Kindness and the Sexual Mating of Ideas

In the early 90s I loved the Richard Linklater movie, “Slackers”. First the camera would follow one guy along who was basically doing nothing, then follow the next guy or girl that the first guy spoke to, and so on, never going back to a prior character. It created this very visceral emotional effect of “slacking off”. So the medium, as they say, was the message. Because there was no other message: the movie was plotless and none of the characters did anything.

Some organization called “life vest” mated the Slackers shooting concept with a Matisyahu song and then mated that with the 4000 year old concept that if people were simply kind to each other, the world would be a better place.

I posted this on my Facebook blog page and a reader made the comment that the danger is living in a fairy tale land since, in general, people are not kind. This is true. But my view is totally selfish. I like being kind. Because I know when I Give, I Receive. It happens all the time that way. Plus I feel good. Just like when I watch the below video that is the result of this vigorous sexual mating activity among ideas.

Below the video I have some quotes on kindness that I like:


Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.

Henry James
Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind.

The Dalai Lama

If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.

Mother Theresa
Smile at each other, smile at your wife, smile at your husband, smile at your children, smile at each other — it doesn’t matter who it is — and that will help you to grow up in greater love for each other.

Ralph Waldo Emerson
You cannot do a kindness too soon because you never know how soon it will be too late.

Lao Tzu
Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.

So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them

And, if you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend:
10 Things to Do When They Don’t Call Back”


  • Jquick99

    I’m female.  A buddy I was with commented on how beautiful
    a woman was, I agreed.  He couldn’t
    believe it…wasn’t I jealous?  Nope.  There is NO limited about of beauty in the
    world.  Just becuz I think she’s
    beautiful, that doesn’t take anything away from me.  Same applies to lots of concepts.  I like the one about happiness.

    • Jquick99

      oops.  i meant “amount of beauty in the world”.

    • revolgod

      LOVE your statement and sharing Jquick99. Thank you!

  • Sooz


  • Email

    Excellent post. It takes almost *NO* effort to just be kind and pleasant to people if you put your mind to it.  And those who don’t reciprocate are lesser for it.

    But I still think the hard hat should have gone for the 1-3 split and taken out all of the skate punks with one swipe of his tool belt.

  •  Seriously, that video is the solution to our problems. I wish people understood it. The 60s generation thought that love was the answer. But “love” meant creating social policy. That’s where they went wrong. We need to be busy “doing” kindness, not legislating it. If everyone started the day looking for one deliberate act of kindness, things would start to get better.

  • Rajiv Walia

    Nice article James.. I have a joke for you..this is a joke to be fully taken light heartedly…

    Myself – James, meet my friend, the most beautiful blonde in the area.. will you touch her?
    James – James Al-tuch-her!!!!

  • Sillychickalicia

    why is it when i give, people just want more.  i am so tired.  i’ve been a professional and social caregiver since 1998 and now when i need help, when can’t even cook a meal, people just ask MORE of me instead of offering to help.  what am i doing wrong?  i’ve never given expecting anything in return or with the idea one is indebted to me.  i’ve always given out of love and compassion, but i find our family has to be self reliant…my husband is just as generous as me, but no one ever calls us up and asks how we’re doing…they ask if we can do something for them.

    • Guest XYZ

      My 2 cents – you are lucky your husband is there for you.. as we grow and mature in age..we realize that relations with friends, siblings, parents co-workers etc.. is based totally on fulfilling their expecations.. the best partner friend one can have is the husband / wife.. which is what you have! so consider urself lucky ma’m!!

    • Are you sure you are asking clearly?

    • I know exactly what you are talking about- exactly.  The only thing I learned from my similar situation is – people rarely change.  You need to branch out and try to meet people who share your values.

    • Fjm98

      Be kind to yourself first. Learn to say “no” – kindly, of course.

    • Anonymous

      I am not sure if it would work, but, in my experience, the world changes around you when you indudge yourself into something like the Daily Practice, as described by James.

