Enjoy the pebble

William Liao
2 min readMay 21, 2024

I was raised to seek utility in everything:

When I played video games, I was encouraged to consider what benefits they may confer: how a racing game might improve response time, or how a platforming game might improve spatial awareness.

During summers ‘breaks’, I made use of the time doing math and english work books.

Most ironically, when I’m taking breaks I often think about how that break is going to make me that much more productive when I resume working.

While this perspective has helped me in numerous ways personally and professionally, it’s also made it quite difficult at times to enjoy something for its own sake.

Yesterday I heard the philosopher Alan Watts say something in a lecture that helped me shelve this mindset for the first time in awhile:

“You pick up a pebble on the beach: look at it, beautiful, don’t try to get a sermon out of it…Do not feel that you have to salve your conscience by saying that this is for the advancement of your aesthetic understanding. Enjoy the pebble… if you can’t do that, if you can only do things because you are going to get something out of it, you are a vulture.”

A productivity-obsessed culture introduces a kind of perversion to the notion of recreation.

For example, the weekend or time off can quickly become a chore if they’re perceived only to be valuable only insofar as they allow us to ‘recharge’ and go back to work firing on cylinders.

Not everything needs to be maximized or needs to be a means to some productive end and, generally speaking, this makes more pleasant existence.

Enjoy the weekend to enjoy the weekend.

Dance to dance.

Enjoy the pebble.



William Liao

Taiwanese American, daily blogger of ideas about impactful work in service of others, photographer (ephemera.photography)