Monday, 29 April 2013

On Alan Watts.

What do you really think about the prospect of dying and vanishing forever? The possibility of everything becoming nothing or the prospect of being alone at the moment of death while the world goes on oblivious to what we were, have been and soon will be-a cold isolated gravestone or a pot of ash. 

Would it make you feel any better if on your deathbed someone told you ( and you have no family ) that an asteroid was going to obliterate the planet after your death ? Would you care ? Most of the fear of death is the fear of being alone and of having never actually being fully aware while alive. We came from nothing and will return to the nothingness from which we came.

Only pain is to really that which is to be feared. And a life in which we gave our lives to chasing illusory dreams of "security" through acquiring the money alone that's then to be frittered away mostly on consumer junk. Step outside the treadmill and we can learn to live again. Alan Watts, a contemporary of Aldous Huxley, understood that.

As Watts remarked on those chasing the illusory phantoms of "security" through perpetual acquisition of money, such businessmen had never learn to appreciate the very quality of the life that we may simply live from day to day “No work for love will flourish out of guilt, fear, or hollowness of heart, just as no valid plans for the future can be made by those who have no capacity for living now.”.

The last two books by Watts , The Book on the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are and Tao :The Watercourse Way are classics of philosophy and theology much underappreciated in Watts's own country ( he was born in Britain, though lived most of his life In California ). There are also masterpieces of British ethical empiricism and literature.

Britain used to produce charming eccentrics ( Watts is often referred to be an "unrutted philosopher" ) But he was not a drippy hippy. He had wise insights into human existence that offer some way of getting out of the impasse of the universal egotism of both the Establishment and the egotistic "look at me protesters" in Britain in 2013.

As Watts remarked in The Book,." our usual ideas of " the effort to identify with others and their needs while still under the strong illusion of being a self contained ego. Such "unselfishness is apt to be a highly refined egotism, comparable to the in-group which plays the game "we're more tolerant than you". 

Indeed, of the militant, often hysterical self righteousness of some anti-Vietnam protesters he said "they hate the hating of hatred-three instead of one". Many radicals who hate war ( which breeds hatred ) hate that hatred so much they become pyschotic: in extreme cases they become worse when they assume power. 

Lenin was "anti-war" in 1916. He then went on to advocate revolutionary civil war which created a totalitarian regime that helped precipitate the rise of Nazism and World War Two. Nihilism is dangerous. That's what Watts was getting at. At the time Watts was writing in the 1960s ,the globe was divided into two heavily militarised camps threatening each other with nuclear annihiliation.

Those fools gloating over Thatcher being worm food or saying "the bitch is dead" could well learn from that simple maxim. As could the demagogues indulging in tribalistic in group warfare But then again their egotism makes them authentic children of Thatcher and the fools cannot look in the mirror and see it.

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