What Do I Desire?

“‘What do you desire? What makes you itch? What sort of a situation would you like?’ Let’s suppose, I do this often in vocational guidance of students, they come to me and say, ‘Well, we’re getting out of college and we have the faintest idea what we want to do.’ So I always ask the question: ‘What would you like to do if money were no object? How would you really enjoy spending your life?’ Well — it’s so amazing — as the result of our kind of educational system, crowds of students say, ‘Well, we’d like to be painters, we’d like to be poets, we’d like to be writers. But as everybody knows you can’t earn any money that way!’ Another person says ‘Well, I’d like to live an out-of-door’s life and ride horses.’ I say, ‘You wanna teach in a riding school?’

Let’s go through with it. What do you want to do? When we finally got down to something which the individual says he really wants to do I will say to him ‘You do that! And forget the money! Because if you say that getting the money is the most important thing you will spend your life completely wasting your time! You’ll be doing things you don’t like doing in order to go on living – that is to go on doing things you don’t like doing, which is stupid! Better to have a short life that is full of which you like doing then a long life spent in a miserable way. And after all, if you do really like what you are doing – it doesn’t really matter what it is – you can eventually become a master of it. It’s the only way of becoming the master of something: to be really with it. And then you will be able to get a good fee for whatever it is. So don’t worry too much. Somebody is interested in everything; anything you can be interested in, you’ll find others who are.

But it’s absolutely stupid to spend your time doing things you don’t like in order to go on spending on things you don’t like, doing things you don’t like and to teach our children to follow the same track. See, what we are doing is we are bringing up children and educating to live the same sort of lives we are living. In order they may justify themselves and find satisfaction in life by bringing up their children to bring up their children to do the same thing. So it’s all retch and no vomit – it never gets there! And so therefore it’s so important to consider this question:

What do I desire?'” ~ Alan Watts

Alan Wilson Watts (6 January 1915 – 16 November 1973) was a British-born American philosopher, writer, and speaker, best known as an interpreter and populariser of Eastern philosophy for a Western audience. Born in Chislehurst, England, he moved to the United States in 1938 and began Zen training in New York. Pursuing a career, he attended Seabury-Western Theological Seminary, where he received a master’s degree in theology. Watts became an Episcopal priest in 1945, then left the ministry in 1950 and moved to California, where he joined the faculty of the American Academy of Asian Studies.

Watts gained a large following in the San Francisco Bay Area while working as a volunteer programmer at KPFA, a Pacifica Radio station in Berkeley. Watts wrote more than 25 books and articles on subjects important to Eastern and Western religion, introducing the then-burgeoning youth culture to “The Way of Zen” (1957), one of the first bestselling books on Buddhism. In “Psychotherapy East and West” (1961), Watts proposed that Buddhism could be thought of as a form of psychotherapy and not a religion. He considered “Nature, Man, and Woman” (1958) to be, “from a literary point of view – the best book I have ever written.” He also explored human consciousness, in the essay “The New Alchemy” (1958), and in the book “The Joyous Cosmology” (1962).

Towards the end of his life, he divided his time between a houseboat in Sausalito and a cabin on Mount Tamalpais. Many of his books are now available in digital format and many of his recorded talks and lectures are available on the Internet. According to the critic Erik Davis, his “writings and recorded talks still shimmer with a profound and galvanizing lucidity.”

(an excerpt from the Wikipedia page on Alan W. Watts. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Watts)

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