      You can start with the Spiritual and Emotional, and then go on the other two. It will change everything, really. It did for me! :)

      Tcare! :)

  • Mike W

    James, You’re ‘sexual mating of ideas’ made me think of this Ted Talk by Matt Ridley (and his book.) I assume you’ve seen it, but if you haven’t: 

  • Think of all of the creative minds it took to put that message together.  Now James you have added to the scope of their project, as will everyone who takes this to heart and/or shares it.

    Unfortunately we live in times where we need to be taught, reminded, and inspired to practice kindness. 

    As to the 60’s: I would argue American society was kinder in those days.

  • Holy shit dude, is this your record breaking the shortest article ever
    on your blog? Or are you pulling back because some people accused you of
    verbal diarrhea?

    Seriously though, I think that ‘in general, people are not kind’ is a
    very narrow minded view. For me, it tiring to live life
    feeling that way about people. I’d rather believe most people are kind
    in essence. Nobody is born unkind. Did Hitler get beat up and raped when
    he was a kid? I don’t know. But I do know as we grow big and mixed into
    society, we get beat and we get brain washed. Our heads are stuck in our asses most of
    the time. That’s when I find myself feeling unkind, when I am lost in my own anger and misery.

    But if we could look at ourselves from far enough distance, like riding on
    voyager 1 flying out of the solar system, humanity is really just one
    lonely existence from that distance. In that perspective, all
    individuals are blurred together as one bowl of human soup. In this soup, being kind to others is being kind to ourselves. It makes the most cosmological sense that way.

    • Yes, did an experiment. All my articles are “writing”. This one i just decided to put a single thought out there. I dont know yet if I like it.

      • Anonymous

        I like the experiment. 
        Kindness is a simple idea, no need to make it complicated.   Why
        can’t the length of a post vary from many paragraphs down to a single paragraph and be just as effective?

      • I love both. The longer ones fill up my time better on the train, but this will suffice. Also, this is short relative to your other posts. Relative to seth godins posts this is a manifesto.

        I will also say I hope it doesn’t get any shorter than this. This is a good length but the James altucher I know now will be different if it’s shorter. This is why I follow you on twitter for those short bursts!

        • Robbie, thanks for the comment. I’ve been really trying to get my head around this. I spend 10-12 hours a day thinking about how to make this blog better and provide better value. Any comments or thoughts on this are very welcome.

  • Anonymous

    I watched Slackers for the first time a few months ago. Got a laugh out of the RON PAUL FOR PRESIDENT billboard in the background. That film is 20 years old.

    Liked this post BTW. Short and succinct.

  • Nice Post

  • Dustin

    Check out John Stewart Mill and shit on utilitarianism. You’re pretty much right in line with it. Good work on POTUS today, too.

    • Hey Dustin, thanks. I didn’t know people listened to SiriusXM. Now i know.

  • Rick Sutton

    I thought it was a very nice peice of work and inspiring…  only one problem I had, the lady looking for change to feed the parking meter…  why?  No car was parked to either side of the meters.

    Just the cop in me I guess – if anything looks out of place I’m bound to be distracted and ask why.

    PS Started reading your posts a few months back after my son introduced your writings to me.  Now when I start my day – among the tabs that open up on my browser you’ll find your home page – I don’t always agree but i want to make sure I don’t miss anything you write!

    • Rick, thanks. I do charge 5 cents for people who disagree but I’ll waive it in this case.

      Good observation abt the woman with the car.

  • And then there’s the very real concept “kill them with kindness” 

    This may be the ultimate paradox in that by doing good, you make someone else unhappy, thereby making yourself feel doubly good. Once for the deed and then for wreaking misery on your intended victim.

    I tend to think of most things as whether they exist in a zero sum state. Happiness most typically represents a gain in something, but surely there has to be detriment found somewhere  else,as long as perfect communication and knowledge exists

    The pure joy of giving birth to a healthy child, for example, is unmatched by an equivalent feeling of distress, unless someone who is sad at the idea of never having had that specific joy discovers the news.

    Keep your happiness to yourself may be the way to create a net gain in the joy in the universe.

