61 BOOK The Wisdom of Insecurity (1951)

January 23, 2024

Alan Watts (United Kingdom, 1915 – 1973)

This was my main appointment on January 1st, a cosy day to dive into this book. I wanted to start with something that would help me with a recent theme that has been my stumbling block: insecurity.

In this book, I didn’t find techniques, magical recipes, or the best tips to deal with insecurity. What I found was a lot of reflection, many questions, and, in the end, much peace in understanding that insecurity is one of those essential elements of the human experience. Trying to “suppress it, control it, or avoid it” means going against life, against my life.

It’s not an easy-to-read book, but it’s worth reading several times to grasp all the wisdom it contains truly. I loved how it started: “I have always been fascinated by the law of reversed effort, which I sometimes call the ‘backwards law.’ When you try to stay on the water’s surface, you sink, but when you try to sink, you float. When you hold your breath, you lose it. Which immediately sets you thinking. It reminds you of the saying that when you save your breath, you lose your breath.”

It’s been a great book to start this year, and I hope to engrave some of the lessons learned to flow better with this human experience.


Key Takeaways:

  • “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world if he loses his soul? Logic, intelligence, and reason are satisfied, but the heart is hungry because the heart has learned to feel that we live for the future.”
  • “Man seems incapable of living without myth, without the belief that routine and toil, pain, and fear in this life have some meaning and goal in the future.”
  • “If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent Him.”
  • “Therefore, our time is an era of frustration, anxiety, agitation, and addiction to narcotics. Somehow, we have to cling to whatever we can while we can and ignore the fact that everything is futile and meaningless. This way of drugging ourselves, we call our high standard of living, a violent and complex stimulation of the senses that makes us progressively less sensitive and, thus, in need of even more violent stimulation. We crave distraction, a panorama of visions, sounds, emotions, and excitements in which the greatest number of things must be crowded into the shortest possible time.”
  • “To keep up this ‘standard,’ most of us are willing to endure ways of living that consist mainly of the performance of boring jobs but provide us with the means to seek relief from boredom in intervals of frantic and expensive pleasure.”
  • “For an animal to be happy, it is enough that it can enjoy the present moment, but man hardly feels satisfied with that.”
  • “The human body lives because it is a complex of movements, circulation, respiration, and digestion. To resist change, to try to hold on to life, is like holding your breath: if you persist, you kill yourself.”
  • “When money and wealth, reality and science are confused, the symbol becomes a burden.”
  • “If you ask me to show you God, I will point to the sun, or a tree, or a worm. But if you say, ‘Do you mean, then, that God is the sun, the tree, the worm, and all other things?’ I will have to answer that you have not understood at all.”
  • “We cannot go on defining things indefinitely without going around in circles. To define means to fix, and when you set to it, it turns out that real life is not fixed.”
  • “The root of this frustration is that we live for the future, and the future is an abstraction, a rational inference from experience that exists only in the brain.”
  • “I am what I know; what I know is me.”

Thank you for reading.

Have a great day! 😘

P.S. This book was published in 1951; it’s impressive how it remains relevant and current.

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