Be Compassionate Today

It’s easy to find things in our day to day lives that we don’t like. Things that are irritating. Things that are scary, and things that bother us sometimes for reasons unknown.

It’s equally easy to get caught up in those feelings of frustration or despair when the events seem to come charging at you in droves.

But let’s just set all those aside for a moment. Yes there will be absurdities that come along. It’s okay to give them their proper consideration too. Try not to get drug along by their negativity though.

When the day gets overwhelming and the frustrations are mounting, take a breather in a quiet place and start thinking about the people in and aspects of your life you are thankful for. Remind yourself that you have a lot to be appreciative of, and that it’s really not as bad as all the drama would like you to believe.

Maybe not everything is going your way today, but on the other side of the same coin, not everything is not going your way either. You may feel like the world is against you, but if you stop focusing on the negativity and think about what you do have, what you are blessed with, you can create a greater sense of peace of mind for yourself.

And if you really aren’t seeing anything in yourself then try exercising compassion towards another. Do nice things for other people, for no reason at all. Not because you were asked to, but just out of the kindness of your heart. Your compassionate gestures will help make another person’s day better and your mood will improve right along with it.

Things That Bring Me Joy: Natsume’s Book Of Friends (Natsume Yūjinchō)

As a lifelong fan of animation, I’ve experienced a ton of different Japanese anime over the years. We’re talking many hundreds, perhaps even into the thousands now, of animated shows that I’ve seen, and continue to enjoy today.

There are few I would recommend more than Natsume’s Book of Friends.

Watch Natsume’s Book of Friends for free on the Crunchyroll anime streaming website.

The most wonderful thing about this particular anime is that it holds an almost universal appeal regardless of age or gender or any other predisposition or preference.

Here is a trailer to give you some idea. It is from the show’s 5th season, and though this trailer does not have English subtitles, it was far and away the better example of the show’s charm and emotion. None of the official English trailers came even close to this quality sadly.

The synopsis for the show is as follows (from AnimeNewsNetwork):

Natsume Takashi has the ability to see spirits, which he has long kept secret. However, once he inherits a strange book that belonged to his deceased grandmother, Reiko, he discovers the reason why spirits surround him. Containing the names of these spirits, a binding contract was formed between the spirits and the owner of the book. Now, Natsume is determined to free the spirits and dissolve the contracts. With the help of a spirit cat, his days are filled trying to return the names to these spirits.

Along the way, Natsume meets all manner of strange and wonderful creatures, and people. He learns about himself, his grandmother, their connection, and about the things that are most important to him in life.

There’s a certain resonating undercurrent to Natsume’s Book of Friends that speaks to all of humanity. The impression I always get when watching this show is that it reminds us how to be better human beings, helps us remember the little things in our own lives that are often overlooked or ignored, that make all the difference in the world to someone.

In much the same vein as a Studio Ghibli or Disney production, you’ll get attached to these characters and their stories, even if you only get to “meet” them for the span of a single episode. Some of their tales with be very touching and easy to empathize with, and others will be equally mysterious and fascinating and full of imagination. Most episodes are a healthy mixture of both.

The music, as you might get a taste of from the trailer, is really quite good. Emotional at times, relaxing at others, it really fits the show well, and draws out the emotions of each scene flawlessly.

And while we’re talking about scenes, the artwork and animation are top notch. I’m a sucker for anything with lots of soft glowing lighting, and that’s a common feature of the beautiful artwork. I’m not an expert on the technical side of things here, but I’ll just say that to me it is very visually pleasant and enjoyable.

Natsume’s Book of Friends is a great show to watch when you want to wind down too after a stressful day. There are a few tense episodes here and there, but generally speaking the show offers a pleasant 30 minutes of wonder and imagination, all tied up with a nice little underlying positive thought or message to the tale.

If you’re curious and want to give this show a look, then you’re in luck, because it so happens to be available to watch freely on the Crunchyroll anime streaming service. For those who aren’t familiar, Crunchyroll is a streaming service that works directly with anime production companies to be able to provide content legally, and a portion of the ad revenue (or subscription cost if you have a premium account) goes to the companies involved in creating the animated shows that you watch on the service.

