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?”