9 Marvelously Profound Alan Watts Quotes

I'd imagine Alan Watts' ideal day would be spent out and about. Where a river runs wild in reprise whilst the sound of the sky churning makes for a fusion which engrosses the mind. An eclectic philosopher from the mid 60's, like Watts, might've enjoyed a day like that. As someone who is best known for interpreting and popularizing eastern ideals for a western audience he may have said in reference to the atmosphere that "it all wiggles'. "Everything in nature is wiggly".

Alan Watts once said:

"For some reason or other we find wiggly things very difficult to keep track of. And we say to people, 'keep still' 'stay still for the camera'. And we say 'well lets get things straightened out'. 'Lets get this squared away'. And somehow we think we understand things when we have translated them in terms of straight lines and squares. Maybe that's why they call rather rigid people squares. But it doesn't fit nature. You know wherever human beings have been around and done their thing, we find rectangles. We live in boxes. Streets are laid out in a grid pattern. They've even dropped a grid pattern on San-Francisco, so that cars can run away. Because it seems human beings have a rather simple mind, and all this wiggliness is too complicated."

-Alan Watts

Other than his interesting sense of humor, Watts often made an emphasis on the difference between human thinking and things of nature.

"Things become complicated when we have to think about it. That's because we are trying to translate them into a form of life that is very much simpler and cruder than the forms of life we are talking about. a triangle is much cruder than a mountain, even though you may represent a mountain with a triangle. Human beings are just as wiggly as nature, and our brains are an incredible mess of wiggles. and we understand that the least."

-Alan Watts

Perhaps you now see that Alan Watts lived an intriguing life with many interesting viewpoints. So, in the words with which he often started his lectures, "I invite you to look at things through a different perspective".

Watts, who was strongly influenced by Zen Buddhism, regularly talked about how everything is connected. In one of his talks, he said 'the real you is the whole universe'. He meant that everything is connected. After all, in his view, we are a by-product of a bunch of rocks exploding and one of those rocks having the perfect condition for human life. So, we are a result of the Universe and in turn part of the Universe.

Before listening to Alan Watts never have I considered this idea. Oddly enough, it makes sense. Birth and Death are polar opposites. In one, you sleep and never wake up. In the other one has woken up but never has gone to sleep! There really is not a better way to put it. This has to be one of my favorite quotes, just because it's so interesting to think about. If you haven't already noticed, it also relates to the Buddhist idea of 'rebirth', since, in this quote, Watts is describing such a cycle.


We've probably all heard this one before, do what makes you happy. Watts, however, has a particularly interesting view on the concept, and it's true. What we learn and how we choose to live is it. That's it. If we choose to live for the money doing what we don't like, what's the point? Get out there, become a writer, go skydiving, rock climbing. Live!

Life's a Game

This is my personal favorite quote of Alan Watts. Though, I feel it loses some meaning without further explanation (although it is still quite powerful by itself). During the lecture in which Watts said this, he applied it to the life of a bus driver. As he stated:

"Imagine if you're a bus driver. Ordinarily considered a harassed person, he has to watch out for people, cops, cars. If this is work, it will be hell. Suppose he has this idea where moving the truck through traffic is this very subtle game. He has this feeling about it like playing guitar. So he makes a music of the thing. Well he won't be tired out at the end of the day. He will be full of energy when he's done with his job. Don't make a distinction between work and play. Regard everything that you're doing as play, and don't regard for one minute that you have to be serious about it."

-Alan Watts

In our society, we seem to make this divide between working and playing. What's the fun in that? Wouldn't it be better, healthier even, to live life with the same gusto that one would doing something they are intensely passionate and interested in, as a hobby? As Watts said,

"You're supposed to work in order to earn enough money to give you sufficient leisure time, for something entirely different called having fun, or play."

-Alan Watts

What's the point in working for leisure. Why not just live the way you want. Choose something that will make you happy, that's fun, and it's not work anymore. If you don't apply the constructs of work to something, then you won't work a day in your life.

Mountain does not mean Zen

The image of a zenmaster sitting in zazen upon a mountain is probably the stereotype among many people. As someone proliferating eastern ideals, Watts definitely realizes this. All you really need for zen is yourself. No mountain required.

It's supposed to be fun

You know what? We take life waaay too seriously. Life doesn't have to be so serious; cheer up! You're only here for a century. Better enjoy it while it lasts.

This is Alan Watts on death. I totally agree with this guy on this. Living forever? Immortal? All that new technology that's supposed to extend your life for who knows how long? Why, if at the average age of death, one no longer remains as fascinated with life. It has to be replaced by the young, interested, and motivated. When I think of this, I think of the elves from Lord of The Rings. Old, immortal, they are stuck in their old ways and resist change. Yet, change is good. We need change in order to keep the world going.

On November 16th, 1973, 7 days before today, Alan Watts died. I hope he continues to serve as an inspiration for anyone who happens upon this article.

On that note, I leave you with one last quote from Alan Watts:

"If you awaken from this illusion, and you understand that black implies white, self implies other, life implies death, or shall i say, death implies life, you can feel yourself, not as a stranger in the world, not as something on probation, not as something that has arrived hereby fluke, but you can begin to feel your own existence as absolutely fundamental."

-Alan Watts

© 2015, Andrew Plaza All Rights Reserved.

Andrew Plaza

Nerdy Tech fanatic interested in the intricacies of life, technology, and high existence.

comments powered by Disqus