So please do give this one a shot if you’re interested at all after reading this. It’s an anime that I can readily recommend to anyone, regardless of their usual taste in shows or entertainment, and one of my personal favorites which is very close to my heart.


Image credits:

Free Food Fridge

An idea came to me earlier today, one that I wanted to share with you. Let us begin by acknowledging the fact that the vast majority of us today waste a ridiculous amount of perfectly good food on an almost daily basis.

The dreaded “leftovers” or as some drastically call them, “survivors”, that, while maybe not spoiled, you “won’t be eating anymore” and so where do they end up? The dog’s food bowl? Or worse, the garbage disposal or waste bin?

Why not have it go to people who would go the night without eating anything at all instead? Make them live up to that name “survivors” by turning these foods into tools for a human being’s survival.

This you can do. It is easiest and makes the most sense for those who live in communities of any sort; be that an apartment complex, a small town, or a large metropolitan city. My idea is a simple one too. I’m sure it’s been done before. Just get an extra refrigerator, and set it up in a community accessible location.

In this community designated refrigerator, encourage those around you to place their “survivors”, the foods that they themselves are no longer going to eat, but which have not yet spoiled, and whoever wishes to come along and partake of the contents of the refrigerator may do so.

Leave a note up on the wall by the fridge, or on the door itself, explaining that these foods are leftovers from the people living nearby, and that they are shared freely with any who would otherwise go hungry.

Even if this system were “gamed” or “taken advantage of” there is almost no way that it could truly be a loss for the people contributing to it, because in your normal course of actions you would have considered the food disposable in the first place. This is literally a case of the old saying “One person’s trash is another person’s treasure.”

Have you or your community tried something like this before? Are you doing it successfully today? Let me know your findings and your experiences if you give an idea like this a try.


All Actions Stem From Our Emotions

Try this: take a look back at your day today, and examine the actions you took, the decisions you made, and the phrases you spoke. Every one of these things had a driving emotion behind them.

Now consider for a moment what your driving emotion for each of your actions might have been. This may be hard to believe, but if you really narrow it down, there are essentially only 2 possibilities: love, or fear. Every emotion that we have as human beings can be attributed to one of these two basic fundamental feelings at their cores.

Take a look at the things you did and said today. Did you get upset with anyone? Frustrated? Were you feeling gloomy? Did you have a great day? Is there something you said that you felt guilty about? What about proud or happy?

Just take a minute to think about it. The more aware, the more conscious we become of how we are feeling when we say or do a thing, the more likely we will be able to improve our interactions with people by being honest. It’s hard to know the nature of a thing if you are not putting in the effort to examine it, even if that thing is something as “familiar” as your own inner thoughts and feelings.

See which things today that you did or said out of fear. Then for tomorrow, think about how you can do or say those same things out of love instead. It doesn’t have to be difficult. This can be as simple as having an honest and open conversation when you normally would have held something back. You might be surprised how good it feels.

For example, this morning, I interrupted someone during our conversation, and rather than listening to what they were about to suggest to me, I offered my own thoughts in place of theirs without hearing them out. As the day wore on, I reflected on this behavior. I realized that while my sharing of my idea was a good thing, it should not have come at the expense of the other person’s, and I should have instead listened first and then offered my view.

To make up for this, I apologized to the person for “cutting them off” earlier, and then asked them what it was they had intended to say, and so they were able to tell me what they had in mind, which is how it should have been the first time around, had I not been in such a rush.

What examples can you find in your own behavior that might have been made out of a fearful emotion? Your intuition will tell you when you have done or said something that doesn’t “sit right” with you. The important thing is to be aware when that happens, and then if you can, remake the choice again out of love instead of fear.

Re-sensitize to Violence

I don’t know when it started. The 80’s? 90’s? The early 2000’s? Maybe it’s always been around and I have just lived oblivious during my earlier years. It seems to me more and more people today are desensitized to violence. It makes me sad thinking about it.

Going far beyond simply being desensitized to violence, our culture seems to propagate it.

