body odors, the perfume is today the olfactive fingerprint of an entity, whether it is a consumer brand or an individual. It is an extension or a new part of the personality, aiming to connect to the Else with intimacy and an unconscious emotional state. It is very interesting to note that Hermes launched its new perfume for men this month (yet affordable for women), 15 years after the iconic Terre d’Hermes. The willingness to reconcile human with perfume is timely and highlights the know-how and importance of the highly skilled specialist who creates and stimulates our imagination thanks to their Nose, the “Nez”.
Imagination and desire are two powerful driving forces that engage human and lead her to act, to move forward. Without, us humans are resigned and lose a part of its humanity.
As much animal as the smell, the Touch is an undervalued sense which is essential to human life. The restriction of social distancing that has been enforced globally emphasizes its vital role. Some old people died because they were not touched. Just as a new-born can die if she is not touched, even fed and watered. More than connecting to each other, the skin, a clever and fantastic system in symbiosis with its own microbiota and covered by a dedicated nervous network, is an amazing exchange surface, complementary to our digestive (taste) and breathing systems (smell). Beyond its mechanical role to keep our vital water within, to eliminate toxins through sweat and spread pheromones (here are the links between touch and smell), the sensorial cells on and in it help us to build fine motor skills and to self-regulate our emotions and states of mind. The best examples are the comforting effect of soft touch on their crying babies or a hug between grown-ups. Touch is a vital physiologic need. With no surprise, any professional of customized service, personal care, health and wellness leverage this sense either through direct contact (massage), or through a medium more or less technologically advanced (a fabric like a cloth or a smartphone that we have to touch to access to technology). The touching contact shares informations and energy in both senses. Be aware that anything you touch might be able to collect yours.
As any exchange surface, the skin and its associated sense, the touch, sets a limit which of its acknowledgment reveals the consciousness of the integrity of any individual. By touching ourselves, we recognize our own space and limits, within and defused from anyone (our mother) and from our environment. Being conscious of our incarnation leads to a necessary unique individuation in link with the Other and the environment.
The touch also gives tangibility to the reality we see through our eyes, hear through our ears, smell through our nose and taste through our tongue. Our skin system is able to perceive multiple kinds of informations thanks to the diversity of its receptors: mechanical, thermic, chemical, electric. It is legitimate to question the impact of growing artificial electro-magnetic streams on our body (and mind). Our body is, consequently, constantly touched by a huge amount of multiple sources of? transmitters of? information, visible and invisible, tangible and intangible, rational and not yet rational (it is not because human can’t get a sense of it that it doesn’t exist).
Our body is also a place of vibrations: aren’t we saying that someone, a movie, a book is touching us in the sense of “affecting”,no one is living the same thing. This intangible, invisible and sometimes irrational part of the touch is directly connected to our physical body sensations and emotions. Vibration is the result of two informations touching each other: the unique mind-body vibration (both a wave and a particle scientifically) is touched by another information generated by the body from external receptions. This state of touch that we all experience in our lives reveals the intertwinement of the body, mind and soul. Acknowledging, exploring and understanding our own vibratory touch open the door to an enhanced self-awareness, contributing your increase emotional intelligence for a better relation with ourselves and others.
The touch works closely together with proprioception in order to coordinate with our movements. Known as kinesthesia, proprioception is now described as the 6th sense which refers to the sense (conscious or unconscious) of self-movement (body awareness) and body position. It is like an internal touch sense, with receptors placed not on and in the skin but rather on and in our muscles and joints. Then our brain knows where our body is in space, without consciously thinking. Beyond the balance, this sense manages the muscle tone, grading of force and speed of movement. So it is clearly the sense that determines our relation to space, our 3rd dimension and our relative position in the world. What is our right place within a system ?
Over the last year, clubs and parties have been considered as non-essential and unhealthy, art shows havebeen shut down, the usual places for dancing had to be removed. Lockdown gave each of us a sense of being physically in jail and hindered. Yet the traditional places for dancing have been replaced. Professional dancers gave the world shows from their garden, living rooms and bedrooms. Each of us, at some point, turned up the sound loudly in order to lose yourself to dance*. Feeling that joyful sensation of our living body with a great sense of proprioception.
