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The Wisdom of Insecurity Paperback – Sep 12 1968

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (Sept. 12 1968)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0394704681
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394704685
  • Product Dimensions: 10.9 x 1.1 x 18.4 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 113 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #404,693 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description


“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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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Joseph L. Rockne on May 1 2000
Format: Paperback
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 By Kieran Fox on Oct. 11 2010
Format: Paperback
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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By yygsgsdrassil on Aug. 30 2000
Format: Paperback
....I recall one of those classes--I dunno, maybe it was an early General Science or Biology class I had long ago--where the teacher said that humans seldom use over one half of their brainpower and some brain cells go used...I know now that there are many ways that the brain controls various functions of the human body besides thinking, emoting and so forth. But, for me all that brings to mind Alan Watts and his brilliant carrer in trying to bring Zen and Eastern Influences to the Western World. The U.S. in particular. We have yet to scratch the surfaces of what the mind can accomplish....somehow, I think Watts knew long ago.
In the preface to this great book he introduces to the reader "the law of reversed effort". Insecurity arises when we expend our energies to be secure, and salvation comes form realisation that we really can't save ourselves from the inevitable. Life and change is flux. But the more you try to hold this flux in a freezeframe, it makes us go nuts as to whatever it takes to keep in in a freezeframe. There's a funny commercial with Dennis Miller ranting about the cost of bottled water. Alan Watts probably would have taken this rant even further--to take something fluid, flowing and liquid like water, the essence of all life and to capture it and package it and bottle it and label it "bottled water"--he'd say the best, freshest water is found naturally occurring and it exactly this kind of insanity that makes our response to the world jacked up...
Watts has many books on Zen, Tao, and Eastern religion and in all of them, he tells the reader of this wondrous moment--now is the time! I've translated this for myself to be..."Life is too short to be trippin'". If I am happy, I am happy "now"...
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Format: Paperback
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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