Alan Watts: Beautiful Thoughts in a Time of Fear

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Alan Watts was a speaker, writer, and self described “philosophical entertainer” who became famous in the mid 20th Century for bringing the teachings of Eastern Philosophy (such as Zen Buddhism) to the West. Although he died in the ’70s, his books and recorded speeches still have a large, devoted following and rightly so. Watts had an ability with language that was really very unusual. He was often able to describe ideas in a such a way that was simultaneously eye opening and yet poetic and beautiful.  

Below are several quotes from him that hopefully a little weight off of your soul in a time of uncertainty and fear.


“We do not “come into” into this world; we come out of it, as leaves from a tree. As the ocean “waves,” the universe “peoples.” Every individual is an expression of the whole realm of nature, a unique action of the total universe. This fact is rarely, if ever, experienced by most individuals. Even those who know it to be true in theory do not sense or feel it, but continue to be aware of themselves as isolated “egos” inside bags of skin.”


“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.”


“The desire for security and the feeling of insecurity are the same thing. To hold your breath is to lose your breath. A society based on the quest for security is nothing but a breath-retention contest in which everyone is as taut as a drum and as purple as a beet.” 


“The meaning of life is just to be alive. It is so plain and so obvious and so simple. And yet, everybody rushes around in a great panic as if it were necessary to achieve something beyond themselves.”


“The reason you want to be better is the reason that you aren’t.”


Below are some of my favorite speeches of his. Although his quotes are impactful and moving, listening to him speak is something else. Enjoy.


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