Emails with Francois

Francois and I used to work together and we struck up a friendship over a mutual interest in the seedy underbelly of our brains. We often disagree but, in his words, “make great sparring partners.”  My respect for Francois’ mind and accomplishments runs deep. He was always regarded as a wise and ingenious Creative Director around the studio (miles more than I ever was) and I would never claim to be on his level, but I think he took a liking to me because I was stupid enough to question his assertions. In turn he’s always kept me on my toes and given me new perspectives.

This week we got into an email debate on a topic I was considering writing about. At the end, I asked him if I could just paste our conversation instead and, luckily, he obliged. He had some really interesting things to say. If you have the stamina to finish this thing, I think we’d all get along.

On Sep 28, 2015 at 5:40 PM, Haley wrote:


n. Sadness that you’ll never be able to know how history will turn out, that you’ll dutifully pass on the joke of being alive without ever learning the punchline – the name of the beneficiary of all human struggle, the sum of the final payout of every investment ever made in the future.

On Sep 28, 2015 at 9:27 PM, Francois wrote:

Maybe that’s part of the reason they name the exercise machine the elliptical?! Nice to get one of your provocative esoteric emails again.


Philosophically rooted in capitalism and the destination as the reward instead of the journey. We can find ourselves at any point in history and find resolution…or conflict. Who said life has a beneficiary or punchline? The sum of a final payout of every investment ever made?! This sounds like someone from Wall Street had a moment of existentialism! The pervasive underlying assumption is that the only reward is embodied in a “thing” whether that be a climactic moment in time, a goal attained or some sort of physical object of desire. Not that these can’t be satisfying but it excludes the process which also brings great joy if you love what you do or the ability to savour and celebrate all the small moments in life instead of waiting for some level of epicness that somehow only happens when we’ve died?!

How do you find these obscurities. Distant cousin to solipsism perhaps.

On Sep 29, 2015 at 12:17 PM, Haley wrote:

My interpretation of ellipsism is that the punchline is proverbial…it’s not a single point in time necessarily nor would it be the same in every context. I don’t like the way the person wrote this, but I think I understand what they meant. Don’t take it so literally!

I think a person can both experience ellipsism and also follow your buddhist line of thinking that life is in the journey and not the destination (that was my senior quote by the way, thought I was pretty cool).

I spend a lot of time thinking about the future, where our society is going, when we’ll interact with other life forms….and I know you do too. It kind of punched me in the gut when I looked at this curiosity through ellipsism. Like, shit!! We will not live to answer so many of our questions.

I listened to your rec, Screen Time. Loved them! Particularly liked part 1, found it fascinating. Some of part 2 disappointed me.

Virtual movies? Virtual worlds? What if we miss all this?! In our time we’ve experienced the boom of the internet – which is amazing – but which is embroiled in intense growing pains…in the new social conflicts created by a different type of communication and we are all feeling the intense stress of it. The paradox of choice! We have the ability to know everything that’s going on in the world but can’t do that much with this information yet.

It’s very precious that we are all trying so hard. A little sad too.

Anyway…the future will always be compelling I know. But just because that’s always the case and it’s part of being human doesn’t mean it’s not still a little bit of a punch to the gut. To wonder so much about something but know you won’t be alive to see it. So much of being human is a punch to the gut.

Then again, I spent the morning listening to Christmas music and it seriously put me in the best mood. In so many ways I really am just a dumb animal.

On Sep 29, 2015 at 5:21 PM, Francois wrote:

In so many ways, you’re also one of the most brilliant and magnificent creatures around! You’re very good at walking the fine line between the narcissism of social media and the self aware wisdom to laugh at its absurdity….indulging in the superficial fruits of the vanity fair yet never allowing it to define you. You’re also gifted with a super sharp bullshit meter which makes me laugh every time we talk about things  that trigger the eye roll.

Listening to Christmas music is healthy, I don’t do enough of it!!

“Sometimes, a smile can be the source of your joy.” I listen to Frank Sinatra’s Christmas song and get all sentimental and cheery and shit.

Talk about being punched in the gut, I watched “Cowspiracy ” on Netflix and felt so sickened by the world and myself. I wouldn’t recommend watching that unless you’re ready to abandon the comfort of not knowing.

