Louis CK: Empathy Feedback Loop, Parenting & Being Comfortable in Your Own Skin

Online content can age quickly. This post was written before Louis’ controversies were exposed recently. That said, some principles & perspectives remain valid despite the people associated with them so I’m leaving this blog post in place for now. – Al McBride, Jan 2019

Louis CK is one of the brightest American comedians working today and in this short video you get a taste of his cutting, insightful humour.

In less than five minutes he covers so much. The impact technology is having not just on us, but on our kids learning empathy. (I plan to write a post in the near future about how I suspect the growth of VR might do the opposite and stop the rise of future generations of narcissistic psychopaths).

Crucially the message is to see the bigger picture. That typical comedian’s view of the world, noticing what seems normal and saying wait a minute. Isn’t it crazy that people would rather risk death and killing another human being than be alone for a few minutes?

What really grabbed me was the idea of leaning into the fear. It’s so uncomfortable. At our most basic level we move toward pleasure and with greater motivation, we move away from pain. So it is somewhat unnatural. But the therapeutic gains, the letting go brings about a greater sense of being able to be comfortable in your own skin.

Take a look!

It’s a remarkable thing. When you’re waiting for someone in a bar or waiting at a train station. Don’t take out your phone! The urge is there isn’t it? To immediately whip out your smartphone and start faffing away. There’s a certain odd confidence and strength that I noticed when I took the challenge a while ago. Just seeing the desperation of others around me to avoid at almost all costs having to just stand or sit, and just be. Be with your thoughts, comfortable in your own skin.

Try it. It feels a little strange at first, but you might just grow to like it. It’s empowering in a small way as you see others desperate for distraction. I know some of us are being productive, but really how often? Are you consciously acting, or are you simply reacting to a need you’re not even sure you have or why?

To the point where people are prepared to risk their own lives and that of others texting while driving as Louis said. There was a piece of research recently from the University of Virgina where people would rather give themselves an electric shock than just be alone by themselves in a room for nine minutes. (That one may require a follow up piece!)

How often do you actually let your mind wander? I’m sure some do it all the time, but all those people rushing about, intent on ever greater productivity probably don’t. You suddenly see things you hadn’t spotted before and as your mind wanders you can find new ideas, new angles. Maybe more fundamentally though it’s a holiday, a short vacation for your mind. A brief moment away to reset and freshen up. That’s got to be worth more than one more game of candy crush or the latest football transfer rumours. Isn’t it?