    This may be why the Tqalmus teaches that the highest form of charitable giving is said to be anonymous on both ends.

    • what if happiness is the one thing that’s not zero sum in this world?

      • Perhaps it isn’t zero sum, but then what of envy and jealousy? They appear in response to something and that something is happiness in others.

        The real issue is that if your supposition is correct, that unkidness is a more common human trait, then when witnessing a single event of happiness as an external bystander, more people would then be likely to be envious or jealous than to share in the joy.

        That would leave a “joy deficit” in the world.

        Would that in turn make the misanthropes happy, thereby creating balance? Sure, until the happy people learn of the joy deficit and become saddened themselves.

        And as Vonnegut would have writtem: And so on.

        • Jill

          Jealousy doesn’t really come from others’ happiness, but from the frustrated needs in ourselves that we are reminded of by other people’s  happiness.  Our minds remind us of these frustrated needs, in order that we may strive to get them satisfied.  E.g. you want a healthy child, then adopt if you can’t have your own.  Or help out your neighbor with their kids and be their family friend etc.  We don’t have to have or be exactly what the other person has or is, in order to be happy.  

          If no one else were happy, our minds would find some other way to remind us anyway of any simple basic unmet human needs for things or people in our lives.

          Life is really far simpler than most people realize it is.  We only think it’s complicated.  

          • Actually, nothing is more simple than Zero sum kinetics. The more simple you believe that life really is, the more it must obey those basic tenets. Neither create nor destroy on a net basis.

            By your definition of jealousy, it is a construct, and I can’t disagree with that. Howver, you do acknowledge that it is a first order derivitative of the happiness found in others, such that happiness begets jealousy, fulfilling zero sum kinetics.

            Happiness from adopting a healthy child? Absolutely, but surely there must be sadness associated with the circumstancesthat resulted in the child requiring a new family.

  • Nick

    Cool. Out of curiosity, have you seen Linklater’s “Waking Life”? If you liked Slacker, I think you’d love WL.

    The video reminds me of an experience I had last Wednesday at the San Diego airport. It was afternoon, and I was getting out of a cab at curbside. I had woken up at 4:30 that morning, flown down to SD, and done an all-day job interview, complete with presentation; in other words, I was wiped out by the time I stepped out of that cab at 4pm. As I walked up to the door, a woman was trying to load her suitcase and a big plastic crate onto a dolly, and ended up spilling the crate all over the sidewalk. Clothes and knick-knacks spilled everywhere. My first thought was to keep going and try to catch an early flight home, but I decided to stop and help her get her stuff back in the crate instead.

    Hopefully that good karma translates into a positive outcome from the interview. :)

    • Ha, yes, I hope so. Please let us know, Nick.

      As to Waking Life was that the animated one. it looks very interesting the clips I saw fromit. I’ll check it out.

    • Something that you may enjoy reading (along these same lines) is called Leadership and the Art of Self-Deception. I’ve read it a number of times but it speaks all about that split-second decision you made there (and you made the right choice) and how it makes us and the world around us better.  Nice job Nick.

  • Kindness and Compassion are two key principles that help guide my life. The more you flex those muscles the more life opens up. 

    “Meditate. Live purely. Be quiet. Do your work with mastery. Like the moon, come out from behind the clouds! Shine.” -The Buddha

  • davidson

    James – great video. for me, it shows an example to aspire towards. As another commenter below indicated, it can be hard to be a giver when so many people are just “take all for me and still ask for more”. I think the challenge is to release expecation for a result when you give and hope that karma rewards you later (or doesn’t). I grew up in New York City so I think I’ll always be programmed to mistrust people upon first meet but I like the video as an ideal

  • Beautiful!

  • Rahul Kashyap

    it’s apt & more relevant today than when it was said perhaps.. good one.. :)

  • Merkat42

    Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,

    only kindness that ties your shoes

    and sends you out into the day to mail letters and

         purchase bread,

    only kindness that raises its head

    from the crowd of the world to say

    it is I you have been looking for,

    and then goes with you every where

    like a shadow or a friend.-Naomi Shihab Nye

  • Lovely video.

