Essay: amaze me!

Trial: Amaze Me!


“The most astonishing thing is that there are men who are not surprised to be alive”, has been placed as an exercise in this book by quoting Schopenhauer, a philosopher who lived in 19thth century, and this is still true today despite all the progress of science. Every day, when I wake up, I am amazed and amazed to see the life that beats around me. A constantly renewed emotion. 

Michel G. Barette, who has long been associated with the spectacular productions of Cirque du Soleil, sets out to trace the origins of what moves us. 

“What are the phenomena, the events, achievements or concepts that cause astonishment? What effect might this astonishment have on us and our lives? How do we deal with this astonishment?” he wonders.

It was driven by curiosity, the lure of adventure and dissatisfaction with their condition that our Homo sapiens ancestors set out to discover the world, going from surprise to astonishment, activating their neurotransmitters, using dopamine, adrenaline and noradrenaline. The first to stimulate the taking of risky actions, the second to increase the heart rate to better support the physical effort, and the third to organize the stimulation in order to achieve the final result. Curiosity, astonishment, surprise and thrills are therefore intimately linked and have their share of rewards. The higher the risk, the greater the reward, claims the author, which can be quite addictive. Like the reassuring feeling of having a full life, far from monotony and conformity.


The ritual of tattooing, very popular among young people, would be a manifestation of this taste for risk, this need to free oneself and to stand out. The pain felt during the inking sessions would be the obligatory passage to access this momentary euphoria. This is how tattoo candidates “write on their body, a ritual parchment, the significant emotional moments of their intimate individual history, inking of the unease whose trace is preserved in this body writing”. 

However, the old social divisions and other partitions have now been replaced by other more permeable categories, thanks to newly developed technologies. The youth of the 21st century – these “adulescents” with a blurred identity, as the author calls them – can communicate more easily while being entertained individually or in groups, “at the crossroads of emotions, feelings and sensations [.. .], foraging between eclecticism, hedonism and consumerism.” 

Humans like to believe in magical wonders, says Barette, and they have imagined fantastical stories, populated by mythological creatures that appeal to the marvelous and that amaze us, entertain us and teach us. 

Religions and religious sects eloquently translate this quest for the fantastic to explain the inexplicable. Philosophy and science do it just as much in their own way, one by appealing to logic, and the other through factual experiences.

Source of fascination

Fire is another source of fascination. Its discovery, 400,000 years ago, will transform our lives just as much as the matter that surrounds us. Fire will long be associated with magic and alchemy, since it succeeds “in transmuting base metals into gold”. It is also found in the manufacture of metal plates, glass, alcohol, perfumes, medicines, etc.

Now what about the adventure of space exploration? We go from discovery to discovery, each one more astonishing than the other. Science fiction becomes reality. “What a long way Homo sapiens has traveled since the captivating observation of the full moon at the edge of his cave!”

In short, “astonishment is one of the foundations of human intelligence : it makes it possible to detect the unexpected, to arouse interest, to marvel, but also to identify new dangers or even to correct errors”. What artificial intelligence has not yet managed to tame. Eventually, will our emotions save us from machine domination? We are not finished being amazed, because the universe has not yet revealed all its secrets.