While extra terrestrial life forms intrigue me, I’m still trying to figure out how we’ve become so disconnected to known life forms here. I was told by some IOT people that the future technologies will enable us to be closer and more one with the earth by enhancing out senses. Wtf dude? I guess the shamans in the Amazon rain forests had it all wrong. Maybe I need to get a pet like bug. I’ll send you a cat gif I came across, they’re such funny creatures.

You’ll live to see virtual movies and incredible media like that! They’re gonna happen really soon, they’re actually happening right now, just not mainstream yet. I know I come across a bit like a curmudgeonly luddite sometimes but I am really grateful for technology!

You have a knack for creating playlists. I’m not nearly as diligent, I just throw a bunch of things I like in a folder. I’m enjoying fall 15 nice work.

Maybe we are just animals playing a game at the end of the day. But what game do we choose to play ?

On Sep 30, 2015 at 3:18 PM, Haley wrote:

“Sometimes a smile can be the source of your joy.” Who said that? I remember reading the scientific proof of that somewhere. Cause/effect conundrum! Human bodies are totally insane. Did you know looking up also gives your brain a dopamine hit? So basically we should stop with the dramatic emails and just walk around outside smiling like idiots looking into the sky with christmas music in our ears.

First of all Cowspiracy is such a good movie name, second of all I think I’ll wait on that. Will wave my ignorance flag for just a while longer on the meat front. I watched Food Inc in college and remember going to this health food store all sanctimonious and smug…wait for it….once, as a result. Someone should do a study on the self-righteousness curve of people post-documentary viewing. Remember when everyone cared passionately about captive killer whales with every fiber in their being for like 20 minutes? LOL.

The above said, I really am a coward when it comes to learning about meat and stuff. I am weak. Did you know hot dogs are actually white and they dye them pink? That scarred me for like 3 weeks, tops.

Poor poor cows..

As for your nostalgia for Amazonian shamans, are you worried about being a past-romanticist/sensationalist? There was a lot of terrible shit going on in the past. I really liked the guest on Screen Time (part 1) who spoke about teaching computers to read our emotions so our comms with technology could stop being so soul-sucking. Her words, paraphrased: there is no point in trying to get people to stop text messaging. They are going to do it. So how can we improve this experience rather than try to reverse it?

Is “getting back to our roots” or “getting back in touch with the world” realistic beyond a personal shunning of society? Or worse: is it the existential equivalent to Trump’s goal to make america good again?! If reversing isn’t possible, shouldnt we instead iterate?

I don’t know. Society is all fucked up. But I like your assertion that even if life is a game, we get to pick what game we play. In that light, I’d say you’re probably right that we aren’t necessarily playing the right one.

I’m glad you like my fall playlist. My mood has considerably lifted with the overcast weather. I’m a freak, clouds just make me giddy.

p.s. loved your lowkey narcissism call-out. hahaha. touché!

On Sep 30, 2015 at 7:26 PM, Francois wrote:

I didn’t get a chance to write my last article for work. This isn’t it either…the article was gonna go blah blah blah about information diabetes and how we take in more information than we can process…just like in nutrition, it is not what we eat but what we process into our blood stream. Not that my emails are any type of rare precious fruits to be cherished but an acute mind like a strong metabolism is able to process information much more effectively and so it is without reserve that I unload long ramblings to you because it makes me smile to know most of it will be read and considered.

“Sometimes your joy can be the source of your smile but sometimes, your smile can be the source of your joy .” That was from the Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh. It’s totally about how the body’s physical state can inform the mind and emotions…btw, I am typing this looking up at a projection on the ceiling so i can get non-stop dopamine hits. Almost all of what we learn is through language (written or spoken) and while it’s incredible, it can only go so far. Some things can only be known through tactility and physiology. To quote mike tyson here because who else would I quote?  “Everyone has a strategy until they get punched in the face”…yes, we can theorize all we want until the body feels it…another form of processing.

I have sporadically thumbed through several of his books (thich nhat hanh, not mike tyson’s) and remembered from “the miracle of mindfulness” where he goes to explain that there is a correct way to wash the dishes and an incorrect way: 

(1) washing the dishes to get them done and (I prefer to pay someone if I can’t coerce)

(2) washing the dishes to wash the dishes. (the correct way)

I’ve taken from it that we should enjoy every moment of all experiences without an end goal as the reward…that the state of being is the reward…how you take care and attention in doing all things is the constant practice of living well. I am understanding this more as I am trying fix some poor guitar playing habits and realized that when you practice poorly, you just reinforce poor playing…you get better at being a bad guitarist…(not a BAD guitarist…) this would mean if we practice enjoying each moments in life, we would have lived a full life of enjoyment! Not just the handful of moments when we graduated college, got our first raise, got married, had our first kid, got divorced, etc etc.

