We must be “impacted”, impressed, amazed as we expect from a Steve Jobs keynote. The typical expression of the intense life in France is “c’est trop bien” (“this is too good”). But the “too” means that limits were crossed, that something is overwhelming. To be good it needs to overflow, we need to be over flooded, to be exceeded. Is that a new form of transcendence? Probably not because this “too” points to a kind of emotional intensity and emotions are immanent.
There could also be a “thinking intensity” meaning the effort of the subject to concentrate on a difficult topic or solving a complex problem. But it is rather the effort which is intense by analogy with a physical effort. And it is also physical by the way since intense thinking makes you tired and can provoke headaches.
Could that be that thinking could also be a pleasant, maybe even joyful experience or is it condemned to be boring, hard, even painful?
With emotions on the contrary no effort is required to be intensively moved. To feel intensively you don’t need to be active, you just need to be immersed, to be part of an emotional experience, like in those street performances where you suddenly see a Beethoven concert emerging from a crowd in a train station hall. But you need a set, a natural or artificial context in order to provoke emotions. You need to train like an actor if you want to make a “wow it’s amazing” effect when giving a TED conference, you need a performer who creates a performance which will have an “impact” on people, so that they will remember him. Is this what this is all about? Marketing, entertaining, being noticed from the crowd? At the end of the day is this all about a big show business? And we all know there’s no business like show business right?
We said before that thinking while feeling, or reflecting on our feelings would spoil our pleasure, or would it? Could that be that thinking could also be a pleasant, maybe even joyful experience or is it condemned to be boring, hard, even painful?
For example have you ever read a Socratic dialog from one of Plato's works where Socrates makes fun of his dialog opponents by showing that their opinions rests on nothing but fancy superficial beliefs? Isn’t that fun to read when for example this famous politician is logically forced to admit that he knows nothing of the common good or justice and pretends to rule the city when his own self rests ungoverned? Of course it may not be that funny for the politician himself unless he's gifted with a not so often-seen quality amongst politicians: humility. But the dialog itself is for sure intense and you, as a reader, also reproduce it intensely in your mind while reading. you find yourself both in the shoes of Socrates and of the questioned politician.
So we could argue that intensity is no new concept when it comes to thinking. But it seems that it lost its momentum for the past 2500 years, if I may risk myself to this hypothesis. In any other dialog than a Socratic one, people would have been lost in emotions because the interlocutors would not bear to be so much exposed to public "humiliation". But here humiliation should be thought of as a positive concept, the fact of becoming humble in front of one's own stupidity, pride or stubbornness. And I am not talking about faked humility but real one, the one where we dare to say in public : "I don't know", or "I contradicted myself, how funny and strange that it happens so fast", or even "I don't even know what I am saying, isn't that funny to be a human being ?”. Once this critical humility period is gone then you can start to intensely deal with the tough problems on conceptualizing and building strong arguments to support or criticize some statements. Is that intense? I think so yes, for having conducted many workshops on Socratic dialog. And it can be pretty funny as well.
So what about intensity, where does that lead us? What is the next one going to be? Boredom, back to religion? Are we all going to transform in some kind of hyper-sensitive subjects with zero tolerance for critical thinking, questions and objections? Are we all going to be story tellers of our own life with no respect for truth anymore, only preoccupied by the marketing of our life and careers, with a standardized language like the one we see here on many profiles on LinkedIn?.
I don’t know if you noticed here but here nobody is looking for a job. No that would be too boring: here people are looking for "new challenges" as if they liked to be challenged because life is so boring right? Here people live in "fast paced transformation environments", they don't just hire people they "acquire talents" (it is more intense is it not?) they see posts and they comment "oh this is so true!", they thrive in a "complex matrix organization" and they are ready to jump into a new "paradigm shift of digital evolution” for their company. Wow! that is amazing! Words become less meaningful, we don't have a clue of the reality hid behind it, we do not see the violence in human relationships because we are compassionate and want to focus on the positive side of things. It is so much pleasant and more efficient since negative things could put people off.
Are we all going to transform in some kind of hyper-sensitive subjects with zero tolerance for critical thinking, questions and objections? Are we all going to be story tellers of our own life with no respect for truth anymore, only preoccupied by the marketing of our life and careers, with a standardized language like the one we see here on many profiles on LinkedIn?.
But have we thought that we are just losing one side of the medal? That we are precisely impoverishing our life experiences by only looking at the bright side of things? It would be wise to do that only after you have seen and thought about both sides. You see when it comes to thinking there is no such thing as a bright or dark sides, there are only things and concepts and people. That may not be so exciting, entertaining but it still can be intense. But here intensity is taken on a more cognitive and less emotional meaning. It means critical thinking skills are highly functional and operating, exercising their full power on a full scale. And that full utilization of these skills gives us a subtler but durable joy, as both Spinoza and Kant well foresaw.