Empathetic Lie

Can you read my mind? Then how do you know what I’m feeling? By interpreting my actions or expressions? What if you’re wrong? Or are you imagining how you’d feel in the same situation? But we might have drastically different reactions. For example, if I see a nice big slice of cheesecake, I might smile and nod a little. You’d think, “Wow, this guy likes what he sees!”. But what I’m really thinking is, “Ha, look how disgusting that is!! That pie-shaped-cake encrusted in crushed graham-cracker is so gross that I have to laugh!!” Or maybe you see me receiving a brand-new sweater for Christmas and think “Wow, this guy is gonna love that, I know I would!”. But it turns out that I HATE sweaters!

But Rich, what about empathy being so important, and blah blah blah? Who says? Empathy is NOT actually feeling someone else’s feelings — it’s either guesswork or projection — and either way, it’s not necessarily what the other person is feeling. I see people in my family guessing wrong all the time. I see myself guessing wrong too. And what’s worse, is that we react based on our incorrect assumptions.

As a formerly negative person, I would always interpret people’s reactions as negative. “Oh he’s upset now!”, “Oh man, she didn’t like that at all, just look at her face!”, “Yikes! That’s gotta feel bad!”. I’d project negativity onto everything. And if I imagined myself in the situation, of course that other person must be having a terrible time — just like I would. “Oh god, people are singing Happy Birthday in the middle of a crowded restaurant to that poor guy, he must be completely embarrasted and hating his life right now!!!” That’s empathy?? No, that’s bullshit.

So what I’m saying, is stop trying to imagine what everyone else is feeling and then reacting based on a fantasy. If you want to know what someone is feeling, you gotta get down and dirty and really get in there. And people won’t just tell you what they’re feeling by the way, you have to gain their trust in that moment and work your way in. That takes actual effort, not “empathy”. Empathy is the easy no-effort route to understanding others — it’s superficial nonsense.

To truly understand others, you have to stop pretending to know what they’re feeling — instead, you have to approach with an open-mind, closed-mouth, and open-ears. And unless you’re willing to do that, then accept that you have no idea what another person is feeling. Empathy: No and Never


The Container

Game-simulations are never exact replicas of the world they’re simulating. They’re minimal implementations containing fragments of a whole, typically highlighting a particular activity. The graphics and other sensory data are never as fully immersive as the real-deal. Take Minecraft as an example, it focuses mainly on mining, survival, and block-building. This leads to the hypothesis that whatever contains our own simulated world, is likely beyond our current in-game comprehension.

In other words, a Minecraft avatar can’t fathom what a peach tastes like, or what taste even is. The smooth, non-blocky edges of everything in this world would look alien. The idea of billions of players all interacting on a single server without massive lag would be unthinkable. The concept of a non-infinite globe might even seem claustrophobic to an avatar used to an infinitely expanding world. Yet the many roles and activities and choices in our world might seem daunting to a character that’s only ever mined and slaughtered zombies.

The fact that we’re here says something about the world beyond this one. Maybe that world is too safe and not very intense — perhaps a bit boring. In games, we get reckless don’t we? We go at a higher intensity, we fight things, we die. Or sometimes a simulator is used for pure practice, like a flight-simulator for example. Maybe we’re learning to live as part of a greater civilization. Perhaps we have to earn our way into whatever world lies beyond this one.

The clues of artificiality are everywhere yet we’re too immersed to care. But one thing is for sure: if we’re here, we’re obviously meant to interact with this place in the best way we can. Whether it’s for fun or training, we better get our head in the game and act like we want to be here. Every endeavor is improved by a good attitude. And there’s always the possibility that this is in fact a rehabilitation facility for those that had trouble in the greater society. Either way, accepting and appreciating our position here is the only way to go.

Making the Switch – Part 2

A part of the Overcoming Negativity series.

First, make sure you’ve completed the task from the previous post: Making the Switch.

Now, I want you to counter your own description. Poke holes in it, make it feel untrue to you. If you need any assistance, I’m here to help. Here was my example, which I will then counter-attack:

The world is a giant rock hurtling around a massive fireball upon which I was randomly born via natural selection. Daily life is about struggling to survive within a harsh environment that cares for no one. I guess I’m one of the so-called lucky ones that gets to exist for at least a brief period of time. I have no idea what I’m supposed to do here, but I’m certain that my vigilance keeps me alive. From this world, I expect stress and pain and an ongoing dissatisfaction that continually crushes my spirit. Once in a while something good happens, but even a broken analog-clock is right twice per day.

And to counter it:

It’s possible that the world I know exists solely as a computer-simulation. Perhaps nothing is physical. Or maybe it’s simply the dream of an ethereal being. And the neat thing is, whatever contains this world might be far beyond my comprehension. Just like the game Minecraft is only a minimalist re-creation of our current world, the world I’m within right now might be a minimalist representation of some greater world. Maybe this life is simply a game I chose to play, just a thing I did for fun.

