The timeless teachings of Allan Watts: a commentary
The existence, the physical universe is basically playful. There is no necessity for it whatsoever. It isn’t going anywhere. It doesn’t have a destination that it ought to arrive at but is best understood by its analogy with music. Because music as an art-form is essentially playful. We say, you play the piano, you don’t work the piano, but why is that?
I’m blown away by the beauty in our world when I’m finally paying attention. The mundane and most simple things in life have extraordinary beauty. The sunshine, a flower and all living things are splendorous. Most of the times I’m not paying attention because I’m seem to be working hard towards a goal.
There is a bumper sticker – “if you not outraged you are not paying attention”. But according with Allan Watts it should be more like “If you’re not blown away by the beauty of this world, you’re not paying attention” Even when the goal is to have fun we get it all wrong.
Music differs from, say, travel. When you travel you’re trying to get somewhere. In music, though, one doesn’t make the end of a composition – the point of the composition. If that was so, the best conductors would be those who played fastest. And there would be composers who only wrote finales. People would go to a concert just to hear one crackling chord, because that’s the end.
Same with dancing. You don’t aim at a particularly spot in the room because that’s where you should arrive. The whole point of the dancing is to dance. But we don’t see that as something brought by our education into our everyday conduct
When one plays music, the most important part is the beat. Playing the wrong note or forgetting to play a note is a small error compared to missing the beat. Because the beat is linked to the moment. The beat is the most fundamental part of the music, the pillars where everything is constructed. Rhythm is like the pulse of the universe. If we are not moving and dancing with it, we are missing the most fundamental part of life. When we see life as purely work is like we are freezing a beat and analyzing is contents, but once you stop the rhythm it ceases to exist.
We got a system of schooling which gives a completely different impression. It’s all graded and what we do is to put the child in the corridor of this grade system with a kind of, “come kitty kitty and you go to kindergarten and that’s a great thing because when you finish that you 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 you got to high school and it’s revving up, the thing in coming, then you’re going to college and then graduate school, and then you’re through with graduate school you going to join the world.
Then you get into some racket where you’re selling insurance and they’ve got that quota to make, and you gonna make that. And all the time that “thing” is coming. It’s coming, its coming. That great “thing” – the success you’ve worked for
My god, I’ve arrived, I’m there. And you don’t feel different from what you’ve always felt. Look at the people who live to retire, to put those savings away. And then when they’re 65 they don’t have any energy left. And they go on and rotten in some senior citizens community.
Because we cheated ourselves the whole way down the line. 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, or maybe heaven after you’re dead. But we missed the point the whole way along. It was a musical thing and you’re supposed to sing or to dance while the music was being played.
Have I cheated myself all along? This is the point of the teaching that deserves a little deeper thinking. Not all work we perform is slavery and a diversion from our true self. It simply is. Only our lack of being present make us neglect the beauty present in everything. Even working selling insurance can be done beautifully and with integrity. So I take these teachings in a deep metaphoric way possible. Even a if we see life as a journey we can still be OK as long as we don’t have a obligation to arrive anywhere and we can just dance and sing along the way.
Have a great day!