“At the time of hurried thought” by Jean-Philippe Pleau: slices of life

“At the time of hurried thought» by Jean-Philippe Pleau: slices of life


It is not easy to row alone in the open sea when for ten years we did it in team with an outstanding communicator and popularizer like the one who was affectionately nicknamed the woolly mammoth, Serge Bouchard. Jean-Philippe Pleau is well aware of this and the first texts of this book are imbued with this great emptiness and sweet shared memories.

It is that the author, Jean-Philippe Pleau , a sociologist by training, co-hosted the program C'est fou… on public radio for several years with the late anthropologist. Like a marathon runner, Pleau took over, following C'est fou…, with the program Thinking aloud, at the inside of which there was a segment titled Thinking in a whisper. Most of the texts in this collection come from this segment.

Sweet memories, this book is full of them. Remembering is the beginning of understanding the world in which we are immersed. Above all, we must not confuse the history that is being written before our eyes with that of the long time, he says.

Where are the good guys?

< p>Questioning the loss of certain values, Pleau wonders where the good guys are today. At the elementary school near his home, the kindness of the children is constantly appealed to in order to encourage them to reject individualistic behavior. To the well-known “every man for himself”, we recommend “every man for the other”. 

Certain values, such as sharing and solidarity found in the practice of the Catholic religion, ran away with the accelerated transformation of society. Church attendance is a thing of the past, he notes without bitterness. 

“My 15, 13 and 7 year olds have never set foot there, except for used book sales and bazaars.”

Often the old welcoming structures have been replaced by a Modernism in poor taste, such as the arrival of shopping centers and other Costcos in a once bucolic landscape. 

This is what happened in Drummondville, his hometown, tells us Pleau. A magnificent wooded area has been sacrificed to allow the erection of these temples of consumption which show a flagrant lack of imagination.

Interesting this distinction he makes between temporary boredom and ” the boredom that turns into a bad life”. Thus, an overflow of activities in the child would develop a “hedonic habit” which, when a lack arises, would push him towards a form of boredom. But this boredom is beneficial, he says. “It's a luxury, a privilege, a wealth”, which should certainly not disappear with age.

The Lego block game, invented in 1932, gives rise to philosophical reflection on creation and conformity. A book written by Tommaso W. Bertolotti, Legosophy. Little Philosophy of Lego, teaches us, according to the sociologist, that there are two ways of apprehending the construction of the world. Either “respecting the plausibility and order of the structure planned” by the game designer, or “out of pure fantasy and guided by freedom and creativity”. 

Either the world is immutable or it is not, and it is then the tensions and contradictions that bring about the balance of the world. But the two paths are not contradictory, says Bertolotti, but rather complementary. 

“No Lego is definitive, any more than any real philosophy. Start with the instructions, and never stop marveling at what you can do,” he says. 

I will never look at Lego playing the same way again.

In familiar territory

This collection of chronicles is full of beautiful surprises. We walk from one universe to another, between childhood and adult life, as in familiar territory, with the impression of having, we too, frequented these same places between imagination and reality, of having known the same apprehensions in the face of the unknown or love, of having dreamed the same youthful dreams of a better world. 

How many will recognize themselves in this fear of displeasing which very often makes us do bad choice?

“There is a fine line between fine self-knowledge, and others imposing their choice on our lives.” 

Or in that gravely ill friend who asked for the helps to die and that the author accompanies until the last moment. 

These are so many small slices of life that remind us that life is an adventure full of twists and surprises, if we take the time to dwell on it. 

Other reading suggestions


Very few intellectual women and men remain fully committed to this vast social, cultural and economic project that was the Quiet Revolution and the advent of modern Quebec. Woman of head, but also of heart, Lise Bissonnette was and is. As an editor for 25 years, I often had to meet her, on occasion, when she was “editorializing” in the daily Le Devoir, which she would later lead, and even confront her about her Very Large Library project, which she brilliantly brought to fruition by confounding all skeptics like me. 

These interviews are a real gold mine, as it was at the time in his native Abitibi. Their reading should be mandatory, if not strongly recommended, to understand where we come from, to “take the measure of the road traveled and the unfinished catch-up”.


The statistics prove it: the United States is the most violent country in the Western world. The history of this country is written with the blood of millions of displaced, exterminated, enslaved people. Even today, the population is divided into two camps: the pros and the anti-gun controls. Every day there are new mass killings in a school, a shopping center, a place of worship. And the powerful gun lobby continues to encourage people to arm themselves to defend themselves against an invisible enemy. Outraged like so many others, well-known writer Paul Auster has made it his mission to trace the history of gun violence in the United States up to the present day, starting with his personal story: her grandmother shot her divorced grandfather following a supposed fit of madness. His text is punctuated with photos from more than thirty mass killing sites in the United States. Disturbing.