Life’s Purpose

I write almost every day. Usually at cafes. Starbucks is my go to because I’m Asian: free electricity, heat, WiFi, and refills. During my years at these cafes, I’ve met a lot of people. I met one of my riding friends because he saw me carrying my motorcycle helmet. Our differences could be described as a great divide. He’s conservative, highly religious, a Trump supporter. I’m a liberal and am an atheist. To say that I am not a Trump supporter would be putting it very lightly. However, we’re open enough to have cool conversations about our similarities and differences without getting emotional. Subjects range from boobs to mechanical steeds to religion and other fiction about the human condition. For me, it’s human connection at its finest, the trading of ideas.

Then I encounter the other side of the spectrum. I met a guy who is very closed off to listening to new ideas. Well...he heard them, but I could sense he wasn’t processing them because his counter arguments were a repeat of what he always says. It’s like ideas tried to fly into his head, but there was a cage that kept them out.

We were talking about kids. That I didn’t want them. “That is the purpose of life,” he said. “To procreate.”

I said, “We’re human, we’re conscious beings. We can determine what our purpose is in life. If a person wants to earn ungodly riches, then that person can pursue that.”

He laughed at me. “Good luck to that guy. Cause that never happens.”

C9A419EB-ED31-4FD5-A9BB-40AD03F33153.gif

“Do you wanna go to Silicon Valley? Because the tech industry is creating a lot of rich people.”

Now, I thought I had some serious limiting thoughts. No. Talking to him, I could feel the mental limitations that he placed on himself. I could feel how constricted his thinking was, how small his world was, a prison of his own making. It made the few conversations that we’ve had unpleasant. Now all I do is have small talk with him. And I despise small talk.

Limiting thoughts are nothing. What I mean is that thoughts are just that. Thoughts. They don’t become anything until we act on them. Sometimes I wanna kill my mom because she rags on me so much. We’re two generations removed so my ideas about life is night and day compared to hers.  Obviously, I’m not going to kill my own mother. Too dark?

When I have a limiting thought—I have many—I do my best to ignore them. It’s very difficult to try and negotiate our way out of our own limiting/negative thoughts because we’re prone to seeing patterns where there aren’t any.

I have a friend who is in a committed relationship. But she’s perpetually angry at him when he doesn’t do what she expects him to do. For example, she sent him a sext—a naughty text—and he didn’t respond for a while. That upset her. Then when he did respond, she grew more pissed because he didn’t sext her back. So when we talked about this, I said, “Maybe he’s busy. Maybe there was an emergency. Maybe something happened, and he couldn’t be in that headspace.”

“Of course I know that,” she said. “But that doesn’t help.”

“You know you’re overthinking things.”

“Yeah. But I can’t help it. I feel rejected.”

In all fairness, to feel rejected from thoughts of rejection is a healthy response. However, we get endless thoughts fed to us every day. There’s little we can do about that. The good news is that most of them go unnoticed. It’s like walking down a crowded street. We don’t notice most of the people that walk past us. The issue is that thoughts drive our emotions. Especially the ones we deem important.

7EA81903-DAA8-4CD4-9DA1-5430547AD1ED.gif

What we do have control over are the thoughts that we hold on to. Like the guy who has limiting beliefs, he holds on to the idea that he can’t accomplish more than what he thinks he can. Worst is that he acts on it. My female friend feels rejected because she’s insecure about her relationship. So she blinds herself to all of the good that her boyfriend has done for her. And she isn’t present enough to realize that her perpetual anger might be pushing him away, making her unpleasant to be around.

For me, the best way to handle limiting thoughts and beliefs is to take steps toward your goal. Just do it in spite of them. In a podcast that featured my writing group—link below—we all talked about how difficult it is to get published. There are so many writers and so many books that a voice could get lost in all that noise. So why try? Because if you don’t, then the chance of it being heard is zero.

There’s another phrase that certain life coaches dispense: fake it till you make it. Faking it means that you’re taking time and mental energy to pretend about something you’ve yet to believe in. That can create conflict within a person because they’re fighting against their limiting belief with a counter belief. It’s hard enough to pursue your goal and then pile on top of that mental warfare against yourself. Why stack the cards? Once you’re focused on the task at hand, there’s no room for limiting beliefs. And even if you make room, you’re moving toward your goal anyways. So faking it isn’t necessary.

