Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Alan Watts

 

The Art of Timing:

How to take pleasure of the Present?

Alan Watts on the Perils of Hurrying and the Pleasures of Presence

by

“For the perfect accomplishment of any art, you must get this feeling of the eternal present into your bones — for it is the secret of proper timing.”

Among the things that made British philosopher Alan Watts not only the pioneer of Zen teachings in the West but also an enduring sage of the ages was his ability to call out our culture’s chronic tendency to confuse things of substance with their simulacra.

Watts had a singular way of dispersing our illusory convictions about such pairings, whether he addressed belief vs. faith or money vs. wealth or productivity vs. presence or ego vs. true self or stimulation vs. wisdom or profit vs. purpose.

In one particularly poignant passage in his altogether soul-expanding 1970 anthology Does It Matter? Essays on Man’s Relation to Materiality (public library), Watts considers another such infinitely important duality — the notions of hurrying and timing.

Echoing Seneca’s ideas about busyness and Bertrand Russell’s famous lament“What will be the good of the conquest of leisure and health, if no one remembers how to use them?” — Watts considers how we cheat ourselves of the joys of the present moment by grasping after the potential rewards of the future:

Just exactly what is the “good” to which we aspire through doing and eating things that are supposed to be good for us?

This question is strictly taboo, for if it were seriously investigated the whole economy and social order would fall apart and have to be reorganized. It would be like the donkey finding out that the carrot dangled before him, to make him run, is hitched by a stick to his own collar.

For the good to which we aspire exists only and always in the future. Because we cannot relate to the sensuous and material present we are most happy when good things are expected to happen, not when they are happening.

We get such a kick out of looking forward to pleasures and rushing ahead to meet them that we can’t slow down enough to enjoy them when they come.

We are therefore a civilization which suffers from chronic disappointment — a formidable swarm of spoiled children smashing their toys.

In a sentiment that calls to mind Mary Oliver’s thoughts on rhythm, Watts speaks to our one saving grace in countering the momentum of this headfirst rush toward disappointment:

There is indeed such a thing as “timing” — the art of mastering rhythm — but timing and hurrying are … mutually exclusive.

Much of our perilous hurrying, Watts argues, comes from the tyranny of the clock — a paradoxical pathology all the more anguishing given how relative and elastic time actually is. Watts writes:

Clock time is merely a method of measurement held in common by all civilized societies, and has the same kind of reality (or unreality) as the imaginary lines of latitude and longitude. (Until drawn on maps and being able to measure the location?)

The equator is useless for stringing a rolled roast. To judge by the clock, the present moment is nothing but a hairline which, ideally, should have no width at all — except that it would then be invisible.

If you are bewitched by the clock you will therefore have no present.

“Now” will be no more than the geometrical point at which the future becomes the past. But if you sense and feel the world materially, you will discover that there never is, or was, or will be anything except the present.

Presence, of course, is essential to our ability to experience the “spiritual electricity” of creative flow, something Watts captures unambiguously:

For the perfect accomplishment of any art, you must get this feeling of the eternal present into your bones — for it is the secret of proper timing. No rush. No dawdle.

Just the sense of flowing with the course of events in the same way that you dance to music, neither trying to outpace it nor lagging behind. Hurrying and delaying are alike ways of trying to resist the present.

Does It Matter? is a superb read in its entirety.

Complement it with Watts on how to live with presence, Sam Harris on cultivating mindful living, and Frank Partnoy on the art of waiting, then revisit Annie Dillard’s ever-timely reminder that how we spend our days is how we spend our lives.

Note: Without a project set in the future and well designed and planned, how can we enjoy the moment of its progress?

Jack Kerouac on How to Meditate

Centuries after Montaigne contemplated the double meaning of meditation and decades before Western science confirmed what Eastern philosophy has known for millennia — that meditation is our greatest gateway to self-transcendence and that by transforming our minds it is actually transforming our bodiesAlan Watts began popularizing Eastern spiritual teachings in the West and meditation wove itself into the fabric of popular culture.

Among the early converts in the 1950s was Jack Kerouac (March 12, 1922–October 21, 1969), who became so besotted with the ancient practice that he extolled its rewards in a poem, later included in The Portable Jack Kerouac (public library) — the same treasure trove of stories, poems, letters, and essays on Buddhism that gave us Kerouac on kindness, the self illusion and the “Golden Eternity,” the crucial difference between genius and talent, and his “beliefs and techniques” for prose and life.

HOW TO MEDITATE

— lights out —

fall, hands a-clasped, into instantaneous
ecstasy like a shot of heroin or morphine,
the gland inside of my brain discharging
the good glad fluid (Holy Fluid) as
I hap-down and hold all my body parts
down to a deadstop trance — Healing
all my sicknesses — erasing all — not
even the shred of a “I-hope-you” or a
Loony Balloon left in it, but the mind
blank, serene, thoughtless. When a thought
comes a-springing from afar with its held-
forth figure of image, you spoof it out,
you spuff it out, you fake it, and
it fades, and thought never comes — and
with joy you realize for the first time
“Thinking’s just like not thinking —
So I don’t have to think
any
more”

Many more records of Kerouac’s foray into Eastern teachings can be found in The Portable Jack Kerouac.

Complement this particular one with neuroscientist Sam Harris on the paradox of meditation, journalist Jo Marchant on how our minds actually affect our bodies, and David Lynch on meditation as a creative anchor, then revisit Patti Smith’s masterful music adaptation of Kerouac.

