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Wonder

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 Wonder2003-04-05 23:10
25 comments
picture by Flemming Funch

One of my favorite Alan Watts books is "The Book (On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are)". Here's from the first chapter:
"It is a special kind of enlightenment to have this feeling that the usual, the way things normally are, is odd--uncanny and highly improbable. G. K. Chesterton once said that it is one thing to be amazed at a gorgon or a griffin, creatures which do not exist; but it is quite another and much higher thing to be amazed at a rhinoceros or a giraffe, creatures which do exist and look as if they don't. This feeling of universal oddity includes a basic and intense wondering about the sense of things. Why, of all possible worlds, this colossal and apparently unnecessary multitude of galaxies in a mysteriously curved space-time continuum, these myriads of differing tube-species playing frantic games of one-upmanship, these numberless ways of "doing it" from the elegant architecture of the snow crystal or the diatom to the startling magnificence of the lyrebird or the peacock?

Ludwig Wittgenstein and other modern "logical" philosophers have tried to suppress this question by saying that it has no meaning and ought not to be asked. Most philosophical problems are to be solved by getting rid of them, by coming to the point where you see that such questions as "Why this universe?" are a kind of intellectual neurosis, a misuse of words in that the question sounds sensible but is actually as meaningless as asking "Where is this universe?" when the only things that are anywhere must be somewhere inside the universe. The task of philosophy is to cure people of such nonsense, Wittgenstein, as we shall see, had a point there. Nevertheless wonder is not a disease. Wonder, and its expression in poetry and the arts, are among the most important things which seem to distinguish men from other animals and intelligent and sensitive people from morons.

Is there, then, some kind of a lowdown on this astounding scheme of things, something that never really gets out through the usual channels for the Answer--the historic religions and philosophies? There is. It has been said again and again, but in such a fashion that we, today, in this particular civilization do not hear it. We do not realize that it is utterly subversive, not so much in the political and moral sense, as in that it turns our ordinary view of things, our common sense, inside out and upside down. It may of course have political and moral consequences, but as yet we have no clear idea of what they may be. Hitherto this inner revolution of the mind has been confined to rather isolated individuals; it has never, to my knowledge, been widely characteristic of communities or societies. It has often been thought too dangerous for that. Hence the taboo."
Well, really Alan Watts is best to listen to, rather than read. There are many tapes of his talks, from the 60s. But in that book he presents a remarkably lucid explanation of what you are. Another way of putting it is that he takes apart the poorly founded illusion that you are a separate ego, isolated from and in conflict with the rest of the world. What is cool about it is that it is not in the form of mystical beliefs, but in the form of logical deduction, which you'd have a hard time arguing against. Thus it might be a way for compartmentalized western minds to come to terms with something bigger, without having to give up a belief in science and logic. There just really is no proof for the irrational belief that you're separate from the rest of the world. And if you accept the inevitable conclusion, everything is different.


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25 comments

5 Apr 2003 @ 23:50 by shawa : Good book
Reminds me of the "Happy" Sixties...and my first steps into Zen country...  


7 Apr 2003 @ 14:05 by sharie : It's all in the mind
I've heard of Alan Watts, but I've never read anything of his. It's easy to see that all I see is what I create in my own mind. Because everybody has their own perspective of everyone and everything, no one can separate themselves from anything.  


8 Apr 2003 @ 06:16 by jmarc : you can still listen to alan watts'
lectures on the radio,on wfmu out of new york every thursday evening between 7 and 8 pm eastern time. the url for web listening is {http://wfmu.org/wfmu.asx}.
wfmu also has an archive page from which you may listen to some archived lectures. there is also a cute little flash animation there titled madness that is quite cute. check it out. {http://www.alanwatts.com/raudio_index.html}  



9 Apr 2003 @ 15:15 by sharie : thanks joseph
Thanks for the link  


10 Jun 2003 @ 03:12 by James @137.73.33.178 : Alan Watts
There are two twenty minute sound files of Alan Watts, explaining quite a lot of his philosophy and view of 'thinking'

they are:
http://genomics.nox.ac.uk/~dswan/mp3/seeing1.mp3
http://genomics.nox.ac.uk/~dswan/mp3/seeing2.mp3

lots of his other (expensive to buy) talks are being shared on P2P network and can be downloaded with software such as Kazaa or limewire.  



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