Navigating Right Livelihood (are design professions wrong livelihood?)

Although The Buddha often made explicit lists of things to avoid like the 5 precepts; 5 heinous crimes; 5 wrong livelihoods etc, I assume he also trusted that the steadfast would also learn to decide for themselves what is wholesome and unwholesome in the areas his lists didn’t cover. I do this by making inferences from stories and ideas in the suttas. Much of it is common sense, but livelihood is where it gets trickier for me.

It feels akin to a minefield. That is finding a profession that I can’t pick apart and find something unwholesome about. The story of Talaputta effectively rules out most of the arts, right? I mean, what form of creative expression doesn’t cement the consumer of said expression’s delusion in some way? I gave up on promising ambitions for being a filmmaker, perhaps against my instincts at the time that persist to this day, because I decided I didn’t want to entertain audiences with a fake concoction of emotions. Well I did, actually. But I figured it wasn’t right livelihood.

I made the switch to urbanism. I’m currently studying urban design at university. Now the story of Talaputta is giving me cold feet yet again. Undeniably, an aspect of urban design is designing places that please the senses. Perhaps by designing a tranquil public space, by designing a busy and engaging street scene or maybe just by designing something visually beautiful/delightful. If I go through with this profession, millions of people will inhabit and walk through these creations of mine for potentially hundreds of years (that I will have spent months designing, you can’t have more ‘volition’ than sitting at a desk drawing blueprints). Am I overthinking this? Or do I possibly have to consider other livelihoods yet again (regrettably, my skillset at this point in my life seems to begin and end in the creative fields).

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Although The Buddha often made explicit lists of things to avoid like the 5 precepts; 5 heinous crimes; 5 wrong livelihoods etc, I assume he also trusted that the steadfast would also learn to decide for themselves what is wholesome and unwholesome in the areas his lists didn’t cover. I do this by making inferences…

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