Sunday, June 24, 2012

Rediscovering Alan Watts



When I was around 13 years-old, FM radio was just starting out. The stations were few, and usually played classical music.
But that was in the heady days of "album rock". The emerging FM stations distanced themselves from the bubble-gum music by playing long sets and entire albums.
One station I started listening to had both an AM and FM spot on the dial. I took two old radios, tuned each to the same station on FM and AM. My Dad told me that was actually "Stereo".

On Sunday mornings while I was hanging out in my bedroom that station played something completely different; lectures by a brilliant man I had never heard of, about philosophy that blew my fuckin' mind.
That man was Alan Watts.

Born in London in 1915, Watts studied East Indian philosophy, Buddhism, Taoism and Zen. He hung out with Joseph Campbell, composer John Cage, and CG Jung.
Watts had a masters degree in theology and served a brief stint as an Episcopal Minister before moving to California and immersing himself in Asian studies.

In California, Watts split his time living on a houseboat in Sausalito, and at a secluded mountain cabin. His iconic lifestyle was challenged at times; he was criticized for not spending long sessions in seated meditation. He went through a series of marriages and rejected certain issues of personal morality in favor of societal morality and relationships between people and nature.

Watts was known to have experimented with Mescaline, LSD and marijuana. When asked about drug use years later, he commented "When you get the message, hang up the phone".

40 or more years have gone by since I heard Alan Watts' voice and philosophical ramblings.
Recently, I've been frustrated at not getting decent radio reception while working on farms, gardens and orchards on our remote island. I decided to buy an I-pod and listen to downloads.
So who do I stumble across again? Alan Watts.

There is something mystically reassuring about Watts' voice and philosophy, and I'm glad we found each other again.

For more information see:

The Alan Watts website

The Alan Watts Wikipedia page

Alan Watts on YouTube

13 comments:

Erik the Strange said...

I love Mr Watts.

Colin Wee said...

Shouldn't it be emptiness rather than nothingness? Colin

Dojo Rat said...

Semantics, perhaps.
Watts' great contribution was serving as a bridge between Eastern and Western thought.

adam badger said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
hermann said...

Yes, Watts was a favorit of mine, too, but only in book form, lol. He still has lots to say!

Colin Wee said...

In the English language, there's not a lot of differentiation between emptiness and nothingness. In the Buddhist worldview however emptiness is a state of being - it is that analogy of the cup that is ready to receive. Nothingness however is the absence of material stuff, like a vacuum. The vacuum however is still a 'something.' Colin

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