Posts Tagged ‘ Alan Watts ’

Playing the Game of Life

Excerpt from Alan Watts’s speech:

We have an absolutely extraordinary attitude in our culture and in various other cultures, high civilizations, to the new member of human society. Instead of saying frankly to children: ‘How do you do? Welcome to the human race!’, we are playing a game and we are playing by the following rules. We want to tell you what the rules are so that you know your way around and when you’ve understood what rules we are playing by, when you get older, you may be able to invent better ones.

But instead of that, we still retain an attitude to the child that he is on probation, he is not really a human being, he is a candidate for humanity. And in just this way, we have a whole system of preparation of the child for life which always is preparation and never actually gets there. In other words, we have a system of schooling which starts with grades. And we are always preparing for something that’s going to happen.

So you go into nursery school as preparation for kindergarten. You are going to kindergarten as preparation for 1st grade and then you go up the grades till you get to high-school and then comes a time when maybe if we can get you fascinated enough with this system, you go to college. And then when you go to college, if you are smart, you get into graduate school and stay a perpetual student and go back to be a professor and just go round-and-round in the system.

But in the ordinary way, they do not encourage quite that, they want you [to go to] after-graduate school or after-graduation, commencement as it’s called, beginning to get out into the world with a capital W. And so you know, you’ve been trained for this and now you’ve arrived. But when you get out into the world, at your first sales meeting, they’ve got the same thing going again, because they want you to make that quota and if you do make it, they give a higher quota. And come along about 45 years of age, maybe you are a vice-president. And it suddenly dawns on you that you’ve arrived with a certain sense of having been cheated, because it is just the same, life feels the same as it always felt.

And you are conditioned to be in desperate need of a future. So the final goal that this culture prepares for us is called retirement – when you will be a senior citizen and you will have the wealth and the leisure to do what you always wanted but you will at the same time have impotence, rotten prostate and false teeth and no energy. So the whole thing from beginning to end is a hoax.

You are involved by-and-large in a very strange business system, which divides your day into work and play. Work is something that everybody does and you get paid to do it because nobody could care less about doing it. In other words, it is so abominable and boring that you can get paid for doing it. And the object of doing this is to make money. And the object of making money, is to go home and enjoy the money that you’ve made. When you got it, you see, ‘you can buy pleasure’.

And in myriads of ways, you see, you go home, you are with the wealthiest people in the world and you would think that having earned your money and at home, you will have an orgy and great banquet and so on, but nobody does. They eat TV dinner which is just a warmed over airline food and then they spend the evening looking at an electronic reproduction of life which is divided from you by a glass screen. You can’t touch it, you can’t smell it. And you look at this thing and you have a strange feeling, you see, that the whole procession of grades that was leading to something in the future, to that goody, that gorgeous, galumptious goody that was lying at the end of the line, it never quite turns up.

And this is because from the beginning, we condition our children to a defective sense of identity. We condition the child in a way that sets the child a life-problem which is insoluble. And therefore attended by constant frustration and as a result of this problem being insoluble, it is perpetually postponed to the future. So that one lives, one is educated to live in the future and one is not ever educated to live today.

Now I am not saying that, you know, the philosophy of carpe diem: ‘Let us drink today, for tomorrow we die’ and not make any plans. What I am saying is that making plans for the future is of use only to people who are capable of living completely in the present. ~ Alan Watts

Food for Thought #9

Excerpt from Alan Watts’s – The Tao of Philosophy:

Now it is my contention and my basic metaphysical axiom that existence—the physical universe—is basically playful. There is no necessity for it whatsoever. It is not going anywhere; that is to say, it does not have some destination at which it ought to arrive. It is best understood by analogy with music because music as an art form is essentially playful.

We say, “You play the piano.” You do not work the piano. Why? For instance, music differs from travel because when you travel you are trying to get somewhere and, being a very compulsive and purposive culture, we are busy going everywhere faster and faster in an attempt to eliminate the distance between places.

With modern jet travel you can arrive anywhere almost instantaneously, and what happens as a result is that the two ends of your journey become the same place. So you eliminate the distance and you eliminate the journey, and you forget that the fun of the journey is to travel, not to obliterate travel.

In music, though, one does not make the end of a composition the point of the composition. If that were so, the best conductors would be those who played fastest, and there would be composers who wrote only finales. People would go to a concert just to hear one crashing chord because that is the end. The same is true of dancing because the point of dancing is to dance.

However, we do not understand this because it is not something brought by our education into our everyday conduct. We have a system of schooling which gives a completely different impression. Everything we do is graded, and we put the child into the corridor at one end of this grade system, with a kind of “Come on, kitty-kitty-kitty.” So you go to kindergarten, and that is a great thing, because when you finish that you will get into first grade; then “Come on!” First grade leads to second grade, and so on. When you get out of grade school you go on to high school, and the whole thing is “revving up,” and coming closer.

Then you go on to college, and then by Jove, you get into graduate school, and when you are through with graduate school you go out to join the world. You get into some racket in which you are selling insurance and everyone has their quota to make, and you are going to make it. All the time that great thing is coming and coming, and it is the success you are working toward. Then one day when you wake up, and you are forty years old, you say, “My God, I have arrived! I am there.” However, you do not feel very different from what you always felt, and there is a slight let-down because you feel there was a hoax.

Of course there was a hoax, a dreadful hoax, because they made you miss everything by expectation. People live to retire and they put those savings away, but then when they are sixty-five they do not have any energy left to enjoy it, and they end up in a senior citizens’ community.

We have simply cheated ourselves the whole way down the line. We thought of life by analogy—as a journey or a pilgrimage—which had a serious purpose at the end. The thing was to get to that end, success, or whatever it is, or maybe Heaven after you are dead, but we missed the point along the whole way. It was a musical thing, and you were supposed to sing or dance while the music was being played. Instead you had to do “that thing” and you did not let it happen. So this is why the human being sometimes becomes an organism for self-frustration. ~ Alan Watts