Curiouser and Curiouser

6ACB4FF9-A1E1-4EDF-B903-735F8521D882.gif

Working on a new writing project is always a little daunting for me. I don’t know the world, the characters, the detailed plot, nor the ending. Basically, I know shit. I have found that once I begin to think about a story, I tend to dive into things that seem to have no relevance.

For example, my characters in my fantasy has wings. The world they live in is completely made up. As I moved through my normal life, my mind seemed to come up with things that I could include in the story and world. So much so that I couldn’t keep track of it all. I bought a small notebook, this was before phones had become smart, and I jotted down everything that came into my mind that I thought might be of use. All of the sudden a flood gate opened, and my notebook was filled with nick knacks and tidbits and nuggets and morsels. I was amazed at what came out. And I’m not talking about my first time.

I remember watching a documentary about the evolution of birds. One of the topics it explored was: Do birds prefer to walk, or do they prefer to fly? To test this, the scientists put a bird on a wooden plank. The incline of the plank was increased to various degrees. No matter the degree, as long as the birds could walk up the plank, they would walk. It wasn’t until the incline had gotten so high that the birds were forced to fly up the plank. So I decided that my characters with wings would have that same behavior. That they preferred to walk, unless the place they wanted to go to required flight.

Be it fantasy, science fiction, or plain ole’fiction, the foundations of the world needs to be consistent. I’ve talked about his in the world of Harry Potter where J.K. Rowling almost made a mistake in this regard. Being the writer that she is, she caught it and corrected it.

B7957123-CC64-4309-8520-2D47CF0F5FB7.gif

In my new book, one of my main characters is a skeptic. He was entrenched in his martial arts school, loved teaching, and loved working with kids. But a slow disenchantment led him down the road of rebelling against his own school, much like Bruce Lee had, and he questioned what they taught and their methods. His skepticism lends well to working with children because he’s willing to investigate their issues to discover their real causes.

Before I knew all of this, I came across YouTube videos from the Athiest Community of Austin, the ACA. Their cable access show, The Atheist Experience, is run live with callers that ranges from theists to atheists to conspiracy theorists. I have to admit the theist callers are fun to listen to because the debate that ensues is not only entertaining, but opened my eyes to what constitutes as evidence and gave me a basic overview of how logic works. Both of these things were not very well defined in my mind beforehand. And this current character that I’m writing understands those things well.

Now, I started to watch the videos before I began to write this new book. To prove that my mind knew to watch these videos because I was thinking about this new book would be difficult. But I’ve always allowed myself to dive into things that seemed unrelated to anything that I was doing in my life. A lot of it went into the ether. Some of it was useful. Quantifying it would nearly be impossible since I don’t remember where anything that I think of comes from. But had I not watched the ACA videos, I may have not had enough of an understand of logic and evidence to write this character well.

Steve Jobs talked about this process in his famous 2005 commencement speech at Stanford. In it he mentioned that he took a calligraphy class at Reed College simply because he was fascinated by the beauty of the lettering. He learned about serif and sans serif typefaces and what made great typography.

“None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But 10 years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me...It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, it’s likely that no personal computer would have them.”

I’m not saying that everything you’re interested in will become useful in the future, but you never know. Why not delve into something just because you’re curious? For me, it’s part of the great joy of life, to learn and experience new things.

Out of Control

91AA6981-DC0B-41A6-B99C-74EBB2A06649.gif

I was talking to a writer friend of mine about how characters sometimes take on a life of their own. In my experience, sometimes they do things that can help the story. Sometimes they screw shit up. This is where writers come in and reign them fuckers in. But there’s a balance between letting the story flow naturally to wrangling it via Deus ex Machina.

This happened when I was rewriting the ending of my second book. In my first draft, I had killed off a supporting character. Workshopping the book had revealed a lot of weaknesses that I needed to shore up. During my rewrite, I was looking for an opportunity to off this character. But as the new ending progressed, the situation required him to remain alive because I needed someone to complete certain tasks and goals. I could have killed him off, then used a no-named character to fulfill these tasks, but the scene wouldn’t have any emotion. With that I was forced to keep this character alive. After he had completed his tasks, I decided to have him escape death. On an intellectual level, I had already killed off a lot of the supporting characters, so keeping him would be a great way to have some continuity going into the third novel.