I know a lot of the way we value and receive experiences is a result of how we’ve been trained to consume…there has to be a perpetual discontent that drives us to seek something new, greater and better is around the corner ( how else do they sell more?) and so we are not conditioned to enjoy or want what we have. We want more which translates into more money, things, experiences, cool friends, accomplishments…but rarely do we consider how more we can be cherishing and wanting what we have, doing less, experiencing less but more profoundly. 

I like your idea of doing a study on post-documentary self-righteousness!! That curve I imagine would spike as fast as it drops, like your one attempt which you openly admitted. Your self-awareness and honesty is both hilarious and disarming. That’s the problem, we’re all weak (and I’m the worst) and whatever truths we uncover that require us to change lifestyle choices that are demanding, we put on hold, dismiss or plug our ears and go “la la la!” 

Not to sound down on humans as pathetic and weak creatures of habit and whim, we are also incredibly capable of overcoming tremendous odds, changing and doing incredible, amazing things. Can I leave my urban lifestyle and go commune with nature? Probably not. Can I get people to be aware of the impact of their choices? Yes. Can I vote for what I want in this world by what I choose to buy? Yes. Can I give up leather jackets and bacon cheeseburgers? Maybe.. but.. not.. now… but it’s comforting to know our consumer choices are our ultimate power against the evil empire and we can do a little each day.

You should create a Christmas playlist to be listened to year round…name the playlist something like…”daily dose of dopamine” or “DDD”  Just please don’t put Beiber on it…pp-please d-don’t.

On Sep 30, 2015 at 7:43 PM, Haley wrote:

I was gonna let you finish, but Justin Bieber had the best christmas album of all time!

10 thoughts on “Emails with Francois

  1. I love this. It borderline makes me want to have an existential crisis and borderline makes me feel at peace.
    Also, the fact that you finished such an intense round of emails with “I was gonna let you finish, but Justin Bieber had the best Christmas album of all time” made me crack up. Also reinforce my thought that we are soul sisters. Constantly teetering the line of important, life-focused philosophy and cracking jokes at random times (yes, there’s a line to teeter between those two things – they can relate – don’t tell me otherwise).
    I’m just going to say again that I love all your posts and am always looking forward to more. There’s a sense of serenity in finding a like-minded individual in a completely different walk of life.


    • If anyone could get through it, you could! So glad that we’re kindred spirits. You’d definitely like Francois. And I would never tell you otherwise re: the line between philosophy and humor, I actually think that’s why Francois and I mix so well. Also, bieber DID have such a good christmas album!!!


  2. Really enjoyed reading this, I have been sitting here for an hour just reading through all your posts. I thought I was the only one that was afraid of missing out what the future holds when it comes to the internet and all the advances that will occur. But I do feel reassured that the we will live to see some big things happen, and in the meantime we can get lost in christmas music even the Bieber album.



    • Thank you for giving me an hour of your life I am not worthy! And yes to big things happening in our lifetime. Also big is relative so maybe that’s up to us? The Bieber Christmas album IS pretty good, you can deny it….


      • Don’t be so modest, your writing is definitely worth more than an hour of my time. That is a good point, what we define as ‘big’ is definitely relative and up to us, this makes me feel a lot better about the whole situation. I am already listening to the Bieber Christmas Album, I have even throw little Wham into the mix (call me wild).


  3. Pingback: On happiness and a fool’s errand | similarish

  4. Every time I read one of your posts I spiral into a new obsession.

    First, it was the Myers-Briggs personality testing (fellow INFJ here!), leading me to purchase the full report and over-analyze every page. About myself. Narcissistic? Perhaps. I also forced all of my close friends and family to take this as well, because sharing is caring.

    Then, it was the “Where are all the aliens?” article you shared ( I went to the site it was originally from and binge-read all of their posts. My favorites were: this one about Artificial Intelligence — scary as F-ck — (, this one about Tesla (, and this one about Space X ( Now, I am also reading anything I can find about Elon Musk.

    So, I am fully expecting a new obsession to emerge as I click over to the Screen Time Ted Talk. I haven’t watched it yet, but wanted to thank you now since you have a pretty good track record.


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