As on the mountain peaks of the Auvergne where one can see for hundreds of miles around ...

 

Contents

Chapter 1 – 1951, Upon Discovering the World…   

Chapter 2 – 2004, Personal Earthquake     

Chapter 3 – The Birth of a Conviction and a Book   

Chapter 4 – A Long Initiation Process        

Chapter 5 – Taking the Decision  

Chapter 6 – From the Subconscious to the Conscious,
                 from Malaise to Well-Being   

Chapter 7 – The Absence of Self-Knowledge 
                  and Awareness  

Chapter 8 – Misleading Productivity   

Chapter 9 – 2008, Societal Earthquake      

Chapter 10 – Time for Action and Imagination     

Chapter 11 – Between Reality and Utopia,
                   Between Consciousness and Unconsciousness,
                   Up to Us to Chose  

Back cover

When the author was confronted with his daughter’s clinical depression, he wondered why the therapeutic approach that enabled her recovery, by supporting her well-being and her creativity, is not part of the wider education system. This led him, as a father, a self-made entrepreneur and a citizen to search for the answer within the context of his own life experience.

Beyond sharing his conclusions, this autobiographical essay unlocks the factors that are impeding our evolution, at the level of the individual, the corporate world, and society as a whole, and puts forward a real alternative to the current accepted model of society.

Extracts

 

CHAPTER 1

 

1951

 

Upon Discovering the World…

I was born in 1951, one spring day in the Auvergne, a land of wide-open spaces. More precisely, my first home was a farm on the high plateaus of the Cantal. A paradise of nature and freedom, where private land can be enjoyed by all – at the cost sometimes of a rip in your pants from the barbed wire which criss-crosses the meadows. The teacher, the priest and the doctor were the educational reference points there; plus the devil, to help you believe in God...

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....Despite my reputation as a good student, I was bored in class. Apart from my primary school master and one particularly passionate and inspiring history teacher, my only memory of teachers is as purveyors of knowledge, each imposing their own monologues and defending their patch. I didn’t understand the connection between all the subjects with which I was required to saturate my brain. What was the link between this purely theoretical environment and real life? Why the segregation into specialities, and these parochial conflicts?

For someone like me, used to the boundless spaces of the Auvergne, I became claustrophobic on a classroom chair. I would use my imagination to escape from these boxes in which I was enclosed. My bedside book was “Le Macroscope”* by Joël de Rosnay. In it, I found an approach to discovering the world and decoding it that suited me. Like the summits of the Auvergne, from where you can see for hundreds of miles all around, the Macroscope offers an all-encompassing and coherent vision of the world for those who want to examine it from the wide end of the spyglass, and with the necessary distance.

That book, along with Montaigne’s oft-ignored recommendation regarding French national education – “Better a well-formed head than one that is well-filled” – strengthened my conviction that school would only provide me with certain disparate elements of the big picture that makes up the world.It would be up to me, as an autodidact, to discover the rules of the game. This kind of realization can sometimes strike you quite suddenly.

CHAPTER 2

2004

Personal Earthquake

It is 10 o’clock on a Sunday evening. There she is, sitting on the kitchen floor, between the three of us, staring vacantly. She still has a nice tan from her recent vacation, but she’s awfully thin. What’s going on in that pretty head, this girl who was all smiles yesterday?

She started university a month ago, but tonight she can’t muster the energy to go back there. It all seems too much for her – even buying her train ticket seems like an insurmountable obstacle...

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CHAPTER 3

The Birth of a Conviction and a Book

My daughter was privileged and she was very lucky. The type of clinic where she was treated is an exception, inaccessible to most sufferers because of its cost and scarcity.

Hospitals are always set up around psychiatric care and all too often offer a depressing and totally ill-adapted environment for the patient. The medication-based solution is often the only treatment on offer, and this does not solve one of the fundamental problems of depression, which is the individual’s identity.

Our generation of parents, like the previous one, is not equipped to recognise and to accept depressive behaviour, which is always taboo and hidden. We are blind in the face of our children, who often do not talk about their problems. While our daughter had been lucky, we, as parents, had been lucky too. She asked us to help her get treatment.

How many of those suffering from depression are forced to improvise their own treatment based on alcohol and drugs – whether legal or illegal – because of the stigma attached to mental illness, including depression? How many remain silent about their inner turmoil for fear that friends and family will not understand? How many have the misfortune to stay stuck in an undiagnosed chronic depressive state, leaving them frustrated without appropriate treatment, carrying a handicap for life?

What is the true scale of this hidden malaise?

The suffering caused by depression that my wife and I witnessed close up is of such intensity that we felt the need to react and to share our experience. In talking about it with those around us, we were surprised by the interest it generated. Not only did we discover that almost everyone knows someone who has suffered from depression, but that the feeling of malaise within our society seems to be experienced by many, whatever their social background. The taboo surrounding depression and malaise almost seemed ready to crumble.