An author in his book must be like God in the universe, present everywhere and visible nowhere —Gustave Flaubert

I’ve written how heavy handedness in storytelling can be a huge problem. Most people can feel that manipulation, which can take them out of the story. And I think writers, including myself, sometimes forget that being a good wordsmith, the mechanics of language, the structure of story only serve to spark the most powerful machine on the planet: our minds.

When we watch musicians, their tools of the trade are their instruments. When reveling in the performances of dancers, actors, singers, and professional wrestlers, we’re admiring the human body as instruments. But as storytellers, our tool is the imagination.

D5B5EE63-44F8-47EA-8C56-5CBB19741CEE.png

Consider the saying: a picture is worth a thousand words.

How many words is the imagination worth? Simply put, enough to spark it.

I’ve been thinking about this lately because I started a new writing project. For the past 15 years, I’ve been living in a fantasy world of my own creation. Longer if I consider that I’ve been dipping in and out of it since I was in high school. The challenge is that I have to describe everything that isn’t familiar to this world. That’s part of the reason why fantasy novels tend to be longer than normal fiction.

My new story takes place in San Francisco. And that’s refreshing because I can use words like office and bedroom and car and street without having to fully describe every single detail. I still have to show what’s important, ground the reader in the setting, but a lot of the heavy lifting is done by virtue that I’m using the real world. The challenge for me is giving enough detail to spark the imagination, but not so much that I bog the reader down.

So let’s explore this sentence: She entered her bedroom. If I don’t say another word about the bedroom, the reader will automatically picture their interpretation of a bedroom: bed, side table, armoire, bay window, sex swing...sorry. That’s my version. Putting no details whatsoever can be a mistake, especially if this is the main character’s room, because using the environment can be a great way of showing what this person is like. Is she messy? How expensive is her taste? A plant and it’s health can be used to symbolize the progress of the character arc. I can set the lighting to represent her mood. Pictures can illuminate her interests, passions and loves. These are the kinds of details that readers are likely to want because it helps tell the story without writing on the nose.

Working in a writing group is helpful because I can see where we all fall short in telling our story, or where we do a great job. So much of what we like in art is based on how it makes us feel, which is incredibly subjective. But we as writers are trying to spark the imagination and invoke emotions, all the while making sure the mechanics and structure of our writing are sound without confusing the reader. A small task, wink wink.

My writing group was featured in a podcast, showcasing how we work, answering questions about writing, storytelling.

Happy Happy Joy Joy

I told a friend that I wanted to take a six-month sabbatical from work and travel the world. He knows that I spend a lot of time writing at Starbucks. So we were taking one night and he urged, more like proclaimed, that I go on my sabbatical immediately because that would make me happy. There must have been an awkward look on my face because my friend tried harder to convince me that I’d be happy traveling.

3821298D-CB4F-4DE1-A3C6-1B0524BBE0F0.gif

I’ve talked about this before, the difference between happiness, being content and at peace, versus the enjoyment of an experience.

What’s interesting is that people mix happiness and joy up a lot. They often link happiness with having things like cool cars, cool clothes, cool watches, cool boyfriends or girlfriends. Essentially, their status in life determines their level of happiness. The problem is that status can be taken away, and the enjoyment of an experience is always temporary. So if I buy a super cool car, I’ll feel the joy of having a new toy, but eventually I’m going to need a new experience to get another endorphin hit. That can mean buying something new over and over again, sort of like a drug habit. So it’s no surprise that the poorest people in America tend to carry the most credit card debt. They may not be satisfied with their lot in life, so they try to buy their way into happiness.

Happiness is being content with where you are in life. Not that people can’t strive to be better, but they do not need anything in order to be happy. There is nothing that people need to do because contentment and peace is the natural state of the mind. It’s one of the reasons why people tout meditation as a way to center oneself. From what little I know about meditation, it aims to quiet the mind, lessening the number of thoughts that crowd your head.

When we look at why people are unhappy, or unsatisfied with life, most of the time it’s the comparison phenomenon. For example, if my friend gets a super cool car, and he’s younger than I am, I may think to myself, “I’m a loser because I don’t have a super cool car. How’d he get it before me?” Then I may feel like crud cuz I just drive a champagne-colored Toyota Camry. So even though my natural state is peace, I cover that up with a cruddy thought. And thoughts are the main driver of our emotions.

