What Do You Desire - Alan Watts
“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 haven’t 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?’
Crowds of students say well we’d like to 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 outdoors life and ride horses.’ I say ‘do you want to teach in a riding school? Let’s go through with it, what do you want to do?’
When we finally get down to something that the individual says he really wants to do I’ll 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 so, it is so important to consider this question, ‘what do I desire?’"
The Laughing Heart - Charles Bukowski
your life is your life
don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission.
be on the watch.
there are ways out.
there is a light somewhere.
it may not be much light but
it beats the darkness.
be on the watch.
the gods will offer you chances.
you can’t beat death but
you can beat death in life, sometimes.
and the more often you learn to do it,
the more light there will be.
your life is your life.
know it while you have it.
you are marvelous
the gods wait to delight
We would do well to remember these words now.
Two kids playing cricket in Dharavi (Bombay, India)
Sunset on Powder Mountain
“What would you do with your life if you knew that you could not fail?”
It seems like a simple question, but how many of us could look at ourselves in the mirror and honestly answer - “Exactly what I’m doing right now”? Although a few people may genuinely not know what they want in life, my sense is that most people do know deep down what excites them. We all had dreams growing up of what we’d like to be one day. And we all have something that we simply love to do - that we would spend time on and get lost in even if we weren’t getting paid.
So what holds us back? It is simply fear - the fear of failure, fear of the unknown, fear of disapproval from our peers. In our hearts we have an inkling of what we’re truly passionate about, but it’s so easy to convince ourselves that we couldn’t possibly succeed or that things would never work out. Many of us are guided more by our fear of failure than we are by our positive vision of what could be.
And I believe that is what separates people who pursue their deepest aspirations from those who try to avoid risk. The fearless have come to terms with their dreams and hopes, and are driven solely by the opportunity to bring them to fruition - however small that chance may be. To them, the worst fear of all is that these things they hunger for may never come to pass. And so the fear of failure appears inconsequential compared to the fear of never giving it a go. Their vision and determination are so powerful that they override the fear.
Millonarios vs Nacional futbol game in Bogota
“While you were waiting around for something to happen, that was it. Life. You lived it."
That quote comes from the movie Tree of Life, which I watched just a few months ago while trapped on a 10-hour flight to meet up with two of my best friends from college in SE Asia. In the movie, Brad Pitt plays the disillusioned father of a 1950s American family who appears shattered and depressed by the way his life has turned out. Though it’s not often that you see Brad Pitt as a broken man, he confides to his son that he has been nothing more than a passive bystander in his life’s narrative. Events transpired, he accepted them, and by the time he picked his head up at the end of it all to reflect, he realized that it was all over.
I’m sure that he never intended to spend his short time on Earth burying himself in work for a company he didn’t like, set out to avoid his family, or purposefully ignore the beauty of the world around him. But he never made an active decision to build the life that he wanted or to spend time on the things most important to him. Perhaps he consoled himself with the thought that one day things would be different. The status quo continued on, and eventually he just ran out of time.
When I look at myself now, I find it hard to believe that I am already 24 years old, or that I’ve been in the working world now for over 2 years. I know that may not seem all that old to some people, but after graduating from college the weeks and months have blown by faster than I ever could have imagined. I’ve come to realize that the only opponent we have in all of this is time. And as much as we would like, we cannot slow it down or even stop it for an instant.
To me, it’s a reminder that you have to spend your life doing exactly what you’ve dreamed of. And if you’re not happy with how things are going you’ve got to make a change. Hesitation just means that the big questions will be answered for you, because a failure to act ensures that things will carry on exactly as they have been. It means being bold, acting decisively, and refusing to compromise with circumstances that you find unacceptable. The only option is to live the life that you’ve imagined, and to pursue it with all of your heart.
Merry Christmas from Peru!
At an orphanage in one of Cambodia's floating villages