The Wisdom of Insecurity: A Message for an Age of Anxiety
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We live in an age of unprecedented anxiety. Spending all our time trying to anticipate and plan for the future and to lamenting the past, we forget to embrace the here and now. We are so concerned with tomorrow that we forget to enjoy today. Drawing from Eastern philosophy and religion, Alan Watts shows that it is only by acknowledging what we do not—and cannot—know that we can learn anything truly worth knowing. In The Wisdom of Insecurity, he shows us how, in order to lead a fulfilling life, we must embrace the present—and live fully in the now. Featuring an Introduction by Deepak Chopra.
classifying, and making use of them in ways still more miraculous. But because it is the use and nature of words and thoughts to be fixed, definite, isolated, it is extremely hard to describe the most important characteristic of life—its movement and fluidity. Just as money does not represent the perishability and edibility of food, so words and thoughts do not represent the vitality of life. The relation between thought and movement is something like the difference between a real man running
third way will resurrect the very things one must deny in order to walk the path. “The reality which corresponds to ‘God’ and ‘eternal life’ is honest, above-board, plain, and open for all to see. But the seeing requires a correction of mind, just as clear vision sometimes requires a correction of the eyes.” It takes Watts twenty pages to reach this point, the real start of the journey, but by being simple, direct, and patient he creates a special atmosphere: the reader is beguiled into
forgetting that he ever disagreed with any of the arguments being placed before him. That’s an enviable thing for an author to do, and it was Watts’s special gift. He takes a pithy truth from, say, the Upanishads—that fear is born of duality—and spins a long chapter about how animals experience pain, simply and without dread, while human beings are overshadowed by anxiety because of our divided selves. I don’t want to give the impression that The Wisdom of Insecurity is Buddhism for dummies—far
trace of the past. It is like seeing the tracks of a bird on the sand. I see the present tracks. I do not, at the same time, see the bird making those tracks an hour before. The bird has flown, and I am not aware of him. From the tracks I infer that a bird was there. From memories you infer that there have been past events. But you are not aware of any past events. You know the past only in the present and as part of the present. We are seeing, then, that our experience is altogether momentary.
its time. Looking back, one realizes that Watts was a spiritual polymath, the first and possibly greatest of that type. He read omnivorously in philosophy, religion, psychology, and science—a sponge with a hundred arms, so to speak. He produced this little book at a turning point in his personal life. It was 1951, and he had just lost his vocation as an Episcopal priest, along with his young wife in a divorce. He had been following a longtime fascination with Zen Buddhism, leading him to spend