Let me illustrate a personal example:
A year or so ago I was once in a meeting room with a group of about 15 or 20 people, and during a quick break in our meeting, someone asked the organizer to pull up a random video on YouTube for all of us to watch, a common request for such meetings. The one that was chosen was a recording from somebody’s dash cam on their car, and it showed someone getting dragged out of their car and physically beaten for some minor traffic related transgression while driving.

Do you know what happened in that room? People laughed at that video. Not everyone in the room, but a majority of them saw another human’s pain and abuse as something entertaining.

Personally this experience was an eye opening one for me. I was shocked and appalled that not only was this deemed perfectly normal by the majority present, but that it was enjoyed, encouraged! And no, it wasn’t simply that the group was laughing out of awkwardness or embarrassment either, though I wish that would have been the case. It would have made the reality of it a lot easier to swallow for me.

And I know that this is not an isolated case either. Take a look at social media, or YouTube, or any other popular collaboration medium today. Take a look at the “news” as we jokingly call it. What videos are popular? What stuff goes “viral” online? Really stop and examine it. What do you see? Do you, like me, see an alarming majority of violence, aggression, pain, fear, and any number of other negative feelings and situations being “popular” or “trending”?

Why is this? Why are we as a culture, as a society, as a race and a species, celebrating and elevating fear and pain and hurting of others?

By putting these things up on a pedestal, giving them our energy and attention, at best it is passing on feelings of shock, fear, and pain to others. At worst, empathy is so lacking that we seem to seek out these scenarios for our own satisfaction, entertainment, and even pleasure.

It is as if the hurting of others actually brings us joy.

Is this what we have become? Are we proud of this behavior? Are we okay with our daily “news” being nothing but shocking and negative events going on around the world at any given moment while the real news and breakthroughs and positive things pass by unnoticed?

Are we okay with knowing the names of mass murderers and the daily death tolls, and yet the names of the medical scientists that just found a cure for a particular disease will never see the light of day?

Are we satisfied with the fact that we couldn’t tell you the names of the inventors who brought us the camera, the television, the internet, or the cell phone, and yet we can tell you all about the horrific shootings or the aftermath of a natural disaster, or “that one video where the guy breaks his arm and his friend laughs at him”?

Because I for one am not okay with this.

I think we as a people need to learn to re-sensitize ourselves to violence and pain. Learn once again how to be empathetic to another human being’s plight. Understand what it means to be hurt, what it feels like to be sad, and then never again wish those feelings towards any other person or make light of them when another person is experiencing such events.

We need to think, and we need to feel. To empathize with other humans is of a vital importance to the integrity of our species.

We need to no longer be satisfied with thoughtlessness. We need to revel in acts of kindness, empathy, giving, selflessness, compassion, and love. These are the things we should be propagating and elevating and celebrating as one whole connected species living together on this planet.

The more we are able to empathize with others, to propagate positivity instead of negativity, the more we will be able to lift one another up and elevate ourselves. The more we elevate ourselves, the less violence, suffering, upheaval and pain will take place on this Earth, and the better off all of our lives will be for it.

But to do that, we have to first wake up, to think, and to remember how to care for another’s plight.

Things That Bring Me Joy: Undertale

As it is important in life to indulge in things that bring you joy, I decided that I would begin also writing blog posts where I talk about some of my favorite video games.

Anyone who knows me knows that video games are a big part of my life. I have called them not just a hobby, but one of my life’s passions in the past, and I believe that still holds true today. Even though I am changing more and more every day, there are still some aspects of the me of yesterday that bring me joy that I can still look fondly to, and good video games are one of them.

As an important side note: I will endeavor to keep this and future such posts free from spoilers for their content. I would not want to rob you of the joy and mystery that accompanies the experience of the game for yourself. There are plenty of other websites out there that will give you every last detail of a game’s content if that’s what you are looking for.

So, with those explanations out of the way, today I’ll start my first such post by talking a bit about the game Undertale. If any of you reading this are familiar with video games, you’ve probably at least heard this name tossed around the internet in recent years, and for good reason too. It is a very popular and successful “indie game”.


But why? What makes it stand out from the crowd?

