Would you pursue that which calls to you if money was no object?


A conversation occurs with my son

One of my sons recently returned from Christmas in France. During Christmas he saw a beggar, he was touched by the plight of the beggar, stooped down and gave him money.  His friends told him not to do that.  They told him that the beggar was merely lazy and should get a job. This is not how the situation showed up for my son. How did it show up for him?  Life can be hard sometimes. Nobody chooses to be dirty, out in the cold, homeless and begging. And the obligation of one human being to another is for the standing up to help the one that is on the floor.

Reflecting on this it occurred to him that whilst he likes the subjects he is studying for his A levels they do not call to him. What calls to him?  To help the homeless: to provide them with a home, to clothe them, to feed them, to provide education and training, to rebuild their self-esteem and confidence, to provide the foundation with which to rebuild their lives.  Listening to his speaking I was touched-moved-inspired and in large part that was because I got that this really called to him, the he himself is touched-moved-inspired.

Then my son shared his worry.  What is the worry?  Money.  “How am I going to do this?  Where am I going to get the money from to help the homeless?  Where am I going to get the money to look after myself?”

Is this how we become wage slaves?

I got how it is that so many of us become wage slaves.  It occurs to me that when you and I were young we had dreams like my son has right now.  Some of us wanted to invent, others wanted to explore/adventure, others wanted to create/make stuff, others wanted to be of service to help others….. Confronted with the money question we put away these dreams and got busy with the practicalities of life.  And little by little, one sacrifice at a team, we became wage slaves.  Trapped: lifestyle, mortgage, school fees…..

What is a wage slave for me?  For me a wage slave is a person who has no affinity for the work that he does.  Importantly,  he notices that the work is ‘killing him/her’ in some significant way and yet continues because of the money/rewards that go along with the job/work. Put differently, the work that the wage slave does and/or the environment in which he does that work does not nourish.  On the contrary it is slow poison that kills that which is most human – the capacity to imagine possibilities, to pursue possibilities, to be a creator, an author of one’s life!

Is the point of living merely living?  

Is our project here on here on Earth simply do feed oneself, clothe oneself, shelter oneself? And when these needs have been secured to entertain oneself and/or drown our sorrows with the drug of our choice?  If that is the case then the meaning/purpose I give to myself is merely to survive, to exist.

And if that is the case then a question presents itself “What for?”  Put differently, why toil away as wage slaves merely to survive?  To feed, clothe, shelter and encourage our children to be wage slaves?  So that they can do they same for their children and so on?  Isn’t this madness?  It occurs as madness to me.

My message to my son and all who are young or young at heart

So what did I say to my son?  I encouraged him to pursue this possibility the one that calls to him.  I told him that to be human – uniquely human – is to step into, live from and pursue that which calls to us.  I told him that he is fortunate that he is present to that which calls to him.  I told him that this is gift, a gift that provides access to walking the path that gives meaning to one’s life. Yes, there will be difficulties. Yes, there will be pain.  Yes, it involves sacrifice. And what kind of life do you want to live, one that is difficult yet meaningful or one that leaves you showing up as a wage slave?

I reminded him of the film that we had watched some time ago.  Which film?  Into the Wild.  And I posed the question, “What is better for you, a long life of drudgery, of being a wage slave or the kind of life that Christopher McCandless (the subject of Into the Wild) lived?”

What if money was no object?

Finally, I asked the question that Alan Watts asks: “What if money was no object?”  I encourage you, especially if you are young, to listen to the words/wisdom of Alan Watts.  I encourage you not only to listen but to let this conversation be you.  Here is the YouTube video:

And if you prefer reading then here is the transcript:

“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 a 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. Or another person says well, I’d like to live an out-of-doors life and ride horses. I said you want to 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 what you like doing than a long life spent in a miserable way.

And after all, if you do really like what you’re doing, it doesn’t matter what it is, you can eventually turn it – you could eventually become a master of it. It’s the only way to become a master of something, to be really with it. And then you’ll be able to get a good fee for whatever it is. So don’t worry too much. That’s everybody is – somebody is interested in everything, anything you can be interested in, you will find others will. But it’s absolutely stupid to spend your time doing things you don’t like, in order to go on spending things you don’t like, doing things you don’t like and to teach our children to follow in the same track.

See what we are doing, is we’re bringing up children and educating to live the same sort of lives we are living. In order that 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?”

How can you be about, deal with tiredness and hopelessness? Part I


A ‘sister’ reaches out

Recently a ‘sister’ reached out to me to share aspects of her experience of her life and to ask for my advice:

“I am feeling lost without anchors in my life. I guess I am feeling the loss of physical intimacy, someone to just be there to hold me when I’m feeling lost and alone. Work stability and security in an organisation that is chaotic with recurring re-structuring and transfers.

It is bearing me down, the uncertainty in my workplace and bearing the responsibility of taking care of 3 growing kids, with sometimes no one to talk to for parenting advice.

I guess I had reached a point where I was just very, very tired and feeling as if I don’t belong or wanted both in my work-place and in my personal space. Tired of searching for ‘the one’ to be my life companion – whilst desperately longing for one. Sometimes believing that I am flawed in some way that is preventing that from coming into being.

I tend to always fall for men that are dominant and players. It is difficult for me to be attracted to someone who is less witty and dominant, as I have a strong character. Although I know that it will always lead to hurt and abandonment, am like a moth to a flame.

