Today is a very special day for me because it’s the birthday of three of my greatest inspirations. Alan Watts, Syd Barrett and John Lilly. Lessons from Alan Watts have shifted my perspective of reality. Music from Syd Barrett and Pink Floyd has changed my life and opened up my soul. I always say Pink Floyd is soundtrack of my life. and John Lilly has taught me a lot about altered states, consciousness and fascinating sensory deprivation tank.
Alan Watts (Jan 6, 1915 – Nov 16, 1973) was a philosopher known for opening Western minds to Eastern wisdom. He called himself an entertainer, rather than a guru or teacher, and encouraged a dialogue that is increasingly relevant in the spectrum of current events. Intertwined with stunning scholarship, his buoyant humor resounds, linking many of us to the collective unconscious. He had an astonishing and an indescribable way of writing the unwritable.
Among all the qualities of this great orator and writer, he had an unique gift of expressing complex thoughts in the form of simple and illustrated thoughts. The simple way he exemplified and expressed all his reflections made him and universal philosopher, someone that could be comprehended by the vast majority of the people. Today, 102 years after his birth, I’m sharing some of his quotes that have deeply impacted my understanding of the human experience. Let’s see some of Alan Watts’ magic and awakening quotes.
1. “Man suffers only because he takes seriously what the gods made for fun.” – Alan Watts.
It is no news that we humans take things too seriously. We over think to the point where we become anxious. We over analyze and overvalue things to the point of depression.
If there was something thatwanted us to do is to enjoy life and live it as a joyous dance. We are a tiny spot in an enormous, out-of-our-eyes universe, no need to take things too seriously! Go out and enjoy this beautiful experience!
2. “Muddy water is best cleared by leaving it alone.” – Alan Watts.
This quote makes reference to the reverse effort principle. Whatsimply wants to say is to don’t force things, don’t create tension. Sometimes things work out better if we let them flow and simply “happen”.
Just as floating in the water, it is not about the effort we put into floating but about letting go! Flow as water!
3. “To have faith is to trust yourself to the water. When you swim you don’t grab hold of the water, because if you do you will sink and drown. Instead you relax, and float.” – Alan Watts.
This quote does much reference to the former one. Trust, as some people wrongly conceive, is not about holding on to things or people, it is about letting go and having faith in the process.
In life, we can’t hold on to fears, over constructed thoughts, or plans. Any of this security searching habits and trust habits will only impede us from moving forward and really enjoying life. Let go and trust the waters!
4.“The more a thing tends to be permanent, the more it tends to be lifeless.” – Alan Watts.
A common seen reflection in the Eastern philosophies is the thought that life’s essence is the impermanence we find in it, something which is certainly true. Life is all about the process between life and death, creation and destruction, change.
Everything changes every moment. Cells multiply, plants grow, universe expands. Everything which is alive will be in constant motion, and this is the beauty of life. It is always passionate to change and it always brings something new to us! We have to acknowledge this as our nature, for it is!
5. “Things are as they are. Looking out into the universe at night, we make no comparisons between right and wrong stars, nor between well and badly arranged constellations.” – Alan Watts.
Mr. Watts made a lot of emphasis on the inefficient word system we use. Words exist thanks to a contrast with other words. Right exists because there is wrong to contrast with.
Alan Watts saw this system of naming meaningless, for there is no bad or good, negative or positive. Ultimately everything is the same, just a different side of the same coin. To live life fully and with no restrictions, we have to acknowledge that any experience is just an experience and a learning process. If we constantly oppose to one side of the coin we will never see life as it really is, a color pallet with many different colors and shades.
6. “No one is more dangerously insane than one who is sane all the time: he is like a steel bridge without flexibility, and the order of his life is rigid and brittle.” – Alan Watts.
Rigidity is just a synonym of boring, unnatural and narrow vision. In life it is essential to flow as water, this is why so many Eastern philosophers refer to water as a great teacher.
Life is wiggly and spontaneous, being rigid in life will only lead us to a boring, narrow path in life. We won’t enjoy fully and at the end of the curse we will notice that we have wasted all of our time. Be like water!
7. “We do not “come into” this world; we come out of it, as leaves from a tree.” – Alan Watts.
One of the greatest problems of society that Alan Watts pointed out is the intense separation between man and nature. Human beings tend to see themselves as aliens that came to Earth.
We have a constant will to change, destroy and manipulate nature. We, forgetting that we are also nature, are subjects to all the consequences of our acts. Global warming, total destruction of our resources, water pollution… There will arrive the moment were all of us notice that we are connected to this world and universe, just as the roots of a tree are connected to earth. We can’t keep going like this! Earth dies, we die!
8. “Without birth and death, and without the perpetual transmutation of all the forms of life, the world would be static, rhythm-less, undancing, mummified.” – Alan Watts.
Doubtlessly, what makes this world a beautiful experience is, the impermanence and mutability of all things. This world will always have a mysterious and unpredictable way of flow.
Everything is changing and it is necessary that we acknowledge that and live with it. We are organic to this world, an so, we are submit to change too. We cant oppose to our nature, we have to admit and flow with this beautiful dance.
9. “Only words and conventions can isolate us from the entirely undefinable something which is everything.” – Alan Watts.
Alan Watts held a firm point of view were he saw all life as something undefinable and with a sole purpose of experiencing it. He always said that this universe cant be defined by worlds and that the harder we try to do this the more we separate from the real experience.
To live this experience we have to see the object that we point at with our finger, not our finger. In other words, we have to live each experience and not try to define it!
10. “…tomorrow and plans for tomorrow can have no significance at all unless you are in full contact with the reality of the present, since it is in the present and only in the present that you live.” – Alan Watts.
Alan Watts was clearly a follower of an Eastern philosophy type of view. Something that any Eastern philosophy pushed on was the fact of living in the present.
It is more than true that only by living in the present we really enjoy all the pleasures of live, and more so, we eliminate any fear of the future, anxiety or depression. Making plans for the future is only useful for those who know how to enjoy this future when it arrives. It is useless to live for a future when we don’t live it when it arrives. Learn to enjoy the now and you will be able to enjoy everything else that comes at you!
11. “Problems that remain persistently insoluble should always be suspected as questions asked in the wrong way” – Alan Watts.
All problems have a solution, problems are soluble in solutions, and solutions are inexhaustible. We have powerful minds which work by creativity and logic, we certainly have the power to create solutions.
Alan Watts, with his positive mindset, had a great ability to pose problems and find their solutions. We all can do this, it takes breathing, calming down and concentrating! Sometimes it is all about how we approach the problem!
Alan Watts was a prolific writer and speaker. Other than this there are lot of interesting topics but time is limit so I am sharing some links to reference material. Quotes are sourced from audio lectures found on alanwatts.org and alanwatts.com. Hearing his voice and cadence drives his message to a deeper level; I recommend Alan Watts 101 for short animated videos coupled with some of my favorite talks.
In my next post I will talk about Syd Barret and John Lilly. I hope you find it as interesting as I did!