Shelves: reviews , alan-watts I have been listening to and reading Watts lately simply to learn more about him and his ideas. His ideas can work, up to a point, as metaphor, and I do appreciate a good metaphor; but when it comes to speaking of ultimate reality, he I have been listening to and reading Watts lately simply to learn more about him and his ideas. Despite his middle-class English background and rather elegant voice, he revels in American West coast slang of the sixties and seventies. The chapter titled "What are we doing? Talk about hitting the nail on the head! In about ten pages or so he effectively lays bare the entire root system of Western thought and, more importantly, details the problems and social ills that it brings about.
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I asked the boy beneath the pines. I look up at the sky above me. The shimmering heat casts a momentary spell over my senses; the high altitude starts to make me feel unsettled as unfamiliar sensations course through my body and mind. Something is struggling to release itself from the fetters of skin and bone that shroud me in mortality.
My inner self is striving to set itself free … Arkhip Kuindzhi, Cloud. Photograph: [Public Domain] WikiArt Mount Tamalpais has always been venerated for its mystical properties as well as being home to hermits and those looking for a reclusive existence.
One such creative endeavour on his alpine retreat was a personal journal, in which he collected his ideas on a vast array of topics dear to his heart, later published as Cloud-Hidden, Whereabouts Unknown. It would be soon after returning from a whirlwind lecture tour of Europe, Canada and the United States, that Alan passed away in his sleep in late on the mountain he came to revere.
Arkhip Kuindzhi, Waves. Photograph: [Public Domain] WikiArt April Ever since I can remember anything at all, the light, the smell, the sound and motion of the sea have been pure magic. Even the mere imitation of its presence—gulls flying a little way inland, the quality of light in the sky beyond the hills which screen it from view, the lowing of foghorns in the night. Although the rhythm of the waves beats a kind of time, it is not clock or calendar time.
It has no urgency. It happens to be timeless time. I know that I am listening to a rhythm which has been just the same for millions of years and it takes me out of a world of relentlessly ticking clocks. Clocks for some reason or other always seem to be marching and, as with armies, marching is never to anything but doom. But in the motion of waves, there is no marching rhythm. It harmonizes with our very breathing. It does not count our days.
Its pulse is not in the stingy spirit of measuring, of marking out how much still remains. It is the breathing of eternity, like the God Brahma of Indian mythology inhaling and exhaling, manifesting and dissolving the worlds, forever. As a mere conception, this might sound appallingly monotonous, until you come to listen to the breaking and washing of waves.
Thus, I have come to live right on the edge of the water. I have a studio, library, a place for writing on an old ferryboat tied up on the waterfront of Sausalito, north of San Francisco.
I suppose this place is the nearest thing in America to a Mediterranean fishing village. Steep hills clustered with little houses and below along the rim of the bay a forest of masts rocking almost imperceptibly against a background of water and wooded promontories.
But somehow the land-and-seascape absorbs and pacifies the mess. Sheds and shacks thrown together out of old timbers and plywood, heaps of disused lumber, rusted machinery and rotting hulls—all of this is transformed in the beneficent presence of the sea. Perhaps it is the quality of the light, especially early in the morning and towards evening, when the distinction between sky and water becomes uncertain when the whole of space becomes opalescent in a sort of pearly luminous grey and when the rising or setting moon is straw yellow.
In this light, all the rambling mess of sheds and junkyards is magical, blessed with the patterns of masts and ropes and boats at anchor. It all puts me in mind of landfalls a long way off and all the voyages one has dreamed of. I have the use of a small one-room cottage on the slopes of the mountain—Tamalpais—which I can see from the ferryboat. It is hidden in a grove of high eucalyptus trees and overlooks a long valley whose far side is covered with a dense forest of bay, oak and madrone so even in height that from a distance it looks like brush.
No human dwelling is in view and the principal inhabitant of the forest is a wild she-goat who has been there for at least nine years. Every now and then she comes out and dances upon the crown of an immense rock, which rises far out of the forest.
No one goes to the forest. I have been down to its edge, where there is a meadow, good for practising archery, and I think that one of these days I will explore the forest. But then again I may not, for there are places which people should leave alone … There are situations when one owes solitude to other people, if only not to them bother them. But more than this, the multitude needs solitaries as it needs postmen, doctors and fishermen.
They go out and they send, or bring, something back—even if they send no word and vanish finally from sight. The solitary is as necessary to our common sanity as wilderness, as the forest where no one goes, as the waterfall in a canyon, which no one has ever seen or heard.
We do not see our hearts. I do not expect to be all that solitary for, as a paradoxical person, I am also gregarious and favour the rhythm of withdrawal and return. To realize this one must go beyond what both distinguishes and segregates us as human beings—our thoughts and ideas. To put it in a rather extreme way: we are misled when we believe that our ideas represent or mirror nature as mere observers. The tree does not represent the fish, though both use light and water.
