The Frontal Cortex


I won’t waste too many words trying to explain this stunning video, which is by Will Hoffman and the folks at Radio Lab. At first glance, it’s a mere collection of ordinary moments – a falling teardrop, an escaped balloon, a dive into a pool – but I think it’s also evidence that the things we see everyday, when carefully framed, can ache with ignored beauty:


  1. #1 trev
    August 25, 2009

    Great video! Although I suspect its power comes from the music, not the images. You set the same video to Charlie Chaplin type music and I reckon the impact will be totally different.

  2. #2 Steve Silberman
    August 25, 2009

    The power comes from the synergy of perfectly wedded music and images. Play that lovely soundtrack over footage of snarling Dick Cheney and Rumsfeld and you’d think you were watching the apocalypse.

    Lovely video. I tweeted and posted this all over the place.

  3. #3 becca
    August 25, 2009

    Not a lot of things put me in an optimistic mood, but that did somehow. Thanks for posting it.

  4. #4 Hemmingplay
    August 25, 2009

    Thanks for passing this on. These are moments that any of us has access to, and connect us to our humanity. Life lived is best when noticed, and this reminded me how often I don’t pay the proper respect to the important things.

    I love your phrase

    “…things we see everyday, when carefully framed, can ache with ignored beauty…”

    Awesome. And thanks.

  5. #5 b.
    August 25, 2009

    As someone who doesn’t feel a day has fulfilled its potential if I haven’t worked with my hands it’s convenient for me to think so, but it seems from the video so much that defines a moment, that slows us down enough to even have an observable moment, is work we do with our hands.

    From the tasks real cooking requires like egg cracking and stirring, needlework, digging in the dirt – you can only have *observable* moments in a slowed down life. I think that’s the question the video is asking without really asking; not just “What is a moment?” but “What is an observable moment?” We can’t divorce the viewer from the moment, making the moment have to last long enough to be captured by the viewer’s eye without being so consistent and extended as sleep (instead waking).

    Which makes me so glad you posted this video, because I’d never have sat down and thought about what a moment is! And it was very beautiful.

  6. #6 Steve Silberman
    August 25, 2009

    By the way, Jonah, this reminded me of the gorgeous dialogue between the recording angels in Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire, as they share notes about the goings-on on planet Earth and do not distinguished between the significance of the launch of a rocket and a woman folding her umbrella and getting drenched. If you’ve never seen that film, you must.

  7. #7 meryl
    August 25, 2009

    Zen, wuwei, zazen! The unraveling of truth in moments….so unsuspecting, least expected. The ephiphany, the quiet eueka, the silent exhilaration of “ohmmmmmmm”.

    * the quick hug between shy lovers as the eyes mist up, saying good byes at the airport.

    * the smile on a baby’s face when gazing at his father’s face.

    * the wind teasing the dancing leaves on the branches of the tree next to the cab stand while you wait for your taxi.
    And so on.

    The moment while technically brief and exist in “split seconds”, yet when it happens, it feels like forever, as if time has stopped. I call them privotal moments.

    My son’s first chuckle occurred when he was barely 6 weeks old and it must have lasted 10 seconds or less. But in that privotal moment, my chest buffed up, and I felt wholesomely 200%the full fledeged mommy I knew I would be all of my son’s life. And the moment will be in my memory forever.


  8. #8 jb
    August 26, 2009

    a moment to enjoy moments….aaah! thanks,Jonah

  9. #9 Erin McNellis
    August 26, 2009

    This is lovely; thanks for sharing it! (I’ve been reading this blog for a few weeks now & have never quite managed to introduce myself, so, hello!)

  10. #10 glow owl
    August 26, 2009

    love it. thnx. :)

  11. #11 lynD
    August 26, 2009

    I had the same initial reaction – a moving video – and I shared it on Facebook. A friend watched it without the sound, and pointed out the lack of people of color. I think, along the lines of Mr. Siberman’s comment, that the music made every difference in how we perceived the video.

