React to Reaction

Weekly I/O#28

Can we react to our reaction or even react to our reaction to our reaction?

Comedy Special: Bo Burnham: Inside

Inside is a comedy special written, directed, filmed, edited, and acted all by Bo Burnham. In one segment of the special, he is on the piano playing a song about how being an unpaid intern is essentially like being illegal slave labor. After the song, he starts to react to the music he just did as a reaction video. But after the song ends, the video doesn't end there. The reaction video he just did then starts playing. Therefore, Burnham does another reaction video to the previous reaction video own video, and the loop continues over and over again.

While reacting to his reaction video for the first time, he is self-aware about his being a douchebag in that reaction video. However, as he reacts to reaction video to another reaction video, he asserts that being self-aware about being a douchebag doesn’t make him less of a douchebag.

I find the idea of an infinite reaction video loop fascinating. First, can we react to our reactions in our daily life? I think the answer is yes. It can be seen as a type of self-reflection. We can also find similar ideas in Buddhism, like being aware of our own emotions and observing them or as a mental model, like what people call Second-order thinking or to think our own thinking. Therefore, same as the infinite reaction video loop, we can dive even deeper to observe our observation of emotions or to think our thinking about our thinking.

Second, even after observing our emotions or thinking about our thinking, we might still behave exactly the same way. No matter how deep we react to our reaction, to react is still always the very first step and to change or to improve is another step that requires effort.

Thanks to Yen Chen Chiang for recommending me the Special and thanks to Everett Key and Jui-An (Ryan) Wang for helping organize the watching events.

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