Note 1: I tied once to read a section of On the Road and gave up. I realized the real function of punctuations: Giving the reader a break to breath, and the author a fake sense of breathing.

This is the same case of reading Proust: More than 3 pages with no punctuations and my mind failed to link up with the many ideas: It was a suffocating and heavy experience, and I gave up on Proust.

Note 2: Jude Quinten Hawkins comment on Kerouac writing style:
When you read Beat authors like Kerouac, Kesey, or Burroughs, it helps to let go off any desire for a plot or arc of any sort.
Most of the time their books are more like snapshots of a place and time, put down in writing.

I try to pretend that I am there with them, hanging out in the car/apartment and just experience it as it comes without trying to make a bunch of grandiose connections about what it all means.
Maybe the key to success with On the Road is approaching it from the correct angle. Some people love it because its a rip-roaring party book, and in some respects, it is. But it is also a post WWII novel about people that had absolutely no idea how to live in the world they had helped build.

For what it’s worth, I toss it in the stack of work that I’d describe as apocalyptic.
Read it with Brautigan’s Trout Fishing in America, Carson’s Silent Spring, McCarthy’s The Road, DeLillo’s Point Omega, Harrison’s A Good Day to Die maybe watch Mad Max while you’re at it…

In that context, you probably still wouldn’t like the diction or the characters, but if the end doesn’t rip your heart and your guts right out, I’m not sure what would.

Honestly Kerouac is a mess, and to think that’s after going through edits and publishers. It seems to me that some books are meant to be read over and over, On the Road being one of them, his style really is a reflection of his environment and the journey he was on.

Extremely heavy drinking and drug use, in fact, and I can’t be 100% on this but there should be a study confirming it I’ll see if I can find it, but examining On the Road is basically a case study in the effects of speed on the brain.
Mad typing, half-formed ideas, seeming madness on the page, as if his mind was moving much too fast for the typewriter to keep up and even with that he typed the 120-ft scroll of On The Road in little over two or three weeks, single spaced, no edits.
In the end he’s a talented mad typist that seems to just let the machine, be it car or typewriter, take him places

A Message to Humanity: Charlie Chaplin’s Iconic Speech, Remixed

From the same remix artist who brought us yesterday’s Alan Watts meditation on the meaningful life comes “A Message for all of Humanity”

A mash up of Charlie Chaplin’s famous speech from The Great Dictator and scenes of humanity’s most tragic and most hopeful moments in recent history, spanning everything from space exploration to the Occupy protests, with an appropriately epic score by Hans Zimmer.

 posted this Nov. 30, 2013

“We want to live by each other’s happiness, not by each other’s misery.”

I’m sorry but I don’t want to be an emperor. That’s not my business. I don’t want to rule or conquer anyone.

I should like to help everyone if possible; Jew, Gentile, black men, white. We all want to help one another.

Human beings are like that. We want to live by each other’s happiness, not by each other’s misery.

We don’t want to hate and despise one another. In this world there is room for everyone.

And the good earth is rich and can provide for everyone. The way of life can be free and beautiful, but we have lost the way.

Greed has poisoned men’s souls; has barricaded the world with hate; has goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed.

We have developed speed, but we have shut ourselves in. Machinery that gives abundance has left us in want.

Our knowledge has made us cynical; our cleverness, hard and unkind. We think too much and feel too little.

More than machinery we need humanity. More than cleverness, we need kindness and gentleness.

Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost. The aero-plane and the radio have brought us closer together. The very nature of these inventions cries out for the goodness in man; cries out for universal brotherhood; for the unity of us all.

Even now, my voice is reaching millions throughout the world, millions of despairing men, women, and little children, victims of a system that makes men torture and imprison innocent people.

To those who can hear me, I say “Do not despair.” The misery that is now upon us is but the passing of greed, the bitterness of men who fear the way of human progress.

The hate of men will pass, and dictators die, and the power they took from the people will return to the people. And so long as men die, liberty will never perish.

Soldiers! Don’t give yourselves to brutes, men who despise you and enslave you; who regiment your lives, tell you what to do, what to think and what to feel!

Who drill you, diet you, treat you like cattle, use you as cannon fodder! Don’t give yourselves to these unnatural men—machine men with machine minds and machine hearts!

You are not machines! You are not cattle! You are men! You have a love of humanity in your hearts! You don’t hate! Only the unloved hate; the unloved and the unnatural.

Soldiers! Don’t fight for slavery! Fight for liberty! In the seventeenth chapter of St. Luke, it’s written “the kingdom of God is within man”, not one man nor a group of men, but in all men! In you!

You, the people, have the power, the power to create machines, the power to create happiness!

You, the people, have the power to make this life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure. Then in the name of democracy, let us use that power.

Let us all unite. Let us fight for a new world, a decent world that will give men a chance to work, that will give youth a future and old age a security.

By the promise of these things, brutes have risen to power. But they lie! They do not fulfill their promise. They never will!

Dictators free themselves and they enslave the people! Now let us fight to fulfill that promise!

Let us fight to free the world!

To do away with national barriers!

To do away with greed, with hate and intolerance!

Let us fight for a world of reason, a world where science and progress will lead to all men’s happiness.

Soldiers, in the name of democracy, let us all unite!


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

November 2020
M T W T F S S
 1
2345678
9101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
30  

Blog Stats

  • 1,429,204 hits

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.adonisbouh@gmail.com

Join 777 other followers

%d bloggers like this: