Monthly Archives: January 2014

What is Language?

Language is any system of communication.

For humans, words have arbitrary naming: the sound can have nothing to do with the meaning.

This post is part of AttemptedLiving’s Life Education Curriculum, a collection of core knowledge everyone should have.

To find out when those posts, and other life education writing, are released, subscribe on the side! Follow on Twitter, on Facebook, on Google+, on Tumblr.

Misc. Resources

Who Am I?

Almost everyone struggles to answer this question at some point in their life, and it is a difficult one, but I can make it easier.  To understand how to answer this question and define ourselves, let’s explore how we define others.  Let’s try to define Bob in the following scenario:

Action: Bob spills milk onto Alice.


Bob’s point of view

Intention: ? I won’t reveal for now

Motivation: ? I won’t reveal for now

Alice’s point of view

Perception: From her angle, Bob moved his hand to the cup, then tipped it over onto her.

Interpretation: Intentional. Malicious Intent, Malicious Motivation.

Impression: Bob wanted to ruin her day and is a bad person

Tom’s point of view

Perception: From his angle, Bob’s sleeve looked like it got caught on the table, and as he was pulling free he hit the cup and spilled the milk.

Interpretation: Accident. Benign Intent, Benign Motivation.

Impression: Tom thinks Bob is a clumsy person for not planning ahead (alternate: Tom forgives Bob’s legitimate mistake and makes no note of it)



1. Bob says “sorry it was an accident” and Tom will confirm this.

2. Bob doesn’t want to be seen as clumsy, and has a poor idea of what is badass, so he’ll say “word” and end up looking like a jerk.

Reception of Bob’s explanation (#1)

Alice: Correct’s her view of Bob from bad person to clumsy, or chooses not to believe it and maintains her original view.

Tom: confirms his conclusion that Bob is clumsy.

Reception of Bob’s explanation (#2)

Alice: Confirms her view that Bob is a bad person.

Tom: Is amazed at how badass Bob is.


We as humans understand our world by giving things identities.  In the example above, we saw how Bob is assigned an identity by everyone he meets, because identity is a subjective human concept used to rationalize and understand the world.  These subjective identities are formed independently: Alice defines Bob as a bad person, Tom defines Bob as a badass person.  Who is Bob depends on who you ask.

But what if you ask some 3rd party capable of universal, objective truth: Who is Bob?  Is Bob a bad person, or a clumsy person?  That 3rd party, let’s call Truth, would take a look at the life of Bob:

  • When he was 8, Bob was messing around with Alice his sister while Tom his Father looked on.
  • When he was 18, Bob was not good at flirting with his crush Alice while his wingman Tom looked on.
  • When he was 28, Bob was at his first formal business meeting with Alice and Tom and hadn’t gotten used to wearing suits and dress shirt sleeves.

OK, so Bob’s true identity to Truth seems to change with time: when Bob was 8, he was just a kid who was inconsiderate of others; when Bob was 18, he was considerate but unskilled; when Bob was 28, he was clumsy because he had new clothes on. There is no timeless answer.  We could try to find a timeless answer, and for instance decide that Bob is the identity he spends the most time in: if he spends 25 years as a bad person and then 3 years as a clumsy person, he must be a bad person.  However, this definition breaks down because what if for the next 25 years he remains clumsy and ends up having 28 years as clumsy during his life: you judged too soon!  Or, what if for the next 20 years he remains clumsy, making it 23 years as clumsy total, and then dies: you would call him a bad person overall, but anyone who met Bob in the last 23 years of his life would say he’s not a bad person, he’s just clumsy.  A timeless answer looses information about Bob: it is more accurate to say that he spent 25 years as a bad person, and then 23 years as a clumsy person, than to just say that Bob is a bad person, and that’s his only identity.


To summarize, Bob’s identity varies based on 1. who’s talking and 2. the time in question.  Bob’s identity is also due to 3. the context of the situation.  The context of the situation is why we are more willing to understand and forgive Bob’s clumsiness at age 28 if we know he’s not used to wearing sleeves, than if we didn’t know that.  Specifically, we assign the clumsiness identity to Bob if we don’t have any other reasonable detail to assign it to, while we assign the clumsiness identity to Bob’s clothing if we do have that knowledge, detail, and understanding.


Let’s return now to the original question: Who am I? Am I who I am in the past, present, or future, or am I a combination of all three?  Am I who I tell myself I am, or who someone else tells me I am?   The reason the original question “Who Am I” is so hard to answer is because it is an incomplete question.  We now know that the full question is:

“Who am I at [time] and [context] to [who]?”

Preview of future posts: Bob also has a view of himself.  He could think of himself as a badass or a clumsy person, or he could be completely oblivious to the identities Tom and Alice consider for him, and instead Bob could consider himself a son, a student, a brother, a tennis player, etc.  Bob’s view of himself has no effect on Truth’s view of Bob.  In fact, Truth is just a set of judging criteria that someone, God, Bob, Tom, or you, use to attempt to bring objectivity to a subjective situation.  Truth varies by person, country, background, etc.

