What If Money Was No Object?: Thoughts on the Art of Living from Eastern Philosopher Alan Watts

Alan Watts came to San Fran­cis­co dur­ing the ear­ly 1950s, wrote his best­seller Way of Zen, and became one of the fore­most pop­u­lar­iz­ers of Zen Bud­dhism, Hin­duism, Tao­ism and var­i­ous forms of East­ern phi­los­o­phy. His TV show, East­ern Wis­dom and Mod­ern Life (1960), intro­duced Amer­i­cans to the seem­ing­ly exot­ic con­cept of med­i­ta­tion (watch here). And his radio show and lec­tures forced lis­ten­ers to pause and look at their lives from a fresh per­spec­tive. Again and again, Watts chal­lenged the West­ern empha­sis on mon­ey-mak­ing to the exclu­sion of all else. We’ve heard Watts rail against this soul-crush­ing val­ue in a lec­ture ani­mat­ed by the cre­ators of South Park. (I’m not kid­ding you.) And, in the new­ly-pro­duced video above, he con­tin­ues along the same tra­jec­to­ry. So, as you drink your morn­ing cof­fee and pon­der your day, ask your­self: Are you putting mon­ey-mak­ing before hap­pi­ness itself? Or are you pur­su­ing the pas­sions that bring hap­pi­ness, achiev­ing excel­lence, and then let­ting the mon­ey fol­low? With that, I’ll let you con­tin­ue with your day.

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Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Art of Liv­ing: A Free Stan­ford Course Explores Time­less Ques­tions

Alan Watts On Why Our Minds And Tech­nol­o­gy Can’t Grasp Real­i­ty

The Wis­dom of Alan Watts in Four Thought-Pro­vok­ing Ani­ma­tions

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Comments (7)
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  • …if you wake up 10 days in a row, won­der­ing why you are cur­rent­ly doing what you do, then you haven’t found some­thing that tru­ely moti­vates you. Or it is time to move on. You see, life is to short, to spend your time doing things you don’t real­ly feel like doing. Life is too short to ful­fil oth­er people’s expec­ta­tions and not your own. Life is to short to nev­er take a shot at your dreams.Thanks for the great post! Best, Chris

  • Asgard Clone says:

    As usu­al with these inspi­ra­tional what­sits, there is an assump­tion that 1. you know what you want to do and 2. what­ev­er it is, it will be some­thing that does­n’t tra­di­tion­al­ly earn mon­ey.

  • Anna says:

    Since Asgard Clone’s state­ment ends the dis­cus­sion on such a neg­a­tive, I feel com­pelled to reverse the direc­tion. What­ev­er you might believe about these “inspi­ra­tional assump­tions”, it still holds true that to waste time being mis­er­able on a dai­ly basis just to earn mon­ey is no way to live a life. I find that most peo­ple who are 18 or 21 or even 25 and don’t know what they want to do, actu­al­ly haven’t decid­ed yet because they are inter­est­ed in more than one thing! So why not encour­age them to try them out? As Joseph Camp­bell, anoth­er West­ern teacher of mythol­o­gy and reli­gion liked to say, “fol­low your bliss”. As long as you’re not hurt­ing oth­ers, do what makes you hap­py, because yes, life is too short not to. :)

  • kim says:

    this video is marked pri­vate, is there a way to view it?

  • David says:

    The title grates on my nerves. Alan Watts was much too artic­u­late to have labeled any­thing: “What if mon­ey WAS…” Alan Watts would have rec­og­nized that the sub­junc­tive was required here: “What is mon­ey WERE no object.….”

  • Steve says:

    @David: “What IF mon­ey WERE no object…”

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.