The point is rather that our thoughts and ideas are nature, just as much as waves on the ocean and clouds in the sky. The mind grows thoughts as the field grows grass. In solitude, it is easier for thoughts to leave themselves alone.
It is, thus, a mistake to try to get rid of thoughts, for who will push them out? But when thoughts leave themselves alone the mind clears up. Photograph: [Public Domain] WikiArt 25th January After the rains, the mountain stream at the bottom of the valley can be heard all night. It is not pushed from behind but falls with gravity. Heard from a distance, it sighs; close by, it burbles and chuckles, hisses and gurgles.
Whirligigs stay in the same places with very slight variations of pattern but the water goes on and on. The waters before, and the waters after, Now and forever flowing, follow each other. The flow of water, of wind and of fire is obvious, as is also the flow of thought. The flow of earth and rock is less obvious but in the long run, the hard is as liquid as the soft. Streams and waves never stop moving and yet they are at rest and restful to hear because they are in no hurry to reach any destination.
Indeed, they are not going anywhere at all. This is, of course, an illusion, in the sense that I, too, am in flow and likewise have no final destination—for can anyone imagine finality as a form? My death will be the disappearance of a particular pattern in the water.
Feeling all that I can possibly feel, aware of every level and dimension of experience, I find nothing but a streaming. There is simply no way of thinking or talking about It and the significance of this is not so much that there is indeed some unthinkable and transcendental It but that there is absolutely no way of standing outside It and getting hold of It.
It could, of course, be myself, considered as the relatively enduring centre of all my experiences. But if this is so, myself is beyond reach and the more I try to pin it down, the more it dissolves into the streaming—into various kinds of pulsing and textures of tensing only arbitrarily distinguishable from the sights and sounds of the world outside me.
But this particular kind of tension against the stream is habitual and the frustration which it engenders is chronic. If I believe that I would like to break the habit, that very wish is another form of the same tension, and this, in turn, is a form of the basic un-get-at-ability of It. We are all lunatics trying to stick pins into their own points and it is thus that our frantic efforts to set the world to rights and to extend our control over all happenings, inner and outer, are themselves the cause of most of our troubles.
All force is tension against the stream. Though the idea has been foreshadowed by Freud and stressed by William Reich, there had never been anything particularly ecstatic about psychoanalysts or their patients.
They seemed, on the whole, emotionally catharticized and drearily mature. Ecstasy, in the form of mystical experience, had also been the objective of a growing minority that, since the beginning of the century, had been fascinated with yoga, Tibetan Buddhism, Zen, Vedanta and other forms of Oriental meditation; and these people were rather serious and demure … Do not suppose, however, that we are merely a society of lotus-eaters, lolling on divans and cuddling lovely women. Ecstasy is something higher, or further out, than ordinary pleasure and few hippies realize that its achievement requires a particular discipline and skill that is comparable to the art of sailing.
We do not resist the vibrations, pulses and rhythms of nature, just as the yachtsman does not resist the wind. But he knows how to manage his sails and, therefore, can use the wind to go wherever he wishes. The art of life, as we see it, is navigation. Ecstasy is beyond pleasure. Ordinarily, one thinks of the rainbow spectrum of light as a band having red at one end and violet at the other, thus not seeing that violet is the mixture of red and blue.
The spectrum could, therefore, be displayed as a ring of concentric circles instead of a band but its eye-striking central circle would be where pale, bright yellow comes nearest to white light.
This would represent ecstasy. But it can be approached in two ways, starting from violet: through the blues and greens of pleasure or the reds and oranges of pain. This explains why ecstasy can be achieved in battle, by ascetic self-torture and through the many variations of sadomasochistic sexuality.
This we call the lefthand or negative approach. The righthand or positive approach is through activities that are loving and life-affirming. As soon as we freed ourselves from the mirage of hurrying time—which was nothing more than the projection of our own impatience—we were alive again, as in childhood, to the miracles and ecstasies of ordinary life. You would be astounded at the beauty of our homes, our furniture, our clothes, and even our pots and pans, for we have the time to make most of these things ourselves and the sense of reality to see that they—rather than money—constitute genuine wealth.
Photograph: [Public Domain] WikiArt November transcription of a lecture We know that from time to time there arise among human beings people who seem to exude love as naturally as the sun gives out heat. Unfortunately, they often go about this task as one would attempt to make the tail wag the dog.
I remember that when I was a small boy in school, I was enormously interested in being able to do my schoolwork properly. I was extremely puzzled. There were teachers who apparently knew how to work and who had attained considerable heights of scholarship. I would imitate their style of handwriting they used. I would use the same the same kind of pen. I would affect the same speech and gestures and, insofar as I could get around the school uniform, even clothing.
This was a private school in England, not a public school in America. None of this revealed the secret. I was, as it were, copying the outward symptoms and knew nothing of the inner fountain of being able to work. Exactly the same thing is true in the case of people who love.
Cloud-hidden, Whereabouts Unknown
Alan Watts: Cloud-Hidden, Whereabouts Unknown