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The Wisdom of Insecurity [Paperback]

Alan W. Watts
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Sept. 12 1968 Vintage
An exploration of man's quest for psychological security and spiritual certainty in religion and philosophy.

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“Reading Alan Watts challenges us to explore new avenues of thinking, inspires us to lead more fulfilling lives. His legacy lives on in The Wisdom of Insecurity, a work that energetically displays Watts’s piercing intellect, razor-sharp wit, and winning grace. For the clarity and wisdom with which it engages timeless concerns crucial to us all, it is unmatched. An important book.”
Greg Mortenson, author of Three Cups of Tea

“Perhaps the foremost interpreter of Eastern disciplines for the contemporary West, Watts had the rare gift of ‘writing beautifully the unwritable.’”
Los Angeles Times

“The wisdom of insecurity is not a way of evasion, but of carrying on wherever we happen to be stationed—carrying on, however, without imagining that the burden of the world, or even of the next moment, is ours. It is a philosophy not of nihilism but of the reality of the present—always remembering that to be of the present is to be, and candidly know ourselves to be, on the crest of a breaking wave.”
—Philip Wheelwright, Arts and Letters
“This book proposes a complete reversal of all ordinary thinking about the present state of man. The critical condition of the world compels us to face this problem: how is man to live in a world in which he can never be secure, deprived, as many are, of the consolations of religious belief? The author shows that this problem contains its own solution—that the highest happiness, the supreme spiritual insight and certitude are found only in our awareness that impermanence and insecurity are inescapable and inseparable from life. Written in a simple and lucid style, it is a timely message.”
Book Exchange (London)

About the Author

Alan W. Watts, who held both a master’s degree in theology and a doctorate of divinity, is best remembered as an interpreter of Zen Buddhism in particular, and of Indian and Chinese philosophy in general. Standing apart, however, from sectarian membership, he has earned the reputation of being one of the most original and “unrutted” philosophers of the twentieth century. Watts was the author of some twenty books on the philosophy and psychology of religion that have been published in many languages throughout the world, including the bestselling The Way of Zen. An avid lecturer, Watts appeared regularly on the radio and hosted the popular television series, Eastern Wisdom and Modern Life, in the 1960s. He died in 1973.

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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
4.8 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Quotes to Live By May 1 2000
I'm no longer sure how I bumped into this book. I'm sure it was from a review or a list of best books to read. In any event, I'm glad I did bump into.
Alan Watts writes about the obvious. But, like so many simple things, we need his clear and effective writing to see that what he says is truely obvious. Basically, we spend too much time planning and anticipating the future and too much time thinking about, lamenting and wishing to change the past. I have dogeared too many corners underlying too many quotes to reproduce them all here, but let me give you a flavor:
"If happiness always depends on the future, we are chasing a will-o-the-wisp that ever eludes our grasp, until the future,and ourselves,vanish in the abyss of death."
This quote is taped to the cover of my fanancial notebook that contains my financial portfolio data, 401K information and reams and reams of retirement plan calculations.
He also wrote:
"But tomorrow and plans for tomorrow can have no significance at all unlessyou are in full contact withthe reality of the present,since it is in the present and onlyin thepresent that you live. There is no other reality than present reality, so that, even if one were to live for endless ages, to live for the future would be to miss the point everlastingly."
This short book contains so many pearls, go get yourself a copy, pick some quotes, write them down, look at them, reread them (e-mail them to me) and get on with living today.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How does he do it? Oct. 11 2010
I can't say I've had too many 'mystical experiences' just from reading books - but "The Wisdom of Insecurity" induced at least one. I came across it backpacking in Southeast Asia and was very grateful for having it along with me on the endless overnight bus trips on bad roads.

Alan Watts's great gift was that he was such a gifted communicator of Eastern ideas to Western readers such as myself. You can wade through the Upanishads and the Tao Te Ching, and it's unlikely you will get a lot out of them (at least on the first reading), but Watts always had a way of distilling some of these crucial ideas and conveying them in a way that, for me in any case, sort of slaps you in the face with the lived reality of what he is saying, as opposed to just giving you an intellectual grasp. I read his "Tao: The Watercourse Way" during those same travels and found it similarly enlightening.

Watts's main theme is that since everything is changing and nothing lasts, it is senseless to be clinging to ideas, things, people, and so on. Endeavoring to achieve "security" of any kind, in life, love, job, family, or whatever, is a perpetually receding goal for the simple reason that nothing stands still! Hence the wise man or woman learns to live dynamically balanced in the present, responding creatively and joyously to anything and everything that's happening. This at least is my distillation of the idea, and the more I study the more I feel this simple message is at the core of all meditation and 'seeking.' "Be Here Now" as Ram Dass put it, and Watts communicates this essential message not only better than anyone else I've read, but also beautifully and effectively.

Very highly recommended.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is the bible for seekers of enlightenment. April 21 2004
This was the first book recommended to me by a wise friend who is into zen. It is the real ultimate gate to get your mind into the right place to find the big E. Watts and Suzuki are really the top of the heap. With this book I found myself starting to slip into that magic space where the lines of reality blur as I read it. Any book that can take you on a nice little trip into bliss while you are reading it is one I will recommend here to my fellow cyberspace searchers. I've read a lot of books by Watts but this is by far his best. A MUST!
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5.0 out of 5 stars a treasure Jan. 23 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Funny, insightful, complex and witty to boot. Not for the faint of mind and those not willing to have their mind subtly blown. In this day and age of google answers and online dictionaries, Alan Watts's book gives insight to those who still have an inside to ponder within. If you have an active imagination and the ability to critically self-think, then please read this book! It will be like cool water for the thirsty seeker of wisdom. However if you need to look something up instead of look within to find the answers you seek, and if electric mediums have replaced organic inspirations, then reading this book will be like water for plastic flowers.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Unlikely Title Brings Hope Through the Noise Sept. 25 2010
This book diverted the quagmire of my typical teenage life into a direction of realization and freedom. In society, insecurity is seen as undesirable and worthy of deep criticism. "He's so insecure". But insecurity is where everything creative happens. It is where there is possibility. It seems to be the most desirable state, actually, if we are to extricate ourselves from persistent distractions and move ourselves forward. This book was my intro to Alan Watts and its influence rings on. I am now in my 40's and have found much solace and wisdom in Watts' books and lectures. Highly highly recommended if you feel there has to be something more going on.
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5.0 out of 5 stars An amazingly deep little book Feb. 23 2004
I picked this book up in the Taoist section and flipped through, liked what I saw and bought it. After reading a few pages I checked the publish date and was shocked to see this book was published in 1952! It sounds like Mr Watts wrote it last week (which is a sad commentary on our society)! After half a chapter I was 'wowed' enough to wonder who this author was and was shocked again when I saw his credentials (MA in Theology/PHd in Divinity). This is by no means a Judeo-Christian book.
While Mr Watts doesn't specifically mention Taoism, his writing has the flavor of it. He spends a long time discussing the problems associated with living in the past, then jumping straight to the future without stopping to look around *now*. He explores the use of language and its shortcomings, but those arguments have become commonplace in undergrad courses everywhere. The real power of this book for me was the focus on letting go, for example, "...the desire for security and the feeling of insecurity are the same thing." He expands on this quite clearly.
Reading this book was a strange and fun experience in that I realized that I was thinking of a lot of the same issues that Mr Watts discusses, but was of course 5-20 years behind him on almost all of them. I also got the feeling that, even though I understood him on some level all the time, I will have to read this book at least twice more to actually *get it*.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best on the topic!
I was recommended this book by a great friend who is always an inspiration to me. Though I expected it to be a good book, this book turned out to be an even bigger inspiration for... Read more
Published on Jan. 26 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars Short but good
This book is an excellent place to start reading philosophy. _The Wisdom of Insecurity_ was obviously written for the layman, making it ideal for those who are new to this type of... Read more
Published on March 26 2003 by Ross James Browne
1.0 out of 5 stars Amazing gobbledegook.
How did this book make it to the philosophy (!) section? It should have been either in the Eastern Religion/New Age, or self-imp sections. Read more
Published on Feb. 28 2003 by John Doe
5.0 out of 5 stars One of my favorite books -- gave me peace of mind...
Don't take this the wrong way -- this book helps me go to sleep at night.
That is, after reading this book, I no longer pause before sleep, fearfully sorting through my... Read more
Published on Feb. 2 2003 by Scott Hess
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent!
Alan Watts is clearly one of the best when it comes to writing about spirituality and consciousness! Read more
Published on Dec 26 2002
5.0 out of 5 stars Another gem
Alan Watts puts Zen (or an approximation thereof) into words better than the Zen masters themselves. Read more
Published on Oct. 25 2002 by SkyMind
5.0 out of 5 stars A great writer
Alan Watts is one of the most understandable writers on the topic of Zen Buddhism. He has a talent for removing the mysticism and clearly state what it's all about. Read more
Published on March 21 2002 by Shawn Regan
4.0 out of 5 stars Letting Go and Letting God
Invoking the type of spirituality long professed by recovering alcoholics and members of other twelve step groups, Dr. Read more
Published on Feb. 24 2002 by The Rev. Dr. Daniel J. G. G. Block
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