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


Lucky Bunk

If some people are luckier than others, then the concept of luck is nonsense. It means there’s some other factor at work rather than random chance. My friend is extremely “lucky” for example. Whether she’s rolling real or virtual dice, she rolls whatever she needs to win. Quite simply, she expects to win and does. It’s not a fun process to play against her in a game of chance. And yes, she’s found several four-leaf clovers over the years.

Whereas she expects to win, and frequently does, I expect to lose and get what I expect too. It seems as though expectation is the determining factor behind outcomes. This means that luck/chance/randomness isn’t an actual functioning mechanism. Chance is a fictional concept we adopt to make games seem more exciting. “Oh boy, maybe I’ll win!! But maybe I’ll lose!!! Hehe! So thrilling!!!” The most exciting entertainment we consume always has some sort of surprise element.

So for the purpose of our own entertainment we conveniently forget that outcomes align with our expectations, we pretend that chance is real. But realize: we have deep-seated long-term expectations as well as shallow short-term ones. This means: if you’re a die-hard pessimist for example, endeavors will typically fail despite any current wish for something to work-out in your favor. Outcomes are based on a culmination of expectation rather than a quick “I hope I win this time!”.

And the conclusion is this: you are getting exactly what you expect from life. There is no luck, good or bad. If you’re a loser, it’s because you expect to be a loser. How can you alter this trend? Change your expectation. Expect the best, get the best. The people that seem luckier are simply expecting a better life and they’re receiving it. And whenever a great expectation isn’t met, just plow-ahead expecting an even greater outcome.

Rate of Repetition

There’s a line between routine and erosion — and that line is pain. For example, a gentle caress becomes an abrasion if carried out for too long in the same spot — or a massage may turn into a bruise if repetitively performed on one particular area. This pain, is life telling you what to do. You are required to mix things up. For example, if you attempt to eat the exact same food all the time, you’ll get sick of it to the point of never wanting it again — there’s a certain rate of consumption you must practice or else you’ll be punished.

This demarcation of pain is an example of life communicating with you. Nothing needs to be figured out, the answer is obvious: stop doing what you’re doing and try something else. The question then becomes: how much must my activity vary in order to qualify as something different enough to not cause pain? You’ll have to determine that through experimentation — and again, life will let you know what works through the application of pain.

Mind you, life simply nudges you at first. It’s only after you keep ignoring the signal that life turns up the intensity. The better you listen, the less brutal the process becomes. So you must learn to catch yourself before doing the same thing over and over to the point of immense pain. The pain serves as an alarm that says “Stop!! Wrong way!!!”. From there, you need to find another route. The destination might very well be the same, but try some other way to get there.

In summation: When we come into this world, we’re just too ignorant to know where to go and what to do. There’s just no way you can figure things out on your own. You need guidance. And if you listen, you can hear life leading you along the entire time. And if you don’t listen, you’ll soon feel the instructions in the form of pain. A common situation where life sends this message is when a routine becomes too repetitive — you’ll need to engage in some variety to keep things running smoothly.

New Year’s Wish

In games, sometimes there’s a tipping-point in which you become the master. After struggling to get even a toe-hold, you get to a position where your dominance is inevitable. You don’t always want to reach that tipping-point though. If you’re not prepared to handle it, it will be very unfulfilling and you’ll be left with nothing but emptiness. Boredom will come — and from that, you can’t hide.

And it’s true — at one point, life presented me with a scenario I preferred, but I couldn’t handle it. Without a doubt, my negativity won. From there, I went into a multi-year exile. During those years, I trained — not my body as I had done in my youth, but my mind. I sat in isolation attempting to figure life out — trying to understand what I was doing wrong. The culmination of everything I gathered is within this blog.

In the upcoming year, I hope I’m ready to reach that tipping-point — to become a player that focuses on living-out his role the best he can. I hope that I’ve shed my negativity and developed an ability to appreciate the simple fear-free life. I’m done with using fear as a crutch to stave-off existential boredom. Anxiety, distress, worry, despair, anxiousness, hopelessness, frustration — these are words I knew well, but now wish to know only from a distance. I’m not afraid of them, I’m simply ready to mature beyond them.

I was meditating yesterday, methodically shutting down every thought that came into my mind — and a realization occurred: I shutdown this chatter in order to create an inlet for life to enter. These constant thoughts simply don’t allow life to happen, they choke it in every instance — like a loudmouth shouting over everyone else — or weeds preventing desirable crops from growing. So in this new year, I wish to listen — to allow life in.

In the Conservatory, Again

Five years ago, I made a guess at what life is — just a fun exercise. This is an updated version. What is life, attempt #2:

Life exists within a fabricated environment, a dreamworld if you will. This dream is directed by the dreamer’s expectations. So as to maintain the sensation of full-immersion, the dreamer knows nothing of what came before or what exists beyond. Oftentimes, entrance into the dreamworld can be jarring and unsettling and this can cause the dreamer to expect the worst — and so a nasty world can manifest before the eyes.

