Life is Playful


A quote from Alan Watts:

I suppose most of you have heard of Zen. But before going on to explain any details about it, I want to make one thing absolutely clear. I am not a Zen Buddhist. I am not advocating Zen Buddhism. I am not trying to convert anyone to it. I have nothing to sell. I am an entertainer. That is to say, in the same sense that when you go to a concert and you listen to someone play Mozart he has nothing to sell except the sound of the music. He doesn’t want to convert you to anything. He doesn’t want you to join an organization in favor of Mozart’s music opposed to, say, Beethoven’s. And I approach you in the same spirit as a musician with his piano or a violinist with his violin. I just want you to enjoy a point of view, which I enjoy.

Alan Watts (1915-1973) was a British philosopher and self-proclaimed “entertainer.” He entertained by speaking about Buddhism, religion, and Eastern philosophy in general. He published over twenty books and is perhaps best known for his speeches because he has a captivating way of explaining things.

There are many types of Buddhism and a range of beliefs among the types. In any of them though, it’s easy to see how Buddhist views help to naturally attract wealth. Perhaps I’ll talk about attachment in another post though. This post is about enjoying where you are now. This next excerpt from one of his speeches can be found in his “essential lectures” from the Out of Your Mind series or on youtube.

Who, incidentally has forgotten that the whole point of washing the dishes is playful. You know you don’t wash the dishes for a serious reason. You like the table to look nice. You know, you don’t want to serve up the dishes for dinner with all the leavings of breakfast still lying on them. So why do you want the table to look nice? Well again it’s for nice. You see, you like the pattern of it that way. People get terribly compulsive about doing these things. And they think that going on arranging the patterns of life is something that’s a duty.
One of his more popular stories has been titled “Music and Life.”
In music, one doesn’t make the end of the 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 concerts just to hear one crashing chord – so that’s the end. But we don’t see that as something brought by our education into our everyday conduct. We’ve got a system of schooling that gives a completely different impression. It’s all graded and what we do is we put the child into this corridor of this grading system, with a kind of “come on kitty, kitty, kitty.” And now you go to kindergarten and that’s a great thing because when you finish that you’ll get into first grade. And then “come on!”, first grade leads to second grade and so on and then you get out of grade school and you go to high school, and it’s revving up, the thing is coming! And then you’re gonna go to college, and by Jove you’re gonna get into graduate school. And when you’re through with graduate school you go out and join the world. And then you get into some racket where you’re selling insurance. And they’ve got that quota to make, and you’ve gotta make that. And all the time, the thing is coming! It’s coming, it’s coming! That great thing! The success you’re working for. Then when you wake up one day about 40 years old, you say “My God, I’ve arrived! I’m there!” And you don’t feel very different from what you always felt. And there’s a slight letdown because you feel there’s a hoax. And there was a hoax, a dreadful hoax. They made you miss everything. We thought of life by analogy with a journey, with a pilgrimage, which had a serious purpose at the end and the thing was to get to that end. Success, or whatever it is, 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.

If you’re busy singing and dancing and enjoying life then you’re not busy worrying about creature comforts or buying new things.

I highly recommend beginning with his “essential lectures” from the Out of Your Mind series if you’re interested in discovering new ways of looking at things. It’s fascinating for someone who’s only been exposed to western religions all of their lives. For a delightful explanation of Buddhism I recommend Religion of No-Religion” from Amazon or from AlanWatts.org as a CD.

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