  • Anonymous

    Yea, of course, everything is interelated. When you are practicing / feeling gratitude, you realize the zillions of layers that are their behind everything!

    But, i believe, a person needs a calm mind in order to be kind. This becomes difficult for a person going through a rough time. He’ll benefit from kindness ofcourse, it will help him come out sooner. But to have a sane mind in rough circumstances, I think something like the Daily practice is essential for your mind.

    By the way James, let me know if you won’t be able to answer me for the necxt couple of weeks. Athough, i really need it, I can pass that probably.


  • Kindness is our default setting.  If you doubt it, go do something mean to someone.  Afterward, think about how you feel.  Your emotions are honest.  Sometimes brutally honest. 

    We feel bad when we do something bad because it goes against our true nature.  Conversely, good deeds produce good feelings because they harness internal pathways laid down millions of years ago to encourage cooperation.  So much so that when we watch that video of others doing good, we feel the vicarious good feelings. 

    Things get convoluted when we try to convince ourselves that we are altruistic.  We tell ourselves that we do good deeds exclusively for the benefit of others.  We don’t.  Ever.  We always stand to gain from a good deed.  Even an anonymous one. 

    Striving for altruism causes people to do wacky things.  It also causes some terrible internal conflicts in the wanna-be-altruist.

    Sadly, we are taught from an early age that our true nature is not kind.   We told that original sin dictates that those internal pathways lead us toward evil.  We are encouraged to follow the example of the ultimate altruist.   And we all happily sing the jingly brainwashing song that we “better be
    good for goodness sake,” but then promptly contradict that with “’cause Santa Clause is coming to town.”

    You better be good for your own sake….

  • Kumar

    James,most of your core thoughts connect with almost anyone who had been affected by the vulgarities of life, 
    Evil is no mystery, Human mind leaps to make an understanding of it.
    Love is a mystery and is something everyone experiences in fleeting moments. 
    You write best when you write straight from the heart. My favourite is “sometimes things only keep getting worse”

  • Anonymous

    in general, people are not kind” 

    Not true. If people were, in general, not kind, then society wouldn’t exist. 

    A few people are unkind almost all the time, and almost everybody is unkind once in a while. 

    But in general, people are kind.  They don’t want to just hand money over to strangers begging on the street, but they give to charity, donate their time, rescue stray dogs, give vast fortunes to save the lives of third world children, and many other strange and beautiful things that can be explained by no motivation other than the desire to be kind.

  • Kumar

    Would love you to stretch your idea muscle in dissecting an existing business model say e – commerce and provide possible alternatives at least once in a week like your Thursday theme..

  • The economy of kindness. The multiplier effect.

  • thank you for the post

  • Anonymous

    Sorry, James. I thought this one was kind of lame, though I have nothing against kindness and being kind to others.

  • “There’s only one rule that I know of, babies—God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.” –Kurt Vonnegut

  • Thank you for making this site very interesting! Keep going! You’re doing very well!

  • Redondo Beach dude

    Once during a regular question and answer session with his students, spiritual teacher J. Krishnamurti paused and leaned forward and asked the audience, “Do you want to know what my secret is?”. Everyone sat up and became immensely alert because here was one of the great spiritual teachers of the 20th century and he was about to tell them his secret. Krishnamurti in a soft spoken voice said “You see, I don’t mind what happens”. Who could believe that the secret or really the core teaching of such a great master could be something so simple? But it is just this simple statement and way of being that contains the key to incredible freedom and joy.

  • I don’t think I agree with the notion that in general people are unkind. There is a lot of kindness in the world. It’s true, however, that the more kindness you give the more you are bound to receive.

    Perhaps your Facebook commenter has not received much kindness for that reason.

  • Nice Post. I like ur long informative posts better. Check out my new post when u can James.

  • I watched the Kindness Boomerang video on your blog last week and it inspired me to create a website at about random act of kindness.