  12. #12 JPB120
    August 26, 2009

    This was an absolutely captivating video. All of the events are ones that are almost constantly overlooked, for the sheer fact that they are so prominent and are accepted as routine. People have a tendency to become desensitized to the beauty in things which are overly common.
    The fact that the scenes range from events in infancy to events of the elderly, and from things of pure innocence, like learning to walk, to things society considers “bad,” such as smoking, this video should reach out to everyone. Everything in life can have some form of beauty in it depending on how it’s viewed, and it is rare that something so ordinary can seem so breathtaking.

  13. #13 LindaCO
    August 26, 2009

    Those Radio Lab folks got it going on. Love their stuff.

  14. #14 stacy barrows
    August 27, 2009

    Beautiful and thank you Jonah, I am a big fan of yours, love your book Proust the Neuroscientist.
    Stacy Barrows

  15. #15 Roula z
    August 28, 2009

    Calming, nice and wise. Softens the heart :)

  16. #16 Garreth Heidt
    August 28, 2009

    Oh no. This is easy to define and very useful. The next time somebody asks you to define “poetry”, show them this video. The best poetry, imho, is about the ordinary things in life that we miss, that, as Jonah puts it, “ache with ignored beauty.” Or, as a middle schooler in a book (A Slow Flash of Light) of original poems wrote: “Poetry is like whatever’s falling on you.”

    This is a video about what’s falling on us. What we fail to notice because “Life is too much with us.” What a superb melding of photography and music. I’ll be using this in my middle school classroom.

  17. #17 Elizabeth
    August 28, 2009

    Reminds me of
    by Walt Whitman

    Why, who makes much of a miracle?
    As to me I know of nothing else but miracles,
    Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan,
    Or dart my sight over the roofs of houses toward the sky,
    Or wade with naked feet along the beach just in the edge of the water,
    Or stand under trees in the woods,
    Or talk by day with any one I love, or sleep in the bed at night with any one I love,
    Or sit at table at dinner with the rest,
    Or look at strangers opposite me riding in the car,
    Or watch honey-bees busy around the hive of a summer forenoon,
    Or animals feeding in the fields,
    Or birds, or the wonderfulness of insects in the air,
    Or the wonderfulness of the sundown, or of stars shining so quiet and bright,
    Or the exquisite delicate thin curve of the new moon in spring;
    These with the rest, one and all, are to me miracles,
    The whole referring, yet each distinct and in its place.
    To me every hour of the light and dark is a miracle,
    Every cubic inch of space is a miracle,
    Every square yard of the surface of the earth is spread with the same,
    Every foot of the interior swarms with the same.
    To me the sea is a continual miracle,
    The fishes that swim–the rocks–the motion of the waves–the ships with men in them,
    What stranger miracles are there?

  18. #18 Gradient77
    August 30, 2009

    Beautiful. I just read David Eagleman’s “SUM: Forty Tales from the Afterlives” (one of the best books of 2009), which the filmmaker says inspired this film. I think this film captures a similar sense of the humor and poignancy and attention to the details that construct a life. Makes you want to laugh and cry. I’ve sent this video link around to everyone, and I’ve also been buying copies of Sum for everyone as well. This seems to be my favorite new style of art!

  19. #19 Eva
    August 31, 2009

    That was really cool. I agree that we take for granted the everyday, seemingly ordinary beauty that surrounds us everyday. If only we all one of those black and white, fish-eye cameras to document our lives with… maybe then we would be able to better take notice of all of the little, ignored things.

  20. #20 sld B120
    September 2, 2009

    This video was incredible. It perfectly shows how many people go through similar events every day of their lives. Though it went from newborn babies up to elderly people, they still had similar feelings occurring. The video made me realize how amazing some everyday events can be. I agree with the person who commented and said that there is a lack of people of color, though. If the video is showing many diverse ages doing similar things, why not show different races doing similar things? Besides that, I think this video is flawless and everyone should see it.

