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Books Science

Nature, man and woman

We fail so easily to see the difference between fear of the unknown and respect for the unknown, thinking that those who do not hasten in with bright lights and knives are deterred by a holy and superstitious fear. Respect for the unknown is the attitude of those who, instead of raping nature, woo her until she gives herself. But what she gives, even then, is not the cold clarity of the surface but the warm inwardness of the body—a mysteriousness which is not merely a negation, a blank absence of knowledge, but that positive substance which we call wonderful.

— Alan Watts, Nature, Man and Woman

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Quotes Travel

‘Human beings can aquire a certain solitude, even in the middle of New York City’

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Every thing in the world, every event, is like a dewdrop on a multidimentional spider’s web, and every dewdrop contains the reflection of all the other dewdrops. But you see, the hermit finds this out through his solitide, and so also human beings can aquire a certain solitude, even in the middle of New York City. It’s rather easier, as a matter of fact, to find solitude in New York City than it is in Des Moines, Iowa.

Alan Watts, The Wisdom of Insecurity: A Message for an Age of Anxiety

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Books Life & Philosophy

Alan Watts: The Story of the Chinese Farmer

Glowing image GIF of the philosopher Alan Watts

Some of Alan Watts most influential lessons and ideas emerged from lectures he gave at universities across the United States, including his story of the Chinese farmer.

The story, recorded and transcribed below, is also part of a collection of lectures entitled Eastern Wisdom, Modern Life: Collected Talks: 1960-1969

“You never know what will be the consequence of the misfortune; or, you never know what will be the consequences of good fortune.”

Alan Watts

The Story of the Chinese Farmer

Once upon a time there was a Chinese farmer whose horse ran away. That evening, all of his neighbors came around to commiserate. They said, “We are so sorry to hear your horse has run away. This is most unfortunate.” The farmer said, “Maybe.” The next day the horse came back bringing seven wild horses with it, and in the evening everybody came back and said, “Oh, isn’t that lucky. What a great turn of events. You now have eight horses!” The farmer again said, “Maybe.” 

The following day his son tried to break one of the horses, and while riding it, he was thrown and broke his leg. The neighbors then said, “Oh dear, that’s too bad,” and the farmer responded, “Maybe.” The next day the conscription officers came around to conscript people into the army, and they rejected his son because he had a broken leg. Again all the neighbors came around and said, “Isn’t that great!” Again, he said, “Maybe.”

The whole process of nature is an integrated process of immense complexity, and it’s really impossible to tell whether anything that happens in it is good or bad — because you never know what will be the consequence of the misfortune; or, you never know what will be the consequences of good fortune.

Alan Watts

‘Maybe’ we pick up clues as we go along, labeling situations as either misfortune or good fortune. But the yin can’t exist without the yang, the shadow depends on light and vice versa.

The nature of experience proposes a game of chance. The future is too unpredictable to force an outcome. We never know the consequences of any event other than the one we can emotionally control.

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Productivity & Work Psychology Quotes

The law of reversed effort

"“When you try to stay on the surface of the water, you sink; but when you try to sink, you float’ and that ‘insecurity is the result of trying to be secure.” Alan Watts #gif #quotes

“When you try to stay on the surface of the water, you sink; but when you try to sink, you float’ and that ‘insecurity is the result of trying to be secure.”

— Alan Watts on the ‘law of reversed effort’, also known as the ‘backwards law’ when doing what’s right make things wrong (as featured in The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking)

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Books Quotes

Alan Watts on the law of reversed effort

Alan Watts on the law of reversed effort, #quotes, alan watts philosophy alan watts quotes, alan watts quotes life, alan watts tatoo

“When you try to stay on the surface of the water, you sink; but when you try to sink, you float’ and that ‘insecurity is the result of trying to be secure.”

— Alan Watts on the ‘law of reversed effort’, also known as the ‘backwards law’ when doing what’s right make things wrong (as featured in The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking)

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Creativity Psychology Quotes

Alan Watts: Your Life is Not a Journey With a Destination

Alan Watts: Your Life is Not a Journey With a Destination #quotes

Life is not a journey. A journey assumes an end point. A journey prepares for the future and precludes living and playing in the present.

Life only looks linear because that’s the way it’s been set up. We go from elementary school, high school, college, and then go into the workforce where we get trapped and continue to reduce ourselves to lemmings. Instead of going on a journey with a destination, dance with the moment and enjoy the progress it takes to get there.

“The physical universe is basically playful. There is no necessity for it whatsoever. It isn’t going anywhere. It doesn’t have a destination that it ought to arrive at. But it is best understood by its analogy to music. Because music as an art form is essentially playful. We say you play the piano, you don’t work the piano.”

Alan Watts

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