This is evident given how advertisers prey on our emotions. The Axe commercials are a classic example.

We see this commercial and think, “Yeah, that could work.” So we men go out and buy Axe Body Spray with the hopes of getting more chics. Of course, when this reality doesn’t manifest itself, we become unhappy because our expectations weren’t met.

That’s another thing. Expectations. Society has a knack for telling us that we’re not fulfilling our full potential and we should expect more. However, life has no schedule. People come into their own on their own time. I know. That either sounds obvious or repetitive. Or both! Still, if we are judging ourselves by what society dictates, then we’ll find ourselves falling behind or trying to keep pace with it. Even if we find that we’re ahead of the game, we’ll self-impose a new bar, goal, and chase that. What we fail to enjoy is the journey. Even though there is enjoyment in finishing a project, the journey is the most important part. The trials and tribulations of creating often leads to great wisdom and skill. Without this aspect, our civilization will become stagnant.

I write every day because that’s my temperament. My writing requires that I do this on a daily basis, that I continue to learn to hone my craft. And I’m at peace when I write, except when I want to kill a character and that character needs to complete an important task. So I’m not sure if my friend sees me writing and assumes that I’m not happy. But I think he links happiness and joy together and they’re really two different things.

The One Is Out There

No. I'm not talking about Heysus Kristo nor Thomas Anderson, aka Neo. I'm talking about soul mates.

I was consoling a friend because her relationship had ended. I knew there was nothing I could say except to listen. From my perspective, this breakup had been a good thing because she was entrenched in a relationship that wasn't going anywhere. She wanted a child and marriage, and her ex had told her he didn't from the beginning. So he was upfront. But she just wanted to have some fun, so she decided to have some fun with him. A year had flown by and he didn't change his mind about marriage and children. She knew he wouldn't, but as I've said, she was stuck, like a sabertooth sinking in a tar pit.

image.gif

Part of her being entrenched was that she had been afraid of going through the pain of a breakup. I get that. But loving someone and knowing that you're not right for each other can play games on your mind. During the relationship, she had questioned her want for children, her need for marriage and wondered if holding back her affections had driven him away. After the breakup, she found herself wanting to reconcile with her ex, throwing out her wants and needs and forgetting how he had treated her because the fear of being alone haunted her.

Searching for some answer or meaning, she decided to talk to a coach that specializes in relationships. The coach had told her that a man with all the qualities and attributes that my friend wanted existed. She was surprised to hear this, and asked, "He is?" The coach confirmed, essentially stating that the one is out there. My friend was relieved and felt much better about her predicament. Her biological alarm clock was going off, and her hopes of having a child was waning.

When I had been consoling my friend, it never occurred to me to tell her that the one was out there. Even if the thought had crossed my mind, I would still never tell her this. I don't believe in the one. I don't know if a man with all the qualities and attributes that she wants is out there. And even if he was, there's no way for anyone to know if he will meet my friend. And if they were to meet and got married and had kids, he'd change and grow and become a new person. Just like a real boy.

Still, my friend had felt better and been relieved. So, didn’t the coach’s statement help her cope with the emotional fallout of her breakup? Cope means to deal effectively with something difficult. If this statement only pacifies her for a moment, then no, it doesn't help because she still needs to heal from her breakup. Sometimes that can be painful.

There are going to be moments where she'll want to cry. She won't want to eat. She may want to stay home and not see people. That's perfectly fine. Sometimes it sunny. Sometimes it rains.

image.gif

When she told me what the coach had said, I did not challenge it. The reason is simple. Just as I can't know if a man of her dreams exists, I don't know if he doesn't. Nor do I know whether or not they'll meet. And even if they met, would he marry her and be the father of her child? I tell her all the time. Humans are awful at telling the future. Extraordinarily horrible. We can make educated guesses. But educated or not, they're still guesses.

My advice was simple. Process these feelings. Cry. Talk to people. Eat ice cream. Tons of it. No, don't do that. Go outside. Whatever she wants to do. This isn't her first rodeo. She's come out of past breakups fine. She'll come out of this fine as well.

Afterward, move forward. Have hope. There are tons of people out there. I mean, if a ton is 2,000 pounds, and the average man weighs around 160 pounds, that's 12.5 men per ton. There are forty million people in California alone. In other words, there's hella men for her to meet. Whatever the next step is, be it dating sites, going out with friends, putting herself out there is a great first step. The other choice is giving up. To do that would only fulfill her fear of dying alone.

