Alan Watts on The 5 Most Important Lessons of The 21st Century

If he believed time existed, Watts was way ahead of his.

Joe Hunt
Joe Hunt
May 5, 2020 · 15 min read
A Painting of the philosopher Alan Watts on a gallery wall
A Painting of the philosopher Alan Watts on a gallery wall
Alan Watts painting, Neil Staeck, Flickr

Lesson #1: On the meaning of life

“To know that you can do nothing is the beginning. Lesson One is: “I Give Up”… What happens now? You find yourself in what is perhaps a rather unfamiliar state of mind.” Just watching. Not trying to get anything. Not expecting anything. Not seeking. Just trying to relax. Just watching, without purpose.” — Alan Watts, Become What You Are

“Get rid of knowledge; eject wisdom, and the people will be benefited a hundred-fold” — Lao-tzu

Lesson #2: On uncertainty & insecurity

“To be secure means to isolate and fortify the “I”, but it is just the feeling of being an isolated “I” which makes me feel lonely and afraid. In other words, the more security I can get, the more I shall want”. To put it still more plainly: the desire for security and the feeling of insecurity are the same thing. To hold your breath is to lose your breath.” — Alan Watts, The Wisdom of Insecurity

“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”―Heraclitus

“The more a thing tends to be permanent, the more it tends to be lifeless.” — Alan Watts

Lesson #3: On religion & faith

“Religions are divisive and quarrelsome. They are a form of one-upmanship because they depend upon separating the “saved” from the “damned,” the true believers from the heretics, the in-group from the out-group. . . . All belief is fervent hope, and thus a cover-up for doubt and uncertainty.” — Alan Watts, The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are

“The experience of pain is universal, and all religion starts from pessimism, for without the experience of pain in one form or another there will be no reflection on life and without reflection no religion.” — D.T. Suzuki, Ignorance and World Fellowship, 1936

Lesson #4: On Taoism & nature

“How does one bring oneself into accord with it [the Tao]?” “If you try to accord with it, you will get away from it”. For to imagine there is a “you” separate from life which somehow has to accord with life is to fall straight into the trap. If you try to find the Tao, you are at once presupposing a difference between yourself and the Tao.” —Alan Watts, Become What You Are

Lesson #5: On the present moment

“I have realised that the past and the present are real illusions, that they exist only in the present, which is what there is and all that there is. From one point of view, the present is shorter than a microsecond. From another, it embraces all eternity. But there isn’t anywhere, or anywhen, else to be.” — In My Own Way: An Autobiography by Alan W. Watts

References:

Age of Awareness

Stories providing creative, innovative, and sustainable…

Sign up for Age of Awareness - Rethinking the ways we learn

By Age of Awareness

Stories providing creative, innovative, and sustainable changes to the ways we learn  Take a look

By signing up, you will create a Medium account if you don’t already have one. Review our Privacy Policy for more information about our privacy practices.

Check your inbox
Medium sent you an email at to complete your subscription.

Joe Hunt

Written by

Joe Hunt

Mindfulness advice fit for the modern world: remind.substack.com

Age of Awareness

Stories providing creative, innovative, and sustainable changes to the ways we learn

Joe Hunt

Written by

Joe Hunt

Mindfulness advice fit for the modern world: remind.substack.com

Age of Awareness

Stories providing creative, innovative, and sustainable changes to the ways we learn

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store