The accounts of our daughters and their student friends describe a world at English university where an excess of alcohol and all manner of drugs along with extreme eating disorders are part of daily life, affecting all social classes. Inner disquiet may manifest itself in many forms of depression: all types of obsession, aggression, anorexia, bulimia, clinical depression, chronic depression, even suicide.

Nowadays, tales of malaise within companies are also beginning to emerge. Cases of harassment in the workplace and suicides are front-page news.

The ever-growing and excessive consumption of alcohol, drugs and psychotropics of all kinds simply confirms the fact that depression is not a question of isolated cases.

The more I shared our story, the more I detected a widespread malaise. The media seem to reflect the precise extent of this climate of suffering. Obsessed with death, they ignore life and positive thinking and spend their time collecting morbid news stories about conflicts and dysfunction between the dominant and the dominated, thus maintaining a permanently negative and dismal climate of fear and insecurity. In doing so, this daily bombardment pours oil on the fire of our collective depression. The media exhibit exactly the same behaviour as depression sufferers, who endlessly chew over the negative.

Faced with this gloomy state of affairs, I felt obliged to act. I could no longer remain passive. I would feel too guilty towards my daughter and all those others suffering from depression who have been left unaided. For me, it now became important to analyse and understand.

The merit of any painful experience is that it snaps you out of the stupor that is maintained by your daily routine and your educational formatting, and brings you back to reality. This reality brought me face to face with a surprising dual observation...

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CHAPTER 4

 A Long Initiation Process

...In fact, I was trapped in a dead-end, which left me ill at ease. My box had been closed and a label now sealed it, proclaiming: “Electronics engineer seeks employment”. I’d become an electronics engineer, despite not really being one. I’d also become an employee, although no-one had explained to me what an employee is.

In 23 years, my elders, by way of introduction into this world, had saturated my memory with theorems and equations, and had taught me the dangers of others as competitors. Above all, they’d spent those years shaping my mind to the maxim “Do What You’re Told”, and now they told me to find a job.

On the other hand, they’d taught me nothing about the rules which govern our society, nothing about our economic and financial system on which these rules are based, nothing about the world of enterprise in which I was now supposed to operate, nothing about the possible alternatives to the status of employee, nothing about managing a budget and, of course, nothing about sexuality and family planning, the ultimate taboo. The rules of real life in society were the realm of the unspoken.

The school of Homo sapiens had shut me in a box and now dropped me in the middle of the ocean of life without having taught me to swim. What injustice! My escape plans seemed compromised.

Is that what growing up means? Having the right to fight against others, rather than alongside others? Was that the end result of school, ensuring the endless reproduction of bellicose behaviour patterns from the stone age?

During an exhibition of Le Corbusier’s work organized in Bristol, England, in 2008, I came across this conclusion arrived at by the architect, taken from his memoires (1963):

"I became really appalled at the teaching of the schools, at the set formulas and assumptions of divine right, and I took it into my head to appeal to my own judgment. With my savings, I went on a journey through several countries, far from the schools, and I began to open my eyes."

My feelings were identical, and my way of dealing with them similar...

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...Only the products supplied by an overseas manufacturer existed, but there was nothing in place to market or distribute them. All the operational processes and procedures, as well as the sales and services contracts had to be created from scratch and implemented. The group’s logo had not yet even replaced that of the foreign supplier on the packaging.

To fill these gaps, in the space of a few months I was to work with representatives of all the operational divisions in the company: the sales team, the marketing specialists, the legal department, the technicians, administrators, financiers, IT department, and so on. And this applied across all levels of hierarchy.

Although everyone spoke and used the same language – French – I was nonetheless immediately faced with a communication problem between the various functions.

Put a marketing specialist in front of a lawyer to turn a commercial offer into a sales or service contract, and you realize that they are diametric opposites. One will try to maximize the appeal of the offer to sell it, whereas the other will try to protect the company from potential legal claims from customers. One is driven by creativity, while the other has to stick strictly to the established rules. One embellishes, whilst the other applies an implacable rigor regarding the use of words – words which don’t necessarily carry the same meaning and weight for each of them.

The result of this confrontation is an impenetrable sales contract which you are asked to sign, in which the company’s primary concern – the customer – ends up being forgotten.

If you add to this duo a maintenance engineer with his operational logic in the field regarding service contracts, and you soon arrive at meetings which are just a jumble of misunderstandings.

To keep the information flowing, it wasn’t enough for me to simply transfer it; I also had to translate and interpret to explain it, and thereby ensure that everyone understood. Without this effort of communication, dialogue could not be established and any common attempt at defining a solution and implementing it was doomed to failure...