Hope. If we can't change our past or tell the future, then hope helps point the mind in the right direction.

Participation Trophies

I was out with a bunch of millenials last night. It's interning for me because I was probably more than twice as old as most of them. Some of them probably made more than twice as much money than I. We were hanging out on a roof top of a building where Google has offices down in SoMA in San Francisco.

IMAGE.JPG

One of the guys kept throwing his hands up or shrugging anytime someone made a comment he didn't like. In talking to him, I sensed that he felt he was too good to hang out with us. One of the girls told him he could leave and didn't have to stay. Lo and behold, he did not.

"What's going on  man?" I asked.

He shrugged. "Just bored."

“So what do you want to do?”

"I don't know. Go home and sleep."

As you can see, we had a very deep conversation about life.

Throughout the night, he made disparaging comments about some of the women. And I wasn't sure if he was trying to pickup on them by negging them. I could tell by talking to these ladies that they were sure of themselves. Not that you couldn't banter with them, but negging only works with women who have low confidence or self esteem. These women want the approval of others, so when someone negs them, they may feel the need to prove their worth. This awful dance of predator and prey helps contribute to the idea that women want assholes. What women want is someone who's confident. And being an asshole is a facade that looks like confidence. But it's really just temperament.

I'm not a pickup artist, so I'll end my rant on the subject here.

The reason I'm talking about this particular person is because he seemed to feel that he knew everything. Or that he's on another level above. And that reminded me of myself when I was his age. There were moments where I thought I knew it all. What I wanted. What life was about.

I was completely wrong.

As I get older, I'm realizing how much more there is to learn, especially when it comes to the things that I'm passionate about: writing, storytelling, relationships, health and fitness. The more knowledge and wisdom I attain, the more that I want to know. At least that's how it feels. However, there are two consoling thoughts.

The easy one is this: You only need to know what you need to know when you need to know it.

image.gif

A couple of years ago, I bought a sedan. The key fob couldn't unlock the car remotely, so I had to insert the key into the door and twist to unlock it. How could anyone live like that? Who unlocks a car with the actual key? Spoiled much? I watched a bunch of YouTube videos on how to take apart the car door, how to remove the locking mechanism, and replace it with a new one. I had to do this for three of the four doors. Needless to say, I got pretty proficient. After I sold the car my knowledge of taking the door apart slowly faded away. Still, if I had to do it again, it'd be easier, but I'd still have to watch the video just to refresh my memory.

The second consoling thought is that people can learn as they work toward something. For me, I learn the best this way because I'm applying what I need to know when I need it. At work we have these trainings that we have to attend. The way it works is that someone spits knowledge as they flip through the slides. I'm mainly a kinesthetic learner. In other words, I learn by doing. Imagine someone teaching you how to swim by telling you how to swim. And then he throws you into a pool. Good luck.

image.gif

Writing was very much like the swimming example. I jumped into the deep end of the pool and wrote my first novel. It sucked. Then I read books on writing and then applied what I learned as I wrote. The second novel sucked. Spending the next four years rewriting required that I learn more about writing and story, which improved the novel. Somewhat. The next step was hiring a writing coach. She accelerated the learning process for me by being blunt, which was a great thing. Sugarcoating how bad my writing was would only slow my progression. It’s like getting participation trophies. They may soften the blow of a loss, and in doing so may not allow that person to process that loss and learn from it. The next step in the process has been passing what I've learned to my writing group. A writing group is really important because we get to discuss and trade ideas on each other's pages. Doing this has helped me cement the lessons my writing coach had taught.

The temperament that one knows all only stops the learning. Or at the very least leaves the person closed to new ideas. Obviously, not all ideas are good or useful. But you'll never know until you listen.

Sticks and Stones

"You care about what people think about you. I know you care," my friend told me. Not said. But told.

image.gif

I was making fun of her friend who hates my guts. She seems to have a level of Asperger's syndrome. If you're a fan of The Big Bang Theory, the character Sheldon Cooper suffers from it. He's socially awkward and has a hard time reading people.

I said, "Your friend definitely cares about what people think of her."

"No. She just hates you."

"She told you not to invite me to a networking event. That means she cares."

My friend thought for a moment. "She doesn't want to be associated with you among business people."