Here you can see the game’s launch trailer if you are curious to learn more about it.

Now in my opinion, even that trailer only gives you a small glimpse of the charm and humor that the game contains. It’s not really enough on its own to get across the magnitude of just what makes Undertale a standout title and good game.

I think if I had to sum it up in a single concept it would be this:
Undertale invites players to empathize, and does so with a smile.
What the heck is that supposed to mean in the context of a video game? Well… allow me to explain my thoughts.

It makes you smile, or even laugh.

First up is the game’s humor. The dialog in the game often puts a smile on my face. Sometimes it is very quirky and unexpected, and that only adds to the game’s charm.

The characters you meet along the journey are a big part of it too. Each of them really does have a personality of their own that is expressed quite well, and it is through the characters you encounter as you are playing that the game’s story is driven. You feel like you really get to know them during the adventure.

Some of them are comical, others are a bit mysterious, some are all business. It is the mix of these personalities and the humorous dialog and scenarios that really gets people interested and engaged and wanting to see what else happens in the game. But that’s not the only ace Undertale is hiding up its sleeves.

It challenges convention.

Another very strong theme throughout the game is challenging convention. While it’s true that Undertale has a lot of aspects to it that are what you would call conventional game elements for a Role-Playing Game (RPG), it also takes a lot of conventions and tosses them out the window, or spins them on their heads. This is done throughout the entire experience with purpose and sometimes in very subtle ways, but also in very noticeable ones too.

For example let’s take a look at this image from the game.


This is a screenshot from an early part in the game, and it shows the character that the player controls at a “Save Point” which is something that is familiar to all RPG fans, allowing the player to record their progress in the game and resume play from this point.

And yet even here in something as simple and commonplace as a save point, Undertale shows its uniqueness. Not only does the game describe an action taken by the character to the player, it explains the character’s feelings as well. This is highly unorthodox for an interaction with a save point, but it’s the things like this which subtly add depth to the experience.

Here is another example image, this time a very obvious departure from convention, and it illustrates one of Undertale’s strongest standout features.


This is an image of the game’s encounter screen.

Traditionally in an RPG the player would be tasked with fighting monsters, creatures, people, ghosts, machines, and all manner of things you could imagine in order to progress through the game and experience the story and the various features it has to offer. You’ll notice the first icon on the bottom left menu says “Fight” and in this way Undertale retains that classic RPG aspect we have all come to expect and take for granted as “just the way things are done” in the genre. And yet here again Undertale really shines because it simultaneously breaks this convention by including the “Act” option.

Undertale touts itself as “The RPG game where you don’t have to destroy anyone.” Now, if you think about it, this in and of itself is very novel. As I mentioned before, the convention has always been that there are battles in an RPG, that you are expected to fight an opposing force.

While not all RPGs depict gruesome deaths upon defeating these enemies, and some RPGs have even gone out of their way to ensure the player that the enemies are simply knocked unconscious rather than killed, it is generally understood that the player fights the enemy using their party of characters, the enemies are defeated, and then new stronger enemies appear in your path, so on and so forth.

With Undertale’s “Act” menu, all of that convention is challenged. It essentially offers players a way to progress through the encounters with the game’s monsters in a non-violent way, if the player so chooses. In the image above for example the choices the player can utilize in the Act menu are shown to be “Check”, “Criticize”, “Encourage”, and “Hug”.

These options change in the game depending on the monster that you encounter, and each one has a unique set of interactions and often humorous dialog to go along with it. You can see an example of the dialog that goes along with one such encounter in the image below, where the player faces a pair of monsters that are prone to wiggling.


It’s important that the game gives players a choice too, because those who wish to play the game more like a traditional RPG are able to do so without necessarily being forced into playing it in a way that is foreign or unconventional. In other words it accommodates both traditional and revolutionary gameplay styles. And not only that, but the game was designed around these options in different ways, which you especially will see in the encounters with monsters. Choosing the “Fight” option gives you a different set of gameplay mechanics to work with than when you choose the “Act” option, and in this way the game offers a lot of variety in the overall experience.

It has an excellent soundtrack.