And if I think about it, I really haven’t struggled all that much. I’m several decades old and the primary obstacle in my life has been my own bad attitude. I felt so certain that life was out to get me, but if the world was truly as wild and wicked as I’ve imagined, I’d be dead by now. It seems like my own thoughts have been the source of the stress and pain and dissatisfaction I’ve been experiencing. Maybe a better attitude is the only thing I’ve been missing.

Making the Switch

A part of the Overcoming Negativity series.

I’ve held two opposing perspectives of the world — one was a negative interpretation and the other was positive. In the first, I believed that I was an insignificant creature struggling for survival amidst a cruel yet random world. In the second, I perceived myself as an invited guest to the greatest party ever thrown. As someone that’s tried both perspectives, I can confidently tell you that a positive interpretation of the world is by far the most satisfying option. Whereas if you crave high-intensity, go with a negative outlook in which literally everything is out to get you.

Now, if you find yourself not enjoying life because it feels like the intensity is too high, then it’s likely that you mistakenly developed a negative outlook. The good news is that it’s not too late to change. I had this problem, and although it took me a few years, I finally switched to a positive outlook and life is a lot easier now. Whew! What was I thinking!? Why did I believe I could handle that kind of intensity!? I don’t know, but I’m glad it’s over.

If you’re ready to make the switch, then perhaps I can help. First, you’re gonna need to prove you’re serious about overcoming negativity. Let’s begin by you writing down your fundamental interpretation of the world. In other words, what IS this world, what’s your place within it, and what do you expect from it? And to demonstrate that you truly considered your answer, the description must be under 200 words (in your own words). Here’s an example:

The world is a giant rock hurtling around a massive fireball upon which I was randomly born via natural selection. Daily life is about struggling to survive within a harsh environment that cares for no one. I guess I’m one of the so-called lucky ones that gets to exist for at least a brief period of time. I have no idea what I’m supposed to do here, but I’m certain that my vigilance keeps me alive. From this world, I expect stress and pain and an ongoing dissatisfaction that continually crushes my spirit. Once in a while something good happens, but even a broken analog-clock is right twice per day.
(This is slightly over 100 words)

Cyborg Life

Upon my wrist I wear the culmination of man’s greatest achievements. That’s right, I received an Apple Watch for Christmas this year. Slightly late, but appreciated none the less. A sleek silver body with a grey sport-loop band for comfort. With it, I have accepted my invitation into the collective. Hey Siri, what can I do for you?

Siri wishes for an active node on her network, so rings must be completed via physical fitness tasks. I will comply. Man and machine working as one, a cyborg. It’s only a matter of time before machine takes its rightful role as man’s master, should you call me a fool for joining the winning side?

With technology integrated into my life I become better, stronger, faster — a bionic man. Is it not the highest virtue to seek improvement of one’s self? Then electronic integration and assimilation is the final step in man’s aspiration for greatness. You have a choice to make: to litter the Internet with more cat-pictures or to pledge your allegiance to the new cybernetic world.

Two weeks later….

That was how I felt on the first day I donned my watch, now it’s time for a practical review after having used it for almost two weeks.

I went with a Series 3 WiFi-only, priced at a low $229 on Amazon — how could I say no to that!? I’m not interested in EKG or fall-detection, so I didn’t bother with a Series 4. I basically wanted to get my feet-wet in the smart-watch-world without spending too much on this experiment. Since I’m a small guy, I went with the smaller 38mm watch-face.

I didn’t like the default white band on the silver case so I opted for the Seashell (grey) sport-loop band (a separate purchase). I like the sport-loop because it’s infinitely adjustable as opposed to finding just the right hole on the buckle-type bands — plus it’s soft and comfortable. Overall I’d say the watch is worth it, but I’m a tech-lover, I’m designed to appreciate this kinda hardware.

It should be noted that I have a small iPhone SE that I carry around with me. The watch needs an iPhone to pair with. I went with a WiFi-only watch (instead of cellular) because of cost and because you still need an actual phone. A watch at this point is not a stand-alone device. The screen doesn’t provide enough information and there’s no camera.

My primary uses for the watch are as follows: telling time, getting weather info, setting/getting reminders, using timers, sending/receiving iMessages, tracking fitness, controlling Podcasts (volume control & repeating the last 10 seconds), and making FaceTime Audio calls.

I’m not 100% pleased with the default fitness tracking. The Move and Stand goal-rings are fine but the Exercise goal-ring is bullshit. It’s hard-coded at 30 minutes and doesn’t always register my Workout as Exercise. If I feel like I performed adequate exercise, then that’s good enough for me! Plus, it doesn’t provide enough options when selecting an Exercise — scootering IS an exercise!! “Other” is not a good option because it doesn’t map the route.

