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The Wisdom of Insecurity Paperback – 3 Jun 1988


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Product details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Random House USA Inc (3 Jun 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0394704681
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394704685
  • Product Dimensions: 1.1 x 11.3 x 18.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 394,854 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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BY ALL OUTWARD APPEARANCES OUR LIFE IS A SPARK of light between one eternal darkness and another. Read the first page
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Supportyourlocallibrary on 16 Aug 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Alan Watts was one of the great popularisers of 'eastern' thinking in the west. This 1951 classic is probably an excellent starting point for anyone wanting an introduction to Watts' writing. Even though this book is well over 60 years old, it remains an extremely timely read, and it is surprisingly fresh in both its approach and thinking. Watts' starting point is the predicament of western man in the mid twentieth century; the book is definitely a product of 'you've never had it so good' 1950's materialism. Watts was one of the first people to detect the spiritual emptiness that many people feel in modern society (in spite of rising living standards and longevity) and in this book he proposes, if not a cure for this feeling of emptiness, then at least a new way of looking at things.

Watts also shows how scientific scepticism has undermined the belief in God. Watts sums up this stance perfectly: 'If, the scientists would say, you believe in God, you must do so on purely emotional grounds, without basis in logic or fact.' Needless to say such scepticism has grown inordinately since Watts wrote these words and it has perhaps reached its zenith in recent years with the 'New Atheist' movement. This scientific viewpoint has made the belief in the Christian God untenable for many western people, and it is to such an audience that Watts aims his writing.

There are so many pithy statements in this book; every page seems to contain a phrase or sentence that just leaps out at you and I love Watts' distinction between faith and belief: 'belief clings while faith lets go.' You could certainly see similarities between Watts' writing in this book and the work of J. Krishnamurti in such books as 'The First and Last Freedom.
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31 of 32 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 24 Jun 1999
Format: Paperback
One of my favorite books of all time. I've reread it more times than any other, but never without reaching new insights and finding new inspiration. It's filled with wisdom like the following: "[I]t is a serious misapplication of psychology to make the presence or absence of neurosis the touchstone of truth, and to argue that if a man's philosophy makes him neurotic, it must be wrong. 'Most atheists and agnostics are neurotic, whereas most simple Catholics are happy and at peace with themselves. Therefore the views of the former are false, and of the latter true.' Even if the observation is correct, the reasoning based on it is absurd. It is as if to say, 'You say there is a fire in the basement. You are upset about it. Because you are upset, there is obviously no fire." Watts talks about the many subtle proprieties of life in which we are all engaged but which we seldom discuss. Then, the instant you read them, you feel as if your own thoughts had been read aloud. I can't recommend this book highly enough.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By cathy earnshaw on 24 Sep 2009
Format: Paperback
Alan Watts (1915-1973) initially trained as an Anglican priest and became increasingly interested in the 1940s in the teachings of Eastern philosophy and religion. Watts published over 25 books on the brain, human consciousness, faith and the true nature of reality.

Almost universally glowing reviews about how his 1951 book The Wisdom of Insecurity has radically changed people's lives runs the risk of new readers' expectations being too high. It is quite a hardgoing book written in a deceptively simple style. Watts pointedly writes that the 150-page book "is not a psychological or spiritual discipline for self-improvement"; instead he considers himself (as he has said elsewhere) to be a "philosophical entertainer", showing you his vision of the world for you to enjoy with him. The road can be as witty as it is enlightening - for example when he looks up to the night sky and asks: "How long have the planets been circling the sun? Are they getting anywhere, and do they go faster and faster in order to arrive?".

Back on the ground the key to Watts's argument is that the age of insecurity and anxiety is "the result of trying to be secure". To resolve this painful circularity of feeling, we should accept that "we have no way of saving ourselves" and learn to be "effortlessly aware of the present experience". Watts vividly describes the existence with which many can identity: people living in a "fantasy of expectation rather than the reality of the present", failing to really live "because they are always *preparing* to live. Instead of earning a living they are mostly earning an earning.
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45 of 47 people found the following review helpful By John on 24 Jan 2005
Format: Paperback
What can i say, this book is truly brilliant. Watts identifies the destructive ways in which the majority of human race seem to lead their lives: attempting to achieve security which does not exist, and pointlessly chasing it faster and faster in the attempt.
While this outlook may seem pessimistic it is rather the opposite. Watts is pointing to another way to live, the discovery of our true selves, it's just we have forgotten our true nature, which has been clouded by the worship of consumerism, materialism and scientific thought.
'Belief clings on, but faith lets go'. Watts suggests that we need to release our burdens of life before we will find our way again. And he is right.
My favourite part in the book is where Watts explores the use of language and 'describing' things.
"What is this? This is a rose. But 'a rose' is a noise. What is a noise? A noise is an impact of air waves on the ear drum. Then a rose is an impact on the eardrum? No, a rose is aroseis a rose..."
This attitude to everyday life is present throughout the book and simply makes you think about the way you lead your life. I keep reading this book over and over again and finding i understand more each time. This book will help you to find your way again.
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