People, friends have said I am strong and a survivor from what they see. I know I am a survivor, but the scars have been deep and plenty. I don’t feel very strong most of the time, struggle to overcome my feelings of insecurity and capabilities.

I always feel that there is constant turbulence in my life both at work and in my personal life.  How do I continue when I’m feeling so tired and hopeless.

Warning: I am not ‘God’ and do not have ‘solutions’ to life

Before I dive into the heart of the matter I wish to make it plain that I am not in a position to provide advice.  I am clear that I am not ‘God’ and as thus I have no solutions to life.  To take that orientation is to see life as a ‘problem’ – we search for solutions to problems.  Perhaps life is simply a gift that we are granted or it is a challenge/opportunity to help us unfold, develop and flower in our unique way in the process playing our part and contributing to the bigger play called ‘Life’.  Perhaps life is simply a mystery that can never be solved, only lived.

“How do I continue when I am feeling so tired and hopeless?”

Sister, rest assured that if you do not actively interfere with your automatic machinery (that goes with being human) then you will continue and you do not have to figure out how you will continue.  What do I mean?  I mean that by virtue of being human and being here, you have been granted a fierce will to survive and an array of capacities that enable you to survive.  Put differently, to be human  is to be a formidable survival organism – one that continues  because its design is to continue itself for as long as it can.  That is to say your ‘human  machinery’ will take care of surviving/continuing if you do not get in it’s way.

Who and what is the cause of tiredness and hopelessness?

When you ask this question (How do I continue…..?) what you are saying is that ‘the story that you are telling yourself about your future’ is leaving you feeling tired and hopeless.

In the Western world, Sunday is a day of relaxation – it is where you can take it easy, meet up with friends and family, do what you enjoy doing.  It should be the ‘happiest’ day of the week.  Yet, research shows that it is the ‘unhappiest’ day of the week for many people.  Why?  Because many of these people are looking into the future and what they are present to is being at work, slaving away at work they do not enjoy, on the Monday.  Which is the best/happiest day of the week?  Friday.  Why?  Because whilst these people are in the office (where they do not want to be) they are not really in the office.  Instead they are living into the future that is the weekend – who they will be with, where they will be, what they will be doing……..

So let’s be clear on this:  what gives you your being today, right now, is the future that you are living into.  Here is what Alan Watts says in his book (The Wisdom of Insecurity):

“Human beings appear to be happy just as long as they have a future to which they can look forward – whether is be a “good time” tomorrow or an everlasting life beyond the grave.

So what can you do about ‘tiredness and hopelessness’?

You can choose to be resolute and fierce in your living.  You can choose to relate to yourself as a ‘force of nature’ with awesome qualities – all that you need to live fully right now and into the future.

You can get present to the fact that you really do not know how the future will turn out (and thus is open to invention). You really do not know. And even if something ‘bad’ happens you do not know how that will turn out.   What shows up as ‘bad’ or a ‘catastrophe’ today, can show up later as the best thing that happened to me, just what I needed to grow, to develop, to move forward on to a new path.

You can choose not to listen to nor create a story about a future – a dismal future – that leaves you feeling tired and hopeless.  If one part of you is throwing up this story, then don’t buy into it.  And that is a whole lot easier if you embrace my next suggestion.

You can, right now, deliberately create a story about you and your future that genuinely leaves you moved-touched-inspired-uplifted.  What kind of a future, if you created it now and lived it now (as if it were real right now) would leave you genuinely moved-touched-inpsired-uplifted?

You can choose to focus on what works in your life, what you can be grateful for right now.  What if you had all the challenges that you have right now and you lost your eyesight? What would that be like?  What if one or more of your three children fell ill with a serious disease?  What would that be like?

You can choose to spend time and focus upon those who are less fortunate than you. If you do that then you will both lose sight of yourself (and your suffering) whilst you are helping others less fortunate than you.  Indirectly this helping, this intimate contact with those less fortunate than you will leave you more grateful for the blessings – sight, speech, hearing, movement etc – in your life.  Finally, you are most likely to show up for yourselves as a ‘god’ rather than a ‘beggar’.  For most of us it is impossible to ‘give of ourselves’ to the less fortunate and not to receive more back in return. 

What if you simply you cannot change your circumstances?

Lets, just assume that you face circumstances that you simply you cannot change. Then what can you do, how can you be about that?  Here is what Viktor Frankl says: “When we are no longer able to change a situation – we are challenged to change ourselves.”

Let’s make this real. You are 17 years old, you are into diving and you have an accident that leaves you paralysed from the neck down.  How can you be about this circumstance, that you cannot change?  This is what this chap says and how he has lived his life:

I broke my neck but it did not break me. I am at present helpless and this handicap will remain with myself apparently forever. But I would not give up my studies.  I went because of my own helplessness to help other people.  I want to become a psychologist to help others.  My suffering will add an essential contribution to my ability to understand and help others.

Please notice that this young man has chosen to be fiercely resolute. He has invented a future that gives his life meaning and within which his unchangeable circumstances show up as an asset rather than a tragedy.  He has created a story that moves-touches-inspires-uplifts hims.  It is the story that is giving him being – a powerful desire to live to contribute to be of help to those facing helplessness – rather than his circumstances.  It is ALL story: life is ALL story.  How life show up for you is a function of the story that you are living into/from. 

You can watch an interview with this young man (Jerry Long) and Viktor Frankl:  http://youtu.be/1_lmMl4P7cQ

And finally

I will continue the conversation in the next post – there is so much to ‘grapple with’ here and it requires more than one post.