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The Wisdom of Insecurity: A Message for an Age of Anxiety Paperback – February 8, 2011
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“Reading Alan Watts challenges us to explore new avenues of thinking, inspires us to lead more fulfilling lives. His legacy lives on in The Wisdom of Insecurity, a work that energetically displays Watts’s piercing intellect, razor-sharp wit, and winning grace. For the clarity and wisdom with which it engages timeless concerns crucial to us all, it is unmatched. An important book.”
—Greg Mortenson, author of Three Cups of Tea
“Perhaps the foremost interpreter of Eastern disciplines for the contemporary West, Watts had the rare gift of ‘writing beautifully the unwritable.’”
—Los Angeles Times
“The wisdom of insecurity is not a way of evasion, but of carrying on wherever we happen to be stationed—carrying on, however, without imagining that the burden of the world, or even of the next moment, is ours. It is a philosophy not of nihilism but of the reality of the present—always remembering that to be of the present is to be, and candidly know ourselves to be, on the crest of a breaking wave.”
—Philip Wheelwright, Arts and Letters
“This book proposes a complete reversal of all ordinary thinking about the present state of man. The critical condition of the world compels us to face this problem: how is man to live in a world in which he can never be secure, deprived, as many are, of the consolations of religious belief? The author shows that this problem contains its own solution—that the highest happiness, the supreme spiritual insight and certitude are found only in our awareness that impermanence and insecurity are inescapable and inseparable from life. Written in a simple and lucid style, it is a timely message.”
—Book Exchange (London)
About the Author
Alan W. Watts, who held both a master’s degree in theology and a doctorate of divinity, is best remembered as an interpreter of Zen Buddhism in particular, and of Indian and Chinese philosophy in general. Standing apart, however, from sectarian membership, he has earned the reputation of being one of the most original and “unrutted” philosophers of the twentieth century. Watts was the author of some twenty books on the philosophy and psychology of religion that have been published in many languages throughout the world, including the bestselling The Way of Zen. An avid lecturer, Watts appeared regularly on the radio and hosted the popular television series, Eastern Wisdom and Modern Life, in the 1960s. He died in 1973.
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And I understand why he would say that. I understood (albeit not perfectly) the message that he is trying to pass on. Watts is the most Eastern Westerner I know. His philosophies, particularly in this book, can lead into a metaphysical web that could leave you stuck indefinitely. At this same time, if you peel back the philosophical layers, which he helps you do at times, you will notice that the message, at its core, is always simple. He is begging the reader not to eliminate the ego, but to come to a full realization, a hyper awareness of sorts, that there is NO ego - that the ego, or the "I," is simply a figment of imagination. There is no method to achieve this hyper-awareness, no guide, no set of instructions, but only this imperative: "Look!"
I may be just a tad bit too simplistic to fully grasp the significance of this, but I believe that at times I caught a glimpse of the implications of Watt's message. To live perfectly in the moment, to understand that the experience and the "experiencer" are one in the same just as a wave is not part of the ocean, but is the ocean, all of it - I can begin to fathom how one would be able to shed so much pretense and predispositions. Or not, I don't know.
My personal opinion is that there are gems in this book, but as it is with all things, anything in excess is harmful. This book sells Eastern thought in its entirety, and I believe that no, Alan Watt's does not have the answer to the meaning of life (which he would probably agree to me saying) and I don't think you'll find in this book all the answers to your questions. It is a refreshing read though, at least it was for me. I really had to break down my mind, my prejudices, my perceptions and realize that my reality is truly the product of my own mind - and that I can change that, if I want to.
In any case, a worthy read, but definitely not a book if you're looking for "10 Ways to Reduce Anxiety." It is rather an exhortation to awareness.
Over and over he points out what is real (what we all know), and yet indescribable;
"What is true and positive is too real and too living to be described, and to try to describe it is like putting red paint on a red rose." (p.76)
"Indeed, every experience is in this sense new, and at every moment in our lives we are in the midst of the new and unknown. At this point you receive the experience without resisting it or naming it, and the whole sense of conflict between "I" and the present reality vanishes." (p.94)
"The meaning of freedom can never be grasped by the divided mind. If I feel separate from my experience, and from the world, freedom will seem to be the extent to which I can push the world around, and fate the extent to which the world pushes me around. But to the whole mind there is no contrast of "I" and the world. There is just one process acting, and it does everything that happens.... No one fates and no one is being fated." (p. 122)
And the way he finishes the book is perhaps best of all;
"Discovering this the mind becomes whole; the split between I and me, man and the world, the ideal and the real, comes to an end. Paranoia, the mind beside itself, becomes metanoia, the mind with itself and so free from itself. Free from clutching at themselves the hands can handle; free from looking at themselves the eyes can see; free from trying to understand itself thought can think. In such feeling, seeing, and thinking life requires no future to complete itself nor explanation to justify itself. In this moment it is finished." (p. 152)
And he could just as easily have said, in this moment it begins.
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Essentially, the whole book is an elaboration of an idea that Watts so...Read more