began San Juan so what is it Gospel: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Mariano Sigman (Buenos Aires, 1972) argues that the word is the basis of all human. He doesn’t know if communication makes us gods, but he thinks it “makes us better.” Physicist, PhD neuroscience at the Rockefeller University in New York, professor, researcher and distributor – something of course left me – just published the power of words (Debate, 2022), an essay in which he explains how good conversations can improve our lives. In them, we finish the “Twelve Apostles”, moving away from the divine and otherworldly and arguing how Montaignethe main goal of this series: the inducement to speak not in order to convince, but in order to enjoy.
Q: Mr. Sigman, was the Word in the beginning?
BUT: Yes, there is a verb at the beginning. There are two main themes in the book: the first is that we have much more power than we think to change whatever we want, and the second is that the way to, for example, learn something or become better with the people you love, lives , many times or almost always starts with a word. The idea that everything begins with conversations has always been in man. It all starts with a phrase that a person tells himself to do something: “I want to do this”, “I want to go to this place”, “I want this”, “I want this”. This is the fundamental idea of theology, psychology, Greek philosophies… and I apply it to science.
Q: Talking makes us gods?
BUT: I dont know. I believe that communication makes us better. Conversation takes us to better places. Good talk. Conversation is very relevant, we talk all the time, but by learning to speak better, we live more in line with what we want. It is very difficult to tell someone what is a good life or a bad life. At least I don’t want anyone to say that.
Question: Keep writing the power of words that “good conversation is the most extraordinary factory of ideas that is within our reach.” What about bad conversation?
BUT: This is the worst idea factory we have at our disposal. We are all witnesses to this. We see it ideologically and politically. We are all witnesses to where we go as a society when we don’t learn to communicate well. And what seems so important and less intuitive to me is that this applies not only to political or ideological conversations: it is very typical of conversations with the closest people, between couples, between brothers and sisters, between mother and son… One of these conversations has biases that are rarely genuinely curious: what happened to the other person, why did they do it, how can I help them? These conversations lead to connections with the people we care most about eventually becoming less rich than we would like.
Q: You also write that the conversation seems to have lost its power, that “we dismiss it as rubbish.”
BUT: If I tell you, look, two people are coming together. One from Madrid, the other from Barcelona. Or one is independent and the other is not. Irrelevant. You are bringing together two people with antagonistic ideas. A prioriHow do you think this conversation will end?
B: I don’t think I open a bottle of champagne.
BUT: It’s an understatement to say that this will end very badly. It’s an intuition that we all have that conversation doesn’t have the ability that two people with different thoughts meet. It’s because we don’t speak well. All: they are not both, but others and others. Another example: most conversations today originate on social media. Great conversation on the net. Why am I talking about scrap: First, we have lost the intuition or understanding that this is a huge space for discovery. That is, we no longer enter this place as a museum. You don’t say, “I’m going to discover something new.” We see it more as a place of confrontation: “I will fight.” And the second thing a person does with a conversation: you come in and boom, you drop something, you think quickly, you comment. You don’t stop and say: what do I really mean? For whom? What would I like this person to do with what I say? All these things that happen in good conversations don’t happen anymore. That’s why I say we neglect talking.
Q: Do we live in a too noisy world?
BUT: Yes, it is important for me to pay homage to silence. Any musician knows that music actually lives in silence. If you have an instrument that is constantly playing, there is no music. Rhythm is a good balance of sounds and silence. We have lost the ability to understand this. I will give you a very obvious example, the perpetuation of hatred and anger. Imagine there is a fight going on in football. There are two players who are fighting, there is a third who is trying to prevent this, but this third does not come quietly, but rather runs. He squeezes the other two very tightly, pulls them apart, and doesn’t realize that by trying to lessen the violence, he is amplifying it. Then a fourth comes and does the same. And the fifth one comes and pushes him. This is what happens in conversations. There is someone who says, “We need to stop for a while.” And the other one says, “You should shut up.” And the one who says this does not realize that he is the first one who does not shut up. What is needed in this discussion is for someone to come in and say, “I don’t need to say anything at the moment. The most valuable thing, just, is to reduce the noise, create a moment of silence, put out the fire. and, after a while, speak more calmly. We have lost that ability, which at some point is best to shut up.
