If you have come to a point in your life where you look at where you have arrived and what you have achieved — and you despair at what you see — you are not alone.
Most of us arrive here and realize two things: time has slipped you by and you have little to show for it.
More often than not we feel disappointment at this point. Why? What is it in our society that ultimately leaves us disappointed in ourselves and the way we lived out lives?
Alan Watts, the British-born American who was one of the earliest to interpret Eastern wisdom for a Western audience, had a perspective on life that differs from the traditional and which might be of assistance in our search for confirmation that we lived a meaningful life.
In the video below he begins with these startling words: “The existence, the physical universe is basically playful. There is no necessity for it whatsoever. It isn’t going anywhere. That is to say, it doesn’t have some destination that it ought to arrive at.”
Check it out, and if you can’t play the video right now, read on for my discussion of the video.
Beinga part of this physical universe helps us to consider that we may not have a destination to arrive at.
Watts uses the analogy of music. Music, as an art form, is essentially playful. We say, you “play” the piano, we don’t say you “work” the piano.
If the point of music were the end, people would go to music concerts just to hear one crackling chord… because that’s the end!
It’s the same with dancing. “You don’t aim at a particular spot in the room because that’s where you will arrive. The whole point of the dancing is the dance.”
So, is the whole point of live also, just to live? Not to arrive at the end of life?
Watts says our system of schooling gives a completely different impression. It’s a progression of one state that leads onto the next. And ultimately to success. That big thing that you have been working towards all your life.
“Then you wake up one day about 40 years old and you say: ‘My God, I’ve arrived. I’m there.’ And you don’t feel very different from what you’ve always felt.”
What a con, right?
So you keep on working and you keep on saving because your end game is to retire one day. That is what your life is about: at the end you want to have enough money to do nothing with because you’ve run out of energy. Or to pay medical bills because you never paid enough attention to your health.
You never danced to the music.
Watts has a way with words, an earnestness that jolts one to reassess one’s perspectives. At 40 or whatever age you find yourself looking at your life, put on the music and dance. You’re not on your way anywhere. You are where you’re supposed to be and the music is playing. Enjoy!
It’s also interesting to note that people who do palliative care report that what their patients regret most at the end of their lives is not having allowed themselves to be happier and enjoy life more.
Look at the people who live to retire; to put those savings away. And then when they’re 65 they don’t have any energy left. They’re more or less impotent. And they go and rot in some, old peoples, senior citizens community. Because we simply cheated ourselves the whole way down the line.
If we thought of life by analogy with a journey, with a pilgrimage, which had a serious purpose at that end, and the thing was to get to that thing at that end. Success, or whatever it is, or maybe heaven after you’re dead.
But we missed the point the whole way along.
It was a musical thing, and you were supposed to sing or to dance while the music was being played.
Is your end game to retire one day?
Here’s the video again — it’s worth watching a second time.