All Wretch and No Vomit (a not-disgusting post on doing what you love)

 

(source)

This is a really great lecture from Alan Watts, a British philosopher. It’s well worth the three minutes to watch. It brings up some points that I struggle with a lot.

Watts talks about encouraging his students and listeners to do the thing they love most, because there’s no point wasting a lifetime trying to earn enough money to be stable enough to begin doing what you love to do. Better to lead a short life doing what you love than a long life doing what you don’t.

Yet, I can’t help be a little poked by the idea that everyone could and should be doing what they enjoy first and foremost. Perhaps that’s not quite what he’s saying, but I’ve run into this implication a lot lately: the idea that life is short, so don’t waste it doing silly, trivial, hateful, or boring things.

I love that idea. It’s awesome. I’d give anything to live it out every day. But what about people in other countries, other lifestyles, of different means? I have the freedom to invest a large portion of my time in writing or playing music or taking pictures (things I love), but many people don’t. I wonder what advice starving villagers in Africa would be given?

Maybe the implication is buried under the surface that, as people with abundance, we should be giving and sharing and working toward a place where all others DO have the ability to explore their passions, not just their bare essentials.

“If you do really like what you’re doing, it doesn’t matter what it is, you can eventually become a master of it […] and then you’ll be able to get a good fee for whatever it is.”

That’s a great philosophy, but I have no idea if it’s true. I think it’s true in Western culture, and in a many other cultures, but it also rides on the freedom to invest enough time to become good at something. At the core, though, I think this is sound advice. Take every chance you have to improve at things you love and eventually you will be a master. It’s the masters who are sought for their expertise, so if you have any hope of being able to do what you love “professionally”, then do it a lot.

“Somebody’s interested in everything.”

I like that point, that there’s someone out there who will find interest in just about any conceivable topic. From those who dream of space to those who are enchanted by the countless forms of bacteria living in poo.

“It’s absolutely stupid to spend your time doing things you don’t like in order to go on doing things you don’t like.”

This is a strong point. Many people get stuck in a loop of working a mindless job, investing in a mindless existence. It’s done on the premise of needing that stability to survive or save enough or be able to afford what you need, but needs are relative. Wants are subjective. This is where it’s a good idea to re-evaluate. Are you repetitively doing something you don’t like to enable yourself to do other things you don’t like? It’s easy to say “no,” but I realized that I do this quite often. It doesn’t mean that you do it ALL the time, but it happens. It probably happens more than we’d like to admit.

“It’s all wretch and no vomit”

My favorite quote from the whole video. I’m sure my friend Jordan will hate this idea (he lives in perpetual fear of throwing up). When we are sick and we start to wretch, it is the uncomfortable preparation for releasing the poison inside us. It’s awful, it’s uncomfortable, it’s embarrassing, and we revile it. But when the release is over, we experience some degree of peace. Unfortunately in sickness this is often repeated several times to get out of us whatever was in us that shouldn’t be. This is true of life… there is a certain discomfort to be pushed through before we can release the junk and find health. At the same time, it is a necessary thing in order to get to happiness, joy, peace, or whatever term you want to use to describe a good place to be.

Tell It As Best You Can

“The main rule of writing is that if you do it with enough assurance and confidence, you’re allowed to do whatever you like. (That may be a rule for life as well as for writing. But it’s definitely true for writing.) So write your story as it needs to be written. Write it ­honestly, and tell it as best you can. I’m not sure that there are any other rules. Not ones that matter.” – Neil Gaiman (source)

This is number eight of Gaiman’s eight rules of writing. It is my favorite because of how well it applies to life. It reminds me of Donald Miller’s book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. If you look at life like a play, a story, a script, etc. you can identify characters, plot points, devices, themes and a whole bunch of other literary stuff. 

Using this like a tool, it’s quite possible to “write” a good life. If I couldn’t buy into any other philosophy, I think this is the one that I’d be sold on every time. Be honest, be straightforward, tell the story the way it should be told. Think about how the story will be told later to help you decide what actions to take. Be earnest, and don’t worry about making mistakes.

Weed out the junk that just distracts from the real story being told. 

You can find a way to get away with just about anything you want. That might sound like a license to just do anything, but it’s not. It’s a challenge to do what tells the best story. Think about the people through history who did whatever they wanted, and are looked at as fools or worse. Take that into consideration when you use your freedom to live your story.

See yourself as the storyteller; then become a master storyteller.