“Learn to make, make to learn” (Leonardo da Vinci) reveals the intense connection between muscle memory (proprioception) and learning ability. Did you ever think why you can’t forget how to walk, bike or swim, once learned ? Except if neuronal connections have been damaged by a physical or psychological shock, proprioception is the way we learn to do thing. Once the body learnt it physically, it stays. Sometimes it must be reminded to the body, yet it never totally disappeared. The masters are those with a specific talent probably yet mainly they are the ones who train repetitively their gesture, again and again. It means that when you associate a pure intellectual learning to a physical gesture or body movement, you leverage proprioception and anchored more deeply the learning. Without that body mind, you will forget the learning. Take any example, it works. A language has to be practiced with your tongue, pharynx, mouth, teeth and breath to be kept in mind for long term. The individuals who explore and fine tune the most of this sense are the top athletes, musicians and artists, craft(wo)men, the professional dancers. All master specific gestures that lead them to thrive and outperform. My guess is also that proprioception, jointly with touch and hearing, compensate blindness.
It is very clear that proprioception is the motor of our embodied expression, conscious and unconscious. Body language is another great example of information we all share through that sense. We send messages about our internal state of mind through the way our body is positioned. Being more self-aware enhanced your capacity to send accurate and aligned informations to others.
Sight and hearing are the most common sense which are damaged, followed by taste and smell capacity, whether they are innate, following a psychological and physical shock, punctual, chronic or stable. The two latter, touch and proprioception, are much more exceptional, probably due to a higher mortality if damaged. Anyhow, the ageing process notably consists of the natural deterioration of the six senses; I suspect it is a slow process of withdrawal and disembodiment. The sensorial perception are disappearing and maybe leave more space to random access memories*.
Hence, the six senses perceive stimuli and initiate a two-way (double-meaning) flow of vibrations, informations and energies (acronym VIE, the word Life in French, by Philippe Guillemant): reception and radiation. Thanks to them and the huge amount of data they collect for us, we can acknowledge our embodied individuality (incarnation) within* an ecosystem with which we connect and communicate. Each of them independently and jointly are perceiving advanced and complex stimuli, transforming any kind of them into an information spread through your body which generates an emotion (or multiple feelings). Depending on it and your own capacity to welcome and listen to it, your mind makes a choice.
They are at the base of our sense of humanity and damaging one (or more) of them deeply impaired that feeling and consciousness. Our vital spark is affected. If we don’t care, repair or compensate, we can easily slip towards an unempathetic automated behavior. As the Automated Intelligence (AI) are on the rise, and considering their neural capacity might quickly surpass human neural and brain capacity, I think it is crucial to become more human and focus on our unlimited cognitive capacities. Tons of investments and research are being made to reproduce and automatize the six human senses in order to challenge a Millenium of natural innovation, evolution and try and fail processes, which have created the perfect body machine that we all are. The six senses are the most difficult processes to be automatized, as they are highly complex and underestimated (yet inestimable !).
2020 was a dehumanizing period. In a world where AI takes over a great part of automatizable tasks, we can still answer the question “what would the human do with the saved time & energy before its inexorable known end” ?
This article is the 1st in a series that I’m starting to write with the intent to question the meaning and realities of “ Being Human today for tomorrow”. My intent is to mix multiple levels of knowledge, fields and inspiration with my own perspective and experience. There is no Truth. I allow myself to say silly things, to change my mind and to be ignorant. It consists of an intellectual, physical and spiritual exploration, nurtured by a strong curiosity. I hope that this work will turn into an artistic creation through the writing process. Hopefully.
As a highly sensitive individual, it was obvious for me to start with a paper about our senses, as I am deeply and constantly perceiving stimuli and receiving informations. My six senses make my daily life intense.
I consider them as my superpower: they are the strong base of my neurodiversity, complex cognitive processes that enhance intuition, creativity and empathy. They help me to explore the body-mind-soul connections. All those topics will be dealt with in future articles.
Beyond real life practice, I have gained substantial qualifications in:
Driven by my passion for fairness and convinced that diversity and inclusion are key to the ability to outperform, I am currently the Chairwoman of Women in the Seafood Industry, a non-for-profit that empowers women of the global seafood industry by raising awareness and influence decision-makers and spreading information on social issues. I also share my experiences and wisdom through mentoring startups and entrepreneurs, particularly as an Entrepreneur-In-Residence at Insead Business School.
Paul Tran, HR Director & Leadership coach, Singapore
I had the pleasure to accompany Christelle while she was re/defining her projects and goals. She is a total person, who is not afraid to get to the bottom of things, to explore her own vulnerabilities to bounce back. Joyful and enthusiast, she tackles situations with an infectious enthusiasm. Thanks to her temper and creative intelligence (I rather say sparkling), she brings a powerful analytical dynamic. She strategically responds to various challenges that leaders encounter by creating new leads. To sum up her main strengths, I would give 4 words :
Dominique Proudhon, peacemaker & professional coach, France