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 — because that’s the end!
But we don’t see that as 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 a great thing because when you finish that you’ll 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 go to high school and it’s revving up — The thing is coming! — then you’re gonna 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.
Then you get into some racket where you’re selling insurance, and they’ve got that quota to make and you’re gonna 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, you say, “My God, I’ve arrived! I’m there!” And you don’t feel very different from what you always felt. And there’s a slight let down because you feel there was 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 dance, while the music was being played.
[…] Alan Watts Transcript found at: https://joshallan.com/2012/12/10/life-and-music-by-alan-watts-with-transcript/ […]
Thank you for this beautiful text. I wonder, would you know in which of his works does Watts explain this idea?
Wow great question! Did some online searching, and I still have no idea…! If anyone finds it, please post it here!