Share This: Alan Watts on “success” (with help from Matt Stone and Trey Parker)


In music, one doesn’t make the end of the composition the point of the composition. If that were so, the best conductors would be those who played fastest, and there would be composers who wrote only finales. People would go to concerts just to hear one crashing chord — and that’s the end!

But we don’t see that as, uh, something brought by our education into our everyday conduct. We’ve got a system of schooling that gives a completely different impression. It’s all graded and what we do is we put the child into the corridor of this grade system with a kind of “come on, kitty, kitty, kitty,” and now you go to kindergarten, you know, and that’s agreat 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 high school and it’s revving up — the thing is coming — and then you’ve got to go to college. And, by jove, then you get into graduate school. And when you’re through with graduate school you go out and join the world.

And then you get into some racket where you’re selling insurance and they’ve got that quota to make, and you’re going to make that. And all the time, the thing is coming. It’s coming, it’s coming — that great thing, the success you’re working for.
Then when you wake up one day about 40 years old and you say, “My god, I’ve arrived! I’m there!” And you don’t feel very different from what you’ve always felt and there’s a slight let down because you feel there’s a hoax. And there was a hoax. A dreadful hoax. They made you miss everything.

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 were supposed to sing or to dance while the music was being played.”

Alan Watts

In 2007, Southpark creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker created Southpark-style animation to these words, and this week it showed up in my in-box via a friend and Disclaimer: I’m not an Upworthy fan. But. If you liked reading the words, you might enjoy this animation of them:

One  lesson schools don’t teach

This week on Nothing By The Book: On big egos, scared-scarred little boys, and what to do, my girl, when one of them says you have a big ego