ORIGINAL

The restrained brain

5 minutes

Hunting for Hockney

3 minutes

Hurricane Katrina, frame by frame

6 minutes

A woman like me

9 minutes

The super zoom

3 minutes

Aeon for Friends

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Why preparation, not willpower, is the key to mastering self-restraint

Temperance was one of the four virtues identified by Plato’s Republic as essential to an ideal state – a framework that was later adapted by Catholicism and Thomas Aquinas. Meanwhile, one of the five articles of faith of the Sikh religion is the kacchera – a drawstring undergarment meant to guard its wearer against lust. Indeed, almost every major religious or philosophical tradition heavily emphasises the value of self-restraint as a pathway to a virtuous and satisfying life. It makes sense that impulse-control has been held in such high regard historically: the ability to curb destructive urges and prudently delay gratification makes life easier in the long run. So what does modern brain science tell us about the best ways to approach willpower? This Aeon Video original mines the work of the US neuroscientist David Eagleman and the US psychologist Walter Mischel (known for his controversial ‘marshmallow test’) to explore what modern psychology and brain science say about the best strategies for resisting those feel-good things – big and small – that we know are bad for us.

Director and Writer: Adam D’Arpino

Producers: Adam D’Arpino, Kellen Quinn

Research Assistant: Tamur Qutab

Narrator: Ashley Klanac

Aeon for Friends

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A dreamy animated tale of grief, friendship and a road trip to David Hockney’s house

‘You were too young to lose your mum. And we were too young to be organising a funeral.’

When her friend’s mother died, the UK filmmaker Alice Dunseath and her friend set out on an unplanned road trip through Yorkshire, mostly because they didn’t know what else to do. The only destination they gave themselves was the house of the artist David Hockney, supposedly somewhere in the town of Bridlington. Dunseath’s brief animation echoes some of Hockney’s signature stylistic flourishes, including dreamlike landscapes and saturated colours, but her narration offers an arresting counterpoint to the images – a simple, aching account of how grief can both heighten and numb the senses, render words meaningful and meaningless, and make goals simultaneously important and absurd.

Video by Alice Dunseath

Aeon for Friends

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Who is ‘looting’ and who is ‘finding food’? How image gatekeepers shape the news

In August 2005, Alysia Burton Steele was just two months into her job as a photo editor on The Dallas Morning News when she decided to dispatch the photographer Irwin Thompson to New Orleans to document the impact of Hurricane Katrina. Her newspaper’s bold journalistic work went on to win a Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Photography in 2006. In this short interview, Burton Steele describes how her team approached their coverage of the storm and its aftermath, and discusses the telling disparity between how news outlets presented African Americans and white people affected by the tragedy. This video is part of Topic’s Frame by Frame series, in which ‘celebrated photojournalists explore images of the people and events that helped shape the American experience, and discuss how working with photographs impacts them personally’.

Director: Yvonne Michelle Shirley

Producer: Jennie Bedusa

Website: Topic

Aeon for Friends

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When a deafblind woman from Denmark met a woman like her in Nepal

‘I dreamt I was the deafblind woman we visited … And there was no information, nothing, just isolation.’

Sensory experience, cultural differences and degrees of privilege collide in a meeting between two deafblind women: Dorte Eriksen from Denmark and Budhi Maya Gurung from Nepal. Commissioned by the Danish Deafblind Association to document a trip to help deafblind people in Nepal, the Mexican-Danish filmmaker Isabel Morales Bondy found herself filming the two women’s remarkable encounter. A Woman Like Me is assembled entirely without spoken words. Instead, viewers get to see as if through Eriksen’s eyes and hear only what the director does as witness to the women’s language of touch. Acknowledging the opacity of this experience, Morales Bondy chose not to subtitle the women’s meeting, prompting profound questions about language, communication and human connection. 

Director: Isabel Morales Bondy

Producer: Lars Feldballe Petersen

Aeon for Friends

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A quantum odyssey from the tip of a pen to the dark side of human knowledge

The classic short film Powers of Ten (1977) propelled viewers on a journey from a Chicago park into deep space and then back down to the scale of a single proton. In The Super Zoom, the Brazil-based graphic designer Pedro Machado’s visualisation dives even deeper into the realm of the subatomic and theoretical. While the original film by Charles and Ray Eames zoomed in to a scale of 10-16 metres at most, Machado’s film draws on 40 years of quantum research – not to mention significant advances in 3D rendering technology – to drill down to the unfathomably small scale of 10-33 metres, brushing up against the limits of human knowledge and imagination. The mindbending animation uses a framework of quantum gravity in which a gravitational field exists at these smallest conceivable scales.

Director: Pedro Machado

Aeon for Friends

Find out more

Why preparation, not willpower, is the key to mastering self-restraint

Temperance was one of the four virtues identified by Plato’s Republic as essential to an ideal state – a framework that was later adapted by Catholicism and Thomas Aquinas. Meanwhile, one of the five articles of faith of the Sikh religion is the kacchera – a drawstring undergarment meant to guard its wearer against lust. Indeed, almost every major religious or philosophical tradition heavily emphasises the value of self-restraint as a pathway to a virtuous and satisfying life. It makes sense that impulse-control has been held in such high regard historically: the ability to curb destructive urges and prudently delay gratification makes life easier in the long run. So what does modern brain science tell us about the best ways to approach willpower? This Aeon Video original mines the work of the US neuroscientist David Eagleman and the US psychologist Walter Mischel (known for his controversial ‘marshmallow test’) to explore what modern psychology and brain science say about the best strategies for resisting those feel-good things – big and small – that we know are bad for us.

Director and Writer: Adam D’Arpino

Producers: Adam D’Arpino, Kellen Quinn

Research Assistant: Tamur Qutab

Narrator: Ashley Klanac

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Essay/
Thinkers and theories
Secular pilgrimage

Visiting Wittgenstein’s home evokes the philosopher’s serious, ascetic mind (no doubt he would disapprove its restoration)

Julian Baggini

Essay/
Love and friendship
My friend, my self

Female friendship is central to much recent fiction and film. What can it say about the role of relationships in identity?

Susan Bright