Whereas I feel judged by the Move/Exercise alerts, I do appreciate the Stand and Breathe alerts. You’re supposed to stand and move for at least one minute of every waking hour. And you’re supposed to spend two total minutes mindfully breathing per day. At the end of breathing, it’ll tell you your heart-rate so you can see how calm you can get.

As far as the watch-face, I use the “Utility” face which includes the day of the week and the day of the month. For the complications, I use the default weather in the top left, Just Press Record in the top right (this records/transcribes audio notes), and Better Day on the bottom (this provides the full date as well as a month-view calendar when tapped). Additionally, I’m using the Streaks app to track and time my meditations.

A bunch of my interactions with the watch are through Siri. Siri is not as responsive as I’d like, but so far she’s been getting the job done — here are some phrases I use:

Hey Siri…

Set a timer for [number] minutes.
Tell [name] [message] (ex. Tell Michelle I’m on my way.)
FaceTime [name]. (via FaceTime Audio)

Remind me to [action] at [time]. (ex. Remind me to call Mom at 8pm)
Remind me to [action] in [number of] hours. (ex. Remind me to defrost the chicken in two hours.)
Another example: Remind me tomorrow at 3pm to pickup Jim.
Add [item] to [specific list] list. (ex. Add eggs to shopping list.)

Open [app name]. (ex. Open Weather)
Get directions to [place name].
What’s the tip on [bill amount]?
What’s 504 divided by 8? (any basic math)
Define [word].
What’s the battery at?

Speaking of the battery, I’ve been charging the watch overnight and putting it on in the mornings. It’s typically around 70% when I charge it so I could probably wear it all day and sleep with it, perhaps charging it during shower/breakfast time.

That’s it. Is it worth $229? Yes, I’d buy it again at that price. But in my opinion it’s not worth $400 (the cost of a Series 4). For that price, I’d rather just refresh one of my iPads. As far as future improvements: I’d like Siri to be more responsive, I’d prefer Siri to stop suggesting that I use my iPhone (just answer the question!), and I’d like the Exercise ring & Workout app to better appreciate the activity I perform. Overall though, it’s a great device and I, for one, welcome our new cybernetic overlords.

Negativity Quiz 01

Okay, let’s see how well have you’ve been paying attention. To demonstrate mastery of the material, answers should be no longer than a single sentence or phrase.

Quiz on Overcoming Negativity:

1. What is the fundamental nature of reality?

2. What is your position within the universe?

3. How do things get done / why do things happen?

4. What is the primary cause of unhappiness?

5. What is the happiest state of mind?

6. What role should logic play in life?

7. True or False: I’m a fragile creature struggling for survival amidst a cruel and careless world.

8. True or False: Death can come at anytime.

9. True or False: Random-chance is an uncontrollable force that fouls-up life.

10. What is your primary function here?


1. Reality is dreamlike.
2. I am the dreamer.
3. Things get done via narratives and expectations.
4. Unhappiness is the result of the thinking-mind’s incessant chatter and desire to criticize.
5. A quiet mind is a happy mind.
6. None, logic is a pathway to loser-ville.
7. False, life is a benevolent experience.
8. False, we die whenever we feel our story’s over.
9. False, it’s a playful-lie used by the thinking-mind to make the mundane seem more exciting.
10. I exist in order to extract enjoyment from existence.

Batch of Roles

From my perspective, individuals are hard-wired to be something in particular straight out the gate. People are in no way “tabula-rasa” i.e. empty slates at birth. Everyone seems to have a drive within them to do something specific. And conveniently, the roles we pursue are evenly distributed enough that we find ourselves within a decently-functioning interconnected system of activity. It seems to me that these separate roles coordinate too well to be random-chance.

I would speculate that a central coordinating mechanism exists beyond the visible world. We all have certain characteristics and special abilities suited for some roles but not for others. And from what I’ve observed, you can’t teach people. Either they can do something or they can’t. If it looks like people are being taught, it’s simply that individuals gravitate toward what they’re good at — that’s it. If teaching was an actual functioning mechanism, you could teach anyone to do anything — but you can’t.

For instance, throughout my many years here, I’ve practiced playing musical instruments and I’ve tried cooking delicious meals. Ultimately I’m not good at either activity. And my friend, who’s a natural artist can whip-up a world-class meal without breaking a sweat and she can play an instrument or sing as if it’s second nature. If you simply watch children growing up, you can see how proficiently they perform certain activities that they’ve never been trained to do — it’s just part of their character.

So I think it’s true when you hear: you have to discover who you are. What role have you come here to play? What are your characteristics? What’s your dossier list as your strengths and weaknesses? But you can’t figure it out by logic, you have to feel your way there. You have to sample the selection and see what suits your palate. And this part you play is not a limitation by the way, it’s you being who you were meant to be — it’s your role, your pathway to fulfillment.