Smiling, I nod. "She cares."

Then my friend went on a calm tirade, telling me that I care about what people think about me. She assured me over and over that I did.

No. In general, I don't.

I have an acquaintance at the gym. One day, she was telling me about a guy who was hitting on her. And she shucked him off because she was not interested.

"Don't you feel good when a guy hits on you?" I asked.

She shrugged. "I know I look good." She does. "But I feel safe with you."

"I’m not menacing to you?"

"Well, if you're gay, then I'm safe. You won't hurt me."

I was like…

image.gif

"Yea. If you're gay, that's OK. I'm safe."

I wasn't sure why she jumped from feeling good about herself to assuming I was gay. I wanted to get back to my workout and didn't want to put forth the effort to tell her that I wasn't.

Many people initially think I'm a woman because I have long hair. I don't correct them. Their mistaken assumption won't make my penis fall off. At least, that hasn't happened.

And that's the crux of it all. What people think about you changes nothing about you. Taking offense only gives it power.

If I took offense to my gym friend, and berated her, then there's some part of me that feels insecure about my own sexuality. Or that somehow my image doesn't fulfill what I think a manly man should look like. And that's ridiculous because trying to prove to someone else that I'm not gay or that I'm manly doesn't make me any more or less of those things.

What's important is what we think of ourselves.

Let's slow down here. There are moments where I think I'm a loser for whatever reason. Maybe I'm comparing myself to someone, and I feel like crap because I'm not as successful as that person. In that moment that I feel like a loser, I'm not really a loser. It's just a feeling caused by that thought. That's it.

image.gif

However, if I continue down that road of thinking I'm a loser, then what may happen is that my actions may change. Maybe I’ll stop going to the gym. Or that I’ll get fired from my job because I don't try as hard. And my perception of reality may change. For example, I'll become angry at people because I think they're treating me like a loser. I may treat others badly as a result. All of this can lead me down the road of being and acting like a loser, which can make me angrier…it's a loop.

The moment I let go of the thought that I'm a loser, my mind will clear itself up, and my emotional state will return to peace.

Letting go is always the difficult part. I used to think that letting go meant stuffing my emotions down. That doesn't work. Imagine a heavy thought that you're carrying around in the physical form of a twenty pound weight. Now, try stuffing that weight down your pants. You might not see that weight, but it’s still weighing you down. Trust me. It ain't easy walking around with twenty pounds in your pants. I'm Asian. I know.

Letting go of a thought is like letting go of that twenty pound weight in that it doesn't weigh you down anymore. You're literally free of it. That doesn't mean you won't pick up it up again. So be aware.

You'll know when you've released yourself of that heavy thought because you don't feel it's affects on you anymore. If you merely stuffed that thought down, then you'll feel it somewhere in the back of your mind.

image.gif

We're all masters at letting go of thought because we do this every day. There have been studies that suggest that we have 60,000 thoughts a day. Holding onto each one would crush us, causing a mental breakdown. Most people don't have mental breakdowns because as each thought comes, it goes.

What tends to happen is that we focus on the thoughts that "matter" to us. If I was insecure about my sexuality, and my gym friend comes and suggests that I'm gay, then my mind will go into a whirlpool of thoughts about what she said. But I know what I like, so I have no need to confirm or deny my heterosexuality. I just want to get back to my workout.

Back to my friend who assured me that I care about what people think about me.

Generally, I don't. There are times when I do. If I'm on a date with a lady that I really like, then my ego likes to step in front of me and analyze everything that she does and says. That means I'm not listening to and engaging with my date, which likely is putting her off.

My friend is probably projecting her need for peoples' approval onto me. I know her well enough that she does put a lot of value into other people's opinion of her, so it's difficult for her to imagine how I do not.

Everybody projects at some level. If I'm watching a video of someone hiking the trail to Angels Landing, I freak out. I see a picture of a person sitting on the edge of a cliff, I freak out. Me freaking out is irrational because the threat of falling isn't present to me. I'm just watching a video or looking at a picture. But I'm projecting my deep fear of heights.

Hopefully, it's obvious at this point that reality is projected by our minds. That one person can be in misery, while the next person is experiencing orgasmic joy. And that thought is the main ingredient of our experience. This gives us a lot of power. That peace and happiness are not determined by others or by our circumstances. How peaceful we are in our minds determines that.