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WHAT IF MONEY WAS NO OBJECT?

The philosopher Alain de Botton tells a lovely story about the Sunday night blues: that time when the creep of melancholy steals over the Monday-Friday worker, when you think about the week ahead and feel, well, not entirely joyful.

On speaking about career crises at a TED conference, the engaging, entertaining de Botton says:

“Often on a Sunday evening, just as the sun is starting to set…the gap between my hopes for myself and the reality of my life start to diverge so painfully that I normally end up weeping into a pillow.”

De Botton gets a laugh from the audience at this because clearly here is a man in his element, not suffering painful divergence of the soul at all, but … do you know that feeling?

How far has your life diverged from the dreams you once had? Do you weep into your pillow on a Sunday night thinking about what might have been?

At The Hoopla we came across an inspiring video from the late British philosopher Alan Watts (1915-1973) who was famous for interpreting Eastern religion and philosophy for a Western audience.

In working with school graduates in vocational guidance, Watts would ask them: “How would you really enjoy spending your life?”

“What would you like to do if money were no object?”

The students would tell Watt that they’d like to be painters and poets and writers, but “everybody knows that you can’t make any money that way.”

Forget about the money, Watts would say.

“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.”

Hard to argue with that logic.

“It’s better,” says Watts, “to have a long life doing what you love doing, than have a long life spent in a miserable way.”

The prominent British educator Ken Robinson, author of the book The Element – How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything, argues along similar lines. He believes we are all born with tremendous natural creative capacities, but that we lose touch with them as we spend more time in the world.

And through that, we lose touch with who we really are.

He writes: “A few years ago I heard a wonderful story, which I’m very fond of telling. An elementary school teacher was giving a drawing class to a group of six year old children.

“At the back of the classroom sat a little girl who normally didn’t pay much attention in school. In the drawing class she did. For more than 20 minutes, the girl sat with her arms curled around her paper, totally absorbed in what she was doing.

“The teacher found this fascinating. Evenutally, she asked the girl what she was drawing. Without looking up, the girl said, ‘I’m drawing a picture of God.’

“Surprised, the teacher said, ‘but nobody knows what God looks like.’

The girl said, “they will in a minute.”

Robinson says he loves this story because it reminds us that young children are wonderfully confident in their own imaginations, and that most of us lose that confidence as we grow up.

“Ask a class of first graders,” he says, “which of them thinks they’re creative, and they’ll all put their hands up. Ask a group of college seniors the same question and most of them won’t.”

You have to wonder what happens in between.

 

Have you lost touch with a dream you once had for yourself?

What would you do if money were no object?

And, as we come to the end of another school year, what would you advise your children as they face the adult work of work?

 

Here’s Alain de Botton:

 

 

MORE ARTICLES BY LUCY CLARK

I’m Not a Feminist, But…

Rape Pregnancy: “God’s Will”

“I Wanna Be a Babe”

Mary Robinson. How to Change the World

 

*Lucy (Editor of The Hoopla) is a journalist and editor with almost thirty years experience in newspapers and magazines in Sydney, London, and New York. She has been published in The Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian, The Daily and Sunday Telegraphs, Vogue Living, Australian Art Review, and Gourmet Traveller. Most recently the Books Editor of the Sunday Telegraph, she has also contributed to the non-fiction books, Australia Through Time, and What Women Want. You can follow her on Twitter: @lucykateclark.

 

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13 Comments

  • Reply November 30, 2012

    Valerie Parv

    Inspirational advice, thanks. I used both the “drawing God” and “who is creative” elements in an old book, The Idea Factory, as well as the story of the man who told his doctor and said he was thinking of going back to uni and studying law, adding, “The problem is, I’ll be 68 before I graduate.”
    The doctor asked him, “How old will you be if you don’t study?” I didn’t care what job I did as long as I could work with words. Started out writing advertising copy for a hardware company, the first step to following my dream. I left school at 15 and got my MA five years ago. It’s never too late.

  • Reply November 30, 2012

    Belinda

    Thank you for this inspirational article. I recently viewed the the video through a podcast I follow on Facebook. I am at a spot in my life (stay at home of a 2 y.o) where I am readdressing what direction I wish to take and it is articles like this that make me try and remember what those previous passions and dreams were.

    Lately I’ve been remembering my love of writing and storytelling as well as the passing on of wisdom and knowledge. If money was no object I would be writing books and scripts, making movies and have a beautiful country retreat where people could get away, learn or just kickstart something new.

  • Reply November 30, 2012

    Lauren

    I am pleased to say that I recently took one more step to accomplishing my dream. I always wanted to be a writer, and I just finished NaNoWriMo, where you write a 50,000 word novel in a month :)

  • Reply November 30, 2012

    Janet G

    Why do many college seniors not think that they are creative? I think it is caused by an education system that relies upon examination results rather than research, exploration and an ability to absorb the risk of failure knowing that the experience is invaluable.

  • Reply November 30, 2012

    Rosie

    Yes but it will be 10,000 hours of something you love. Imagine that.
    I am a master at what I do, a designer and dressmaker. I would say a couturier but I am not French.
    And I will always love it and it keeps me healthy and happy.
    Now I am onto my next venture of mastering. Wish me well.

  • Reply November 30, 2012

    ro.watson

    I wish you well Rosie. I have on occasion made things~ like a faux fur waist coat with leopard faux long sleeved gloves~ mixing with nipple jooje message~ in amongst where drag queens dare to saunter in Perth as part of an AIDS benefit. And on or around Christmas in the 1980’s ,I dressed up as a pantomine cow in black, white hessian on cardboaard to entertain the women at Greeham Common, England over Christmasxx.

  • Reply November 30, 2012

    Shiralee

    The said thing is that as we get older we are told our dreams etc are stupid and a waste of time. Thats why we all have such low estem.

  • Reply November 30, 2012

    ro.watson

    We need more safety pins.

  • Reply November 30, 2012

    ro.watson

    Meant Greenwich.

  • Reply November 30, 2012

    ro.watson

    Greeenwich/Deptford is a place on the Thames River where the convict hulk boats stayed until they were sent to~ yoo hoo, Australia. I wish all those who have escaped persecution and tyrannny and arrived in a safe place~peace and goodwill~ and warning such greetings are not always avaialble here,but that does not mean you are not welcome..

  • Reply November 30, 2012

    ro.watson

    ….and of course I meant “tyranny”….

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