  21. #21 Dizzley
    September 6, 2009


    Video as poetry.

    Excellent in concept and execution.

    Thanks for sharing.

  22. #22 STO.B120
    September 6, 2009

    Incredible. Breath-taking. Marvelous. These are the words that come to mind after witnessing such a beautiful video full of such thought, compassion, and style. Although composed of everyday events, that is what makes the video so compelling, so wonderful: the realization that normal, everyday things taken for granted can be so moving and captivating.

    Most of us go through life never slowing down to admire what is truly going on. We hustle and bustle to get things done, yet never bother to take notice the truly amazing, albeit normal, moments one has everyday. A moment, as defined by a dictionary, is an indefinitely short period of time; an instant. However, after viewing this video (multiple times) and reflecting on what it has to offer, I have come to believe that a moment is much more than that.

    A moment can be anything, the majority of which are beautiful, yet too quick to actually realize the beauty of them until they’re gone. From the sight of a teardrop, to the sound of a strike, to the loss of a mere air-filled balloon: a moment of time exists in beauty, and this video, although extremely well done, cannot do justice to the true wonder of a moment in time, of an instant never to be seen again.

  23. #23 kalb120
    September 6, 2009

    This video is moving. I can’t exactly explain how but it definitely moved me in someway. I want to major in film and media arts and I’ve watched plenty of short films and none have interested me this much. it’s a fascinating video and I think that the fact that I can’t really explain what it is that draws me to it so much proves its extraordinary. The collection of ordinary moments of every day into one movie together just attracts so much of my attention. The transition between each moment is so carefully thought out and the music is seemingly perfect. Hoffman did an outstanding job

  24. #24 LCB-B120
    September 7, 2009

    The video is astonishing and more importantly, meaningful. I feel the purpose was to show that life shouldn’t be wasted by trying to survive. Sometimes you just need to stop in your tracks and look around once in a while. Appreciate the sky and the air and the people your with. Remember the times that make you laugh or scared or make you cry. The little things in life are the most significant. It seems like everyone is in a rush to get somewhere. If the world could just press “pause” for one second and everyone could take a break, I believe everyone would experience joy. Even if it was just for a moment.

  25. #25 SMBB120
    September 8, 2009

    This video captures the everyday moments of people that are taken for granted. It is meaningful, beautiful, and eye opening. Watching a collection of moments such as doctors performing surgery, the jumping of a cat on a couch, and a simple lick of an ice cream cone provide evidence that every moment in life is important. The purpose of this video was to show that the seemingly insignificant moments of someones seemingly normal life includes what Johnah Lehrer calls ignored beauty. A moment is much more than just an unimportant second in life; it could and can be anything you want it to be. So make every moment count and see the beauty in everything.

  26. #26 JSCB120
    September 8, 2009

    This video is great. While watching i found myself not being able to look away, i just wanted to see what would come up next. Throughout the video i found myself smiling at certain things that came up. It made me realize how important it is to slow down every once in a while, and just take a look around you, notice what else is going on, even the small things that may seem unimportant.

  27. #27 sohbet
    September 9, 2009

    This video is moving. I can’t exactly explain how but it definitely moved me in someway. I want to major in film and media arts and I’ve watched plenty of short films and none have interested me this much. it’s a fascinating video and I think that the fact that I can’t really explain what it is that draws me to it so much proves its extraordinary. The collection of ordinary moments of every day into one movie together just attracts so much of my attention. The transition between each moment is so carefully thought out and the music is seemingly perfect. Hoffman did an outstanding job

  28. #28 Tam
    September 11, 2009

    I think it makes us feel because the shortness of these moments remind us of the death that always looms. It’s a reminder to look up and say, in response to the question in David Foster Wallace’s fish fable – “what the fuck is water?” – say “this is water” and repeat it over and over but not so much and so often it loses its meaning.

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