Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Waxing philosophical with Alan Watts this morning

Alan Watts, one of the great philosophical minds of the 20th century, has been one of my heroes for decades. He always makes me go a bit deeper in my own musings of life.

This morning  I listened to part of a tape I had never heard, and what struck me about what he said, was that the lifestyle of the west, and the problems of the choices made, are certainly not wholly applicable to many potters and other independent artists, writers, etc. 

Here's a partial quote from the video link at the end of this post:

"We want to get everything done as fast as possible. We want to convert the rhythms and the skills of work into cash. Which indeed you can buy something with, but you can’t eat it.
And then rush home, to get away from work and begin the real business of life, to enjoy ourselves. You know, for the vast majority of American families, what seems to be the real point of life, what you rush home to get to. Is to watch an electronic reproduction of life, you can’t touch, it doesn’t smell, and it has no taste. You might think that people getting home to the real point of life in a robust material culture would go home to a colossal banquet or an orgy of love-making or a riot of music and dancing, but nothing of the kind.
It turns out to be this purely passive, contemplation of a twittering screen. You see mile after mile of darkened houses with that little electronic screen flickering in the room. Everybody isolated, watching this thing, and thus in no real communion with each other at all. And this isolation of people into a private world of their own is really the creation of a mindless crowd.
And so, we don’t get with each other except for public expressions of getting rid of our hostility, like football or prizefighting."

Reading this brought back into memory, an incident from over 30 years ago. Our regular gardeners with their leaf blowers and other noisy landscaping tools had a friend sub for then one time. I saw his truck, but no noise was forthcoming, so I peeked up the long driveway toward my studio and there he was sweeping our driveway with a huge palm frond. This very spiritual fellow, brought his meditation to his work. He's didn't seem to separate his life into little, exclusionary boxes.

From my own experiences and what I've seen with fellow artists is that we have chosen a lifestyle that permits us to work in our own rhythms much more than the person who has to follow someone elses clock. We take a studio break, go visit a fellow potter, maybe take a break to work in the garden, or feed the chickens. We often don't keep regular hours; but instead, fit the work into our own rhythms. Maybe that's why so many potters and other self employed creative people often live long and productive lives even in their eighties and nineties, waking each morning with a creative purpose, knowing that they can and will work at their own pace, following no clock other than their own internal rhythms.

Here the video if you want to hear the whole essay.


  1. Great post. You might try reddit, about which you can get info at tech report. And also: another great site. It's out there if you look (and listen). Weren't you in the ASheville area before moving to Oregon? We recently moved from there to CA but are thinking of Oregon for our next leg. Hope your health improves; it's not exciting to be old. - Henry Pope, mikpo pottery