The world is an amusement park of sorts, a dream-fulfillment factory. So if a dreamer inadvertently expects a nightmare scenario, life WILL fulfill this expectation. At most times, the dreamer is lost to the dream, simply drifting along, going with its flow. If the dreamer has wondrous expectations, everything will be fine and dandy. But if the dreamer expects the worst, he’ll be smacking into rocks all the way down the river of life. These jolts will cause discomfort obviously, and at some points he’ll lose the sensation of immersion and become hyper-aware.

This results in the worst possible experience. First, whenever the negative-dreamer gets absorbed in the story, he witnesses the most horrible stuff he can imagine — it’s too intense. Second, whenever he becomes hyper-aware, it feels like there’s something wrong, like he doesn’t belong. At this point, it’s up to the dreamer to start putting two and two together. He must find a more palatable path through the rushing river of life. It’s sink or swim time.

Typically, the more palatable path consists of dumping that initial negative perspective and cultivating better expectations. It’s accepting that the dreamworld is actually a dreamworld and not a harsh physical-environment in which the dreamer is a random creature struggling for survival. It’s accepting that he is in fact the dreamer of this dream. Once the dreamer starts expecting the best from life, the dreamworld complies and begins manifesting a much better experience.

As in the board-game Clue, I’m ready to make my accusation: You-the-dreamer did it, in the dreamworld, with your expectations.

Political Debate

I’ve often watched people bicker back and forth about political systems and perspectives. It appears as if they’re attempting to offer some sort of “solution” to the problems facing society today. But by the fact that they never attempt to reach a consensus, we can conclude that they argue simply for the sake of it. They’re pigs rolling in mud, they don’t want to clean up the filth, they in fact love it.

Nothing’s wrong with a pointless argument as long as participants are enjoying the match. It’s like debating whether Star Wars or Star Trek is better — there’s no real answer. As long as you’re having fun discussing whether hand-phasers are a superior weapon to lightsabers, then that’s fine. But if such speculation infuriates you, then it’s a practice you should avoid.

Additionally, the problems of the world keep perpetuating without end. There’s ALWAYS a problem. Therefore, we can readily deduce that there exists a chaotic core to existence. This world ceaselessly churns out a constant stream of hurdles for us to jump over. After all, every game needs obstacles, something to overcome.

Therefore, political debate is futile. It’s sparring with words, a jabbering contest, it solves nothing. Plus there’s an endless stream of problems plaguing the world, plugging one hole only opens up two more. So repeat after me: political debate does not solve problems, it’s simply people arguing for sport.

Why am I saying this? Once in awhile I get caught up in the political stuff and start taking it too seriously, so I’m reminding myself to calm down. There’s no doubt I find some aspects fun, but too much junk food isn’t good for you. And politics is junk food through and through. People that truly want to help others don’t incessantly deliberate, they actually get out there and do it.

Spiritual End

Isn’t this blog just a bunch of naval-gazing? Shouldn’t I be concentrating on the experience of existence rather than simply contemplating it? Isn’t spirituality a means to an end, not an end in itself. To be here in the world is to live as an embodied being. After all, how did the Bhagavad Gita end? Arjuna didn’t don a robe and dedicate himself to God. Krishna successfully convinced Arjuna to stop his whining and get out there on the battlefield. As he said in the beginning: “Why such weakness in a time of war? Stand and fight!”

There’s a saying: “If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.” And what I take from that, is this. At some point along your spiritual journey, you have to drop it and get back to living life. You’ve been stopped at the rest-stop for awhile, you’ve refueled and refreshed, now get back out there! You can’t stand on the sidelines talking to God forever, that’s not what THIS is. THIS is earth, the realm of physical existence — do THAT.

And no offense, but you’re not a spiritual teacher. It’s not something that interests you. And the proof is in the pudding: no one cares — nor would you want them to. You care about new technology, culinary delights, entertaining shows and movies — I mean come on, you’re not a spiritual guy, that’s not you — you took this spiritual pitstop as a way to get back on your actual path — that’s all it is.

What wakes you up in the morning? Some spiritual endeavor? Service to others? Hell no! You’re excited by new technology. You stop and stare as Teslas roll past you in the street. Almost a decade ago, during a depressive episode, your spirits were kept high by the impending release of the second-gen MacBook Air (you actually drove with your friend to New Jersey to purchase it!). You don’t stare at nature with awe, you stare at those robotic creatures from Boston Dynamics with amazement. When your son asked you your superhero name, you thought: hmm, OM-Man, no, Enlighten-Man, no, Mr. Technology? — that’s a bingo! Would you prefer to see angels ascending into heaven or a Falcon 9 rocket launching and self-landing? You know damn well which one you’re more excited over. Would you prefer to visit a Zen temple in Japan or use an advanced Japanese toilet-seat? Jets of water all the way!

Arjuna was built for battle, you were built with an appreciation for technology. Unfortunately, I have no idea what you should do with that appreciation — but obviously something to do with technology would be barking up the right tree. Aren’t you the guy that couldn’t even understand spirituality until it was framed by a simulation-theory perspective? But once you “get it”, there’s nothing left except getting back into the game. You don’t sit there reading the rules over and over, you play. Now go! Stand and fight!