The game’s music score is another strong point and definitely adds a noteworthy element of cohesion to the experience. I will admit to being ignorant to much of the music world, but to my untrained ears the soundtrack is quite fantastic, harkening back to the earlier years of gaming. It offers up a variety of tones and moods that are fitting to the scenes of the game itself, and in my opinion they are catchy and memorable enough to enjoy all on their own. As I understand it, there is a concept called leitmotif that is at work on much of the game’s soundtrack, which in practical terms boils down to having parts of key songs on the soundtrack repeated in subsequent songs, such as parts of the main theme being repeated elsewhere in later songs during climactic moments for example. I believe use of this particular concept is part of what allows the score to be so memorable to the player throughout the adventure.

It is a rare class of RPG, offering meaningful non-violence.

I could go on and on about why this game brings me joy, even further than I already have with this article. But to sum things up, I think the real charm that Undertale offers truly lies in the way that it dares to be different. It brought the gaming world a completely non-violent way to progress through an RPG, a genre so often associated with and defined by its battles, and it also offers player choices that have meaningful impact on the events in the game.

Undertale takes a look at the conventions of the genre and shows the world another way it can be done with a little outside-of-the-box thinking applied. It even pokes fun at itself sometimes, with plenty of humor and interesting characters, plot twists and a great sense of mystery about it. It allows the player to empathize and sympathize with the characters and events in the story, and if you choose to do otherwise, it accommodates that approach too. It helps us all think and reflect a little bit more than we normally might during this particular activity, and I believe that’s of the utmost importance even during times of entertainment.

Undertale is full of imagination, clever design, humorous characters, and meaningful choices. It is a well-crafted and fun game to play that makes you think a little bit about challenging conventions.

Image credits: and


You know you’ve made a sound choice when…

You can tell if you’ve made a sound choice, given sound advice, or done right by yourself and others in any given situation. There are some tricks to it that you need to be conscious of.

The first and most important thing is always trust your intuition. Lead with your first, most positive thought or idea.

Here’s an example the majority of us can relate to:
You drive to the store to buy some groceries or sundries or whatever, and as you’re leaving the parking lot on your way out, you see a person holding a sign that’s asking for assistance, be it money or food or a drink, etc.

What do you think when you see this?
How many thoughts run through your mind in those few moments of time between your stop at the traffic light and even after you drive away from that person?
If you’re anything like me, you probably get a half dozen or more different thoughts running through your head during those scant few seconds. Not all of them “good” ones either.

First tend to be the more positive, empathetic ones:

  • That poor person.
  • I wish I could help.
  • Can I help?
  • Do I have any money with me right now?
  • Can I afford it?
  • If things went differently, that might be me out there holding that sign.
  • I wonder when the last time was they ate?

Then, next come the more doubtful, limiting ones:

  • I only have a few coins in change, that person would probably be insulted if that was all I gave them.
  • I don’t have the money to spare right now.
  • What if this person is lying?
  • Are they really poor at all or is it a scam?
  • I don’t have time to stop.
  • The people in the cars behind me will get mad if I do.
  • Maybe next time.

These thoughts and more might spiral around in your head in a quick and dizzying fashion.
But here’s the trick to situations like this: stop thinking, start acting.

Your instinct, that very first intuitive impulse that you had to empathize with and be charitable towards this person. That’s all you need. Act on that. Give to that person and don’t think twice about it (literally, just keep the first positive thought you had, then act.)

If for some reason your first thought is not a charitable one, then it means you are afraid. You are afraid of something or someone about that situation to the point that you are letting it control you. Acknowledge this fact, and examine your fears. What is it that you are afraid of?

Once you’ve discovered why you are afraid, ask yourself why you are letting that fear hold you back from demonstrating your truth. Then the next time you are in that situation, remember how your first reaction was one of fear. Be conscious of it. Focus on your thoughts of empathy towards that person or situation, compassion, love. Let those positive thoughts be stronger than the fearful ones.

For you see, the secret to truly knowing you have made the right decision in any given moment, is when you feel at peace with your actions, words, or choices, even despite your fears. If you want to find that inner peace, act more out of your first, highest, intuitive positive thought.

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