I will dive even deeper in my next posts: What is Reality, Truth, and Existence? and Properties of Reality and What is Logic and Judgment?  To find out when those posts, and other life education writing, are released, subscribe on the side! Follow on Twitter, on Facebook, on Google+, on Tumblr.

Body Language – Rich vs Poor

The Rich vs. Poor Series is a collection of articles that discuss differences in habit and behavior between the rich and poor. The Series is written with the intent to 1. Reduce class warfare and hate by promoting understanding and empathy through articles that explain the different perspectives towards topics and issues the rich and poor have, and 2. Educate the poor on how they can improve their own situation.


Rich people are better able to express themselves with their body language than poor people.  This is because speaking good body language is a skill decays over time like any other language or skill.  If you don’t practice your second language, your instrument, your sport or craft, then after a few years you will lose most of your abilities.  Rich people, being wealthy enough in free time and expendable income, can afford to attend more social events than poor people, and so have more opportunities to maintain the skill of body language than poor people.  Going out with friends to a gathering, party, or event costs money and time.  Thus, as the years go by, a rich person’s body language gets more and more refined by practice while a poor person’s body language gets worse by a lack of practice. 

One could argue that some skills are timeless and once learned are never forgotten, like riding a bike or drinking water.  To that I say: rich children are more likely to learn body language growing up than poor children.  The first reason is opportunity; the rich have more social events and therefore more opportunities for practice, and practice is necessary for learning, so the rich kids improve while the poor kids don’t.  Rich parents know good body language, and so teach it to their children, while poor parents don’t have good body language, and so instead teach bad body language to their children.

Poor people body language is typically being still and uncommunicative.  This is because this body language is born out of fear: by not communicating anything, you minimize the risk of speaking bad body language and causing problems.  This is a self perpetuating cycle because by not making mistakes, they never learn how to correct the mistake.  By never seeing good body language, they never see how to correct the mistake.

Furthermore, differences in the environment they live in result in expressive and positive emotional body language being more acceptable and common for rich people, and unexpressive and negative emotional body language being more acceptable and common for poor people.

In poor neighborhoods, crime is higher.  Because body language can attract criminals and trouble, you protect yourself by restricting your body language; in rich neighborhoods, crime is lower, so it is safe for a rich person to use their entire body to talk to you: face, hands, arms, etc.  If you talk to homeless people, they typically have a dead-pan facial expression, and will react slowly and carefully, because they don’t know if you mean harm or good, and they don’t want to risk offending you and bringing harm to themselves.  This risk is particularly great because a homeless or poor person has little to back them up, hence being poor.  So their future is very dependent upon how this specific event will turn out: if it ends up badly, the poor person will have little to no help recovering, whereas a rich person has safety and security in friends, family, and wealth to recover.  Because so few people talk to homeless or poor people, every opportunity is much more valuable to a poor person. A rich person knows more will come, so the importance of each individual interaction is reduced (see Scarcity vs Abundance), meaning the rich person is more willing to take risks with expressing his or her opinions and standing up for them while a poor person will be quicker to take back what he or she said, and it is easier to claim miscommunication when your body language wasn’t clear in the first place.

In the workplace, poor people are more likely to be employees rather than managers, so they must be more cautious about what they say and do in case they get fired. You don’t have to worry about offending the boss and getting fired when you are the boss, and rich people are more likely to be the boss. Because poor people are more likely to be low level employees, the body language that they do learn is that of subordination and obedience, rather than the assertive and independent, free thinking body language associated with higher level employees. Poor people develop the body language of nodding downwards when greeting or acknowledging people or conversations (the modern relic of bowing), because that’s what is appropriate in the workplace in order to give the respect due to their managers.  Rich people are more likely to nod upwards, because they are in charge.  

Because poor parents spend most of their day without authority, they are more likely to assert it at home, over their children, further perpetuating the body language education of subordination.  Poor parents are tired from work, and will tell their children to be quiet, robbing them of opportunities to practice and learn how to express themselves.  Rich parents on the other hand, spend most of their day with authority, so they are more likely to give their children more freedom to be themselves rather than hide themselves.  In fact, rich parents place more emphasis on manners like speaking when spoken to, therefore providing their children with more opportunities to practice expressing and being themselves than poor parents.  Poor families have more problems at home, or problems with life in general, so the conversation topics and consequent body language is primarily about power, anger, and violence, which is what the will children learn.  Rich families have more time for joy, and so while they still may have problems at home, they also have many positive experiences and stories to outweigh the bad, and on the whole teach positive body language instead.  

Body language has a strong influence on your personal identity, which shapes your behavior for the future.  You can break out by faking it until you make it, see this TED talk by Amy Cuddy on Body Language

Read more about articles in the Rich vs. Poor Series here.

To find out when more life education writing is released, subscribe on the side! Follow on Twitter, on Facebook, on Google+, on Tumblr.