The hard question

shoot-196This morning, as Steph drank coffee, and I read a novel, I overheard a video she was watching.

A man’s voice, one I don’t recognize, was asking someone “What do you desire?” He was speaking to people who were making choices in their lives, going to college, that sort of thing. I did some digging around to find it was Alan Watts who was talking in the video. I knew he was an authority on eastern religions, and had read one of his books, but I’d never heard this soliloquy before.

Typical of the sort of talks you have when you’re that age, the core of it is money. Being an American who went to higher learning, I remember almost every talk I had along these lines turned on money as well. It was, after all, the 1980s, and greed was good. Yuppies had just been invented, and we were all going to be very, very rich. And that, in turn, would make us all happy.

Except, for most of us, we never got rich. Even if we did, we fell just as short as those who didn’t. None of us were very happy either.

That was the thing, for me. Money was OK, in the grand scheme of things. It was certainly better to have it than not. It made life far more comfortable, and kept hunger and the cold winds at bay. But I longed to be really, truly happy. I could explain that I came from a less than happy background, but that’s so overdone it’s trite. Everyone welcomes happiness, regardless of their history. I was definitely not in line with my peers. It was certainly not the first time, and it wouldn’t be the last.

So what do I desire? I think my real problem is that I don’t desire to do things in exchange for money.

I desire experiences.

shoot-197I desire mornings just under the treeline, high among the pines twisted by wind and weather. I desire the lonely places where man has moved on and left the trappings of his life in his wake. I desire the putting of one foot in front of the other, and the spinning of pedals on a bicycle.  I desire the long, drawn out spread of the countryside flashing by my window, and the gently rocking sleep of a train car. I desire a place to sit, and develop the shots I took of it and write about the doing of these things, but those actions are secondary to the experiences themselves. I record, not as a primary purpose, but because I want those experiences to be eternal. As long as they are remembered, they continue.

I don’t think I can have experiences and get paid to do so. That doesn’t particularly bother me.

But as long as I continue to live, I will continue to feel a deep-seated need to have experiences in the places I love. Without satisfying those needs, I won’t be happy.

While that fails as an answer useful to someone thinking about a vocation, it is the honest answer to my life.


Here is Alan Watts speaking, and a transcript.

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