• Warrick

5 quotes from Alan Watts that will change your life

Have we got things backwards?


Hello fellow Protagonists,


Alan Watts was a Philosopher who although spent the majority of his life in America, was born in the UK. His focus was to bring a more Eastern philosophy to our Western culture, or at least to help us to see things from a different point of view.


There are more thought provoking quotes from Alan Watts than I could possible ever fit into one post. I have selected five quotes that had meaning for me and will hopefully help you adventurers to spend the next few minutes to see things from some interesting perspectives.


1. "The harder we try to catch hold of the moment, to seize a pleasant sensation, the more elusive it becomes. It is like trying to clutch water in one's hands - the harder one grips, the faster it slips through one's fingers."


This is essentially telling us that trying to delay time is also a way of trying to resist the present. We can try and force a positive experience so much that we end up missing the point of that moment.


What jumps out here would be booking holidays. Not only can we try and hurry time on the build up to a holiday because we want to be there more than we want to be in our current existence. We may also place such an emphasis and meticulously plan our time on making sure that we are relaxed or having fun when we are finally on that holiday that we prevent ourselves from being in the moment and soaking it all in.


In a way a lot of us do this every weekend, trying to grip hold of a Sunday evening so hard that it appears to just slip away from us.


2. "The truth is revealed by removing things that stand in its light, an art not unlike sculpture, in which the artist creates, not by building, but by hacking away."


This is similar to a post I wrote recently on freedom. There is too much in the world to experience and possess in a single lifetime. This means that we have to be careful about selecting what matters to us as we have no choice but to focus on something and push other things aside. There is simply not enough of us to go around.


Freedom is found in the removal of things rather than accumulation.


I have started to read Walden by Henry David Thoreau and within this the four main needs are highlighted as food, shelter, clothes and fuel. I had heard this book was a staple for anyone looking to employ a little minimalism in their life, and I can see why already.


Pretty much anything above our basic needs are then our choice on what we will prioritise and what we will ignore.


3. "The desire for security and the feeling of insecurity are the same thing. To hold your breath is to lose your breath."


This quote stood out to me due to my other interest in personal finance. A common tip is to build and emergency fund of money on the side to cover some of life's challenges. I had built up my own emergency fund and still felt this was not enough and I think that this quote really helps to understand why it seemed that way.


In reality we are never fully secure because of the impermanence of all things. There can also be no security without insecurity. It is like Yin and Yang where one must exist for the other to exist.


If we desire something then we must also feel that we do not currently have the thing we are desiring. It is similar to my previous post on One Dark-side of Personal Development where wanting to improve on something can lead us to feel that we are broken in some way.


4. "We seldom realise, for example that our most private thoughts and emotions are not actually our own. For we think in terms of languages and images which we did not invent, but which were given to us by our society."


I am saving this one to near the end as it is a bit of a mind-fuck.


Wording and memories come from our experiences which is why we all think differently. If we had a completely different upbringing, like in a different part of the world, then we probably wouldn't think the same as we do now.


If this is the case then how can our thinking really be us if it was completely dependent on what has happened, has countless variations and can also change in the future.


The part of our mind that provides us with thoughts cannot be us, otherwise why would it feel the need to talk to us in the first place?


5. "The meaning of life is just to be alive. It is so plain and so obvious and so simple. And yet, everybody rushes around in a great panic as if it were necessary to achieve something beyond them."


Probably best to leave this one as it is, essentially life is not a problem to be solved but something to be lived in.


I hope that these five quotes gave you some food for thought today.


Alan Watts is definitely on my list of the 5 people I would invite to dinner. Fortunately we have books and interviews to be able to keep the thinking and messages of people alive.


Keep reading books because they are usually the truest reflection of what somebody said. An original copy of a book cannot be changed once it has been printed, online articles certainly can and are.


GLHF (Good Luck Have Fun)


Warrick


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Other posts you might be interested in:


Two new takes on the meaning of real freedom

One dark-side of personal development

Borrowing time from the present


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