Q: Speaking of music and silence, do you know the Heroes of Silence?
BUT: Yes Yes. And Jorge Drexler has a song “Silencio”.
Question: What do you think will happen if we all shut up?
BUT: If we shut up forever, it will be very bad. When I talk about silence, I think of it as something that is needed from time to time in what we say. But if we all shut up for a while, it will be a balm of calm in the universe. Think of an argument between friends. There comes a point when you see that it is unsolvable, that whatever you say, even if you are right, is useless. Well, you should shut up, wait until the fire goes out, and stop talking. What we all observe in the private sphere must move into the public sphere. For me, this would be a fabulous experiment: what if we all turn off social networks for a month? I think the world would be a much better place.
Q: Will fiction be, as Pablo Morette says, the ultimate habitat of our species?
BUT: I think it’s possible. We all believe in fairy tales: you watch a movie and cry. You enter this story and surrender. But you also indulge in your own stories, which are also narratives. So, because we have such a big inclination to believe stories, we get to this place. You think about it in a futuristic way, but in small episodes it happens all the time: for two hours you are immersed in a movie and reality disappears. We know stories of people addicted to Candy Crush or Fortnite who play for hours and start forgetting the simplest things. People who stop eating. A boy who, after eight hours of playing, realizes that he is hungry. He has entered into such a powerful narrative that he ignores vital things such as eating, drinking water, or going to the toilet. Yes, it is possible to imagine a world in which we are completely out of touch with reality.
Q: Would that world be more dangerous?
BUT: We are in the realm of fantasy and conjecture. My answer is “I don’t know” and I don’t think anyone does. There are things we know: good conversation makes us live more in line with what we want. Reality… (Count) What seems archaic, but is present as never before, is wars. There are many wars in the world: in Ukraine, in Africa… Wars are grandiose narratives in which an army of people goes to kill another army of people. Call me innocent, but it seems to me invented nonsense: what happens in a crowd of people for one to say: “Let’s kill them all”? I mean: reality can sometimes be less restrained than fiction.
Q: Is loneliness the plague of our time?
BUT: Loneliness is a risk factor. What can worsen your health in the future? We were taught that if you smoke, you are more likely to get cancer; that if you do not want to move in your life, then you have it, but you know that this is a very big risk factor; that if you want to live on cholesterol and saturated fat, the same is true. But what is known as a very big risk factor and not considered as such is loneliness. And loneliness today is very difficult to recognize. We are accompanied all the time, but with a dray company. You can be at a concert with 6,000 people, or you can be alone. You can have a million social media followers and be very lonely. Not being alone means having someone you can really talk to. That is why loneliness and conversation are so common. There is a very important question: do you know the person with whom you can talk about everything, to whom you can tell about what upsets you, who will not judge you and who, as you feel, will listen to you? Is there a person who looks like this? If you have a little life insurance, it will make your life much healthier. Yes, we live, as you say, in a time when loneliness has become a plague. We are used to good conversations.
Question: In speech Great dictatorChaplin lamented that “we think too much and feel too little.” Has the order of the factors been changed excessively?
BUT: The question is beautiful. I dont know…
P: Maybe we feel a lot, but we feel bad …
BUT: Life is often lived as in this dilemma between passions and ideas. I am trying to break this Cartesian dualism: ideas become infected with passions and vice versa. I think we are thinking wrong. Because we don’t speak well and we don’t have a good disposition to think and speak well. Sometimes it feeds on emotions. If you are angry, you are thinking wrong. You are clouded and do not think anything. This is a typical example of a person who is so obsessed with passion that he loses the ability to think. But this person comes into this state because he thought wrong. Passions give rise to ideas, and ideas give rise to passions. I think it’s not that we feel a lot and think little, but that we think badly about what we feel. In fact, I think we feel bad too.
Q: In closing: if there were more people like Montaigne that you keep quoting, the world would be…
BUT: Better, much better. Of course, there are tastes, but I will give you a photo of hell, where everything is on fire, and also a photo of a green valley with a river, I will ask you which is more beautiful, and you, a priori, will tell me the second one. The world of Montaigne resembles that green valley with the river. With people like him, the world would be much greener and therefore much better.