As I’m sure you’ve gathered if you’ve read any of my previous posts, I’m a huge fan of the late Alan Watts. He was an incredible philosopher who does what every good philosopher should do–forces you to look at life from a different perspective.
What is special about Alan Watts, though, other than his Anthony Hopkins-esque, British voice, is his ability to help you solve your daily problems. Your life problems. Some people have church and religion. I have philosophy, and Alan Watts is my preacher. Okay, it’s not so sanctimonious as all that, but I have really found him to be remarkably enlightening.
One of the most resinous excerpts of his lectures is this one. It speaks on the cancer that is our system of work and reward. The fact that we spend our entire lives working to have things, and if the work we are doing isn’t what we’d like to be doing, then how can we enjoy the things we have?
Some might say that all of Philosophy is one paradox after another, designed to confuse and befuddle. I disagree. Kind of like a right-brain, left-brain isolated exercise, we have to think that way. We need to work those muscles, those abstract thought processes that don’t align with polite society.
What I love about Alan Watts, and yes, he’d be the famous person I’d most likely choose in the living-dead-or otherwise game, is that he seems to speak directly to the little voice inside of you. The one that’s there when we’re paying our bills and buying our groceries and signing on all the dotted lines that life throws at us. The voice that used to be loud when we were children, but quiets over time because we’ve made it quiet. It asks us questions all based on the same idea.
Is this all there is?
Isn’t there more?
Is this our life?
What’s after this?
Why are we slowing down?
Where’s the excitement? I was told there’d be excitement.
And maybe I’m just entertaining multiple personalities. Or maybe I’m the spirit of discontent. Maybe it’s in my chemistry to find a way to be unhappy with things that make others perfectly happy. Maybe that’s my problem–being unable to do what everyone wants me to do, settle down.
I can’t, though. I can’t slow down or settle down or sit still. It’s why we sold our house and trekked a thousand miles. It’s why we explore and go on adventures. It’s why, even at twenty-seven, I can’t figure out which career to have for the rest of my life. Because that seems like such a daunting, depressing, finite task. So many of my friends have chosen something. Former classmates are already in careers. Maybe I’m kidding myself here in thinking that I can take the alternative path, but is it so wrong to want to?
I don’t think so.
Like he says in his lecture, which I really, really hope you’ll listen to, I think it has to be about what you want. Anything less and why live at all? Because living and existing are undeniably different things. It’s just that few choose to see it.