September 2, 2017

The Words by Alan Watts that Woke me Up Last Night.

Last night, last sunset at this place

A post shared by Sara Kärpänen (@sarakarpanen) on

“I’m a bit scared about the change,” I wrote to my friend.

I am about to move to a new home—again. I am about to leave an artist community behind that I had lived in and loved for four years.

But, I need a change—I’ve needed it for a long time now. So, there I was having all these nervous and exciting thoughts about the new place and the bittersweet memories of the past after packing all my belongings in piles of boxes and bags.

His response was, “Search, ‘What do you desire,’ on YouTube.”

Intrigued by such straightforward advice, I did it. “What do you desire” is an amazing speech by Alan Watts.

After watching the video, I immediately had to write.

I already knew. The answer was there—I had the answer myself.

“Better to have a short life that is full of what you like doing, than a long life spent in a miserable way. And after all, if you do really like what you’re doing, it doesn’t matter what it is, you can eventually turn it—you could eventually become a master of it. It’s the only way to become a master of something, to be really with it.” ~ Alan Watts

What would you do, if money was no object? Because really, that is all that matters in life. That is a meaningful life—a creative life, if you ask me.

I can’t force myself to spend 40 hours a week on something that doesn’t make me happy. I acknowledge how privileged I am—and, quite likely, if you are reading this on your laptop or iPhone, in your room or office or on a bus, so are you.

It is a choice—our choice to live our lives as we want to.

It doesn’t matter if, “Art doesn’t make money.” It doesn’t mean f*ck all.

I wrote this article about the suffering artist syndrome two years ago. Because I was—and still am—sick of artists complaining how hard their lives are.

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t care about money, but your life is already rich if you do what is your heart’s desire—if you do what you really want.

It’s not easy, but you’ll be guaranteed to feel alive.

So ask yourself now, “What do I desire?”

“Don’t worry too much. Somebody is interested in everything, anything you can be interested in, you will find others will.” ~ Alan Watts



Author: Sara Kärpänen
Image: @sarakarpanen & Renegade98 / Flickr
Copy editor: Yoli Ramazzina

You must be logged in to post a comment. Create an account.

Sara Kärpänen Sep 4, 2017 9:06pm

Linda Lewis thanks for your well-thought reply. From my perspective, and I'm talking mainly about arts here, it takes courage to stand behind your practice. To have an authentic voice, to have the guts to say, "I'm a painter/poet/photographer," whatever your passion is---no matter what, no matter of the paycheck, as you desricibed. But often, because of the worries we might have of the outcome or our income, we are lacking of that courage and we choose the "wise" thing instead of our true desires. For me, that is the "radical" thought from Alan Watts. To have the balls to study or make art if you wish to do that, without worrying whether that is great or not.

Linda Lewis Sep 4, 2017 2:07pm

I think I have been very fortunate in that I have so enjoyed teaching at every level, and though often I was not pd well, I didn't do it for the paycheck, I taught because I loved the students and so enjoyed their various ways of learning. This has been true whether teaching preschoolers, first graders, middle school, junior high, high school, or college; it has been true whether I was teaching world history, literature, drama etc. or writing courses; and it has been true whether teaching the buddhadharma or Shambhala...or simply being a meditation instructor. When one desires to be of benefit, there is no conflict between desire and service.

Sara Kärpänen Sep 3, 2017 10:32pm

Hi Linda and Karl. Yes, I agree that "how can I be of benefit/serve" is an important question to ask---however, I'd use it as a follow-up to "what do I desire."

Sara Kärpänen Sep 3, 2017 9:08pm

Thank you Michelle!

Karl Jacobs Sep 3, 2017 4:44am

yes, "how may I best serve?", is a good one to explore

Courtney Juelfs Sep 3, 2017 12:08am


Read Elephant’s Best Articles of the Week here.
Readers voted with your hearts, comments, views, and shares:
Click here to see which Writers & Issues Won.

Sara Kärpänen

Sara Kärpänen is arts and culture specialized editor on Elephant Journal. She changes her hats as a writer, curator, and an artist depending on the day. She is also a passionate amateur yogi and a crazy cat lady. Connect with Sara on her website, Instagram, and Twitter.