Preface by Chris Odell
Hello my fellow Datsusaras. As you know I haven't been particularly active on the blog since I started the Datsusara podcast. I find writing to be something I only do when I have time, focus and inspiration, and of late I usually lack at least one of those components. But I regularly meet interesting people that resonate with the Datsusara message and have something to say, so I'm going to start featuring some guest posts for you to enjoy.
Friend of Datsusara Bill Watts joins us today to share a great story about the Datsusara way that I think you'll enjoy. Bill studied kinesiology at the University of Texas, has published poems, short stories, and sport journalism, currently competes in BJJ as a purple belt, and is working on his debut novel.
Bill's Instagram: @werewolfvision
Guest post by Bill Watts (featured in the picture above)
One afternoon I was sitting down in a coffee shop sending out some emails for work, I know, not living up to the Datsusara standard. Out of nowhere a tall pale man with thick glasses, greying hair, and a stout belly walked straight at me. I tried to take shelter behind my laptop, pretending I wasn’t on edge as the man barreled at me.
“What does your shirt mean?” the man asked, pointing at my Datsusara branded T-shirt.
I pretended that I hadn’t noticed him making an aggressive beeline for my personal space, and calmly responded, “This? It says, ‘datsusara’. It means ‘to leave a salaried worker’s life behind’.” I smiled with idealism, ironic considering my current task.
His lips turned up faintly, “Hm, that’s wonderful. I lived in Japan for 17 years. I wasn’t sure if I was reading it correctly.”
“It’s a great message-”
“Japan is really struggling with that, people finding meaningful work that doesn’t leave them burned out, or borderline suicidal.”
“They’re really making strides to create programs to offer effective counseling, and help people find a meaningful profession, or find meaning in their profession.”
My eyebrows tightened in contemplation.
“Nice chatting with you. Have a good day,” he ended with his face beaming.
“Find meaning in a profession”? At first that sounds a lot different than “leaving the salaried workers life behind”. Moreover, how does one find meaning in a profession if the majority of jobs in the world are leaving people removed from their fellow humans? How can we foster spirit as our fingers remain shackled to keyboards to work on products that will have a life expectancy of several months before being surpassed by the latest and greatest piece of software. The modern working world looks like a rat race where people hardly understand or care about their vehicle. The result is more and more of the modern workforce is left fantasizing about digital nomadism, pursuing the van life, or finally finishing all of the steps The 4 Hour Work Week lays out. I would argue none of those are going to fill the hole in your heart.
Simply jetting off to a new location will have you bringing all of the depressing baggage that you thought was tied in with your worklife. You’ll be left halfway around the world wandering a foreign city thinking about what you’re going to do next,or how you can’t wait to go home and tell someone about your travels, aka not lost in the moment to moment blissful adventure like you envisioned yourself. If you’re bored, you’re boring; if you’re not happy you’ll bring that gloomy cloud with you and those negative thought patterns will seep out, eventually. You can’t take a vacation from your mind, and there’s only so much booze abroad one can take.
Depressed yet? Taking bidders for your soul? Ready to give in to your boss’s offer and move into middle management for that cushy corner office? Don’t, unless you can find a reason that that move is stimulating, that you will be positively impacting your immediate world. This brings me back to my aggressive intellectual coffee house suitor.
“Find meaning in a profession.”
Not everyone is destined to write the great American novel, invent a revolutionary product, or join the Peace Corps. Some people will be marketing coordinators, copywriters, and short order cooks but that’s more than okay. In a few years everyone’s star will fall, and in a generation or two their memory will be all but gone. There are people that revolutionized industries and have been largely forgotten. Everything goes away in the end.
Where’s the romanticism in life then? Should we all drudge on in our greys? What’s the catch? Why strive to live anything close to a lifestyle based on datsusara?
Leave the salaried worker’s life behind, aka stop quantifying yourself with money.
The term “salaried worker’s life” is depressing for one reason, it defines a human being as a machine that earns X. It has no emphasis on production, effort, or tangible impact, while leaving life equated to a number.
One of my family members sells pharmaceuticals. She works about 65 hours a week at a minimum and is hardly home. She is what most modern day idealists would identify as married to her work, but every time I talk to her she is stimulated with passion. She has a fire burning inside her because she is promoting a drug therapy to revolutionize breast cancer treatments. She has found meaning in her work as someone that will potentially save the lives of others.
I’m not writing this to debate the ethics of the pharmaceutical industry, my point is that every career can positively affect another life, and that’s the point of it all, right? What goes around comes around. One good deed begetting another and soon enough the entire community is smiling.
I’m all for idealized anarchy and I’ve lived in communist based groups, but until we see something close to it work on the macro I am hesitant to tell everyone to drop what they’re doing in the pursuit of an unclear goal. You can’t make a radical change and expect it to leave you satisfied just because it’s different. You need to figure out why what you do, or want to do, is important, then you can experience satisfaction. That’s when you’ve transcended the salaried worker’s life.