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Spiritual can mean Everyday
on July 12, 2005
The apparent simplicity of a statement like "This is it" is beautiful, and at the same time it is clear and equivocal. Why would we be dissatisfied with "This is it" as an explanation, proclamation, or celebration? Perhaps because we have been conditioned to expect more before ever being given the chance to appreciate the immanent.
Aside from theology, no field is more guilty of overlooking the "here and now" than philosophy - overlooking it, or simply missing it. But Alan Watts believes in a philosophy that is true to its spirit, the love of wisdom. "Such philosophy will not preach or advocate practices leading to improvement." As he understands it "the work of the philosopher as artist is to reveal and celebrate the eternal and purposeless background of human life." It may seem presumptuous for Watts to use the word purposeless, but if fact it's the opposite. To begin with, in relationships that involve observation, appreciation, celebration, or interaction with the "here and now," (life) there should be no assumptions made regarding a purpose. Assuming a purpose is already removing oneself from the "here and now" by imposing an impression that only could have been established through time, in the past. In truth, the purpose or lack thereof is not important.
We don't realize how many of these assumptions form the base for all that we experience. Watts pulls a wonderful line from Dostoyevsky: "Man is unhappy because he doesn't know he's happy. It's only that...If anyone finds out he'll become happy at once, that minute." Watts isn't trying to imply that happiness is easy. But we don't make things easier on ourselves by entangling ourselves in webs of assumption, dogma, and rigidity.
Alan Watts is very intelligent, and very interesting - a combination not found in too many philosophers at all, let alone in the twentieth century. Though he would never claim to be offering any type of assistance or prescription, it is likely that this book will inspire you to see the world from another angle or two.