Welcome: An Introduction

Sharing the insights I discover as I explore and experience the mystery that is our reality. Join me in my journey and share yours.

Monday, May 6, 2013

The Human Problem (Excerpt from The Wisdom of Insecurity)

My last post delved into describing the current state of skepticism I have now found myself in, yet again. Though there is a spiritual path  within the Vedas that I have investigated and have been pursuing for some time now I have realized that skepticism is part of my nature and I must step back and assess my motives for pursuing the path that seems to call out to me. Might I return to it? I very well might. It's a beautiful path that promises hope and peace and certainly elicits positive changes in one's life. However, I have also realized that the heart can be misleading at times and I have to allow my intellect more latitude. For it will not rest, it seems, until every stone is unturned.

A book that I found really illuminating during a past state of spiritual transition, The Wisdom of Insecurity, I have returned to once again in hopes of perhaps extracting new gems of insights from its pages. I want to be actively challenged right now in testing the way in which reality should properly be perceived. I want to see things as they are. To try to find a direction in which to orient my compass that, though it might bring me off this plateau of indecision and into dark forests that seem perilous with snares, will lead me closer to the truth. Might the needle turn me around to retrace my prior steps back towards the beautiful sense of spirituality I had discovered? It very well might. Might it instead lead me in another direction, towards the more unknown and unchartered waters of agnosticism in which I dipped my toes in, in the past, and after doing so decided the water was too cold and unruly and headed for the safety of the shore? It very well might. Time will tell I suppose.

I'd like to share an excerpt from the book I'm reading. I emphasized some parts that I found particularly thought provoking and most likely will take some of them individually and write separate posts on them. I hope you enjoy it even if you don't agree with it.

I welcome your thoughts in the comments section. Thank you!

This, then, is the human problem: there is a price to be paid in every increase of consciousness. We cannot be more sensitive to pleasure without being more sensitive to pain. By remembering the past we can plan for the future. But the ability to plan for pleasure is offset by the "ability" to dread pain and to fear the unknown. Furthermore, the growth of an acute sense of past and the future gives us a correspondingly dim sense of the present. In other words, we seem to reach a point where the advantages of being conscious are outweighed by its disadvantages, where extreme sensitivity makes us unadaptable.

Under these circumstances we feel in conflict with our own bodies and the world around them, and it is consoling to be able to think that in this contradictory world we are but "strangers and pilgrims." For if our desires are out of accord with anything that the finite world can offer, it might seem that our nature is not of this world, but for infinity. The discontent of our souls would appear to be the sign and seal of their divinity.

But does the desire for something prove that the thing exists?  We know that it does not necessarily do so at all. It may be consoling to think that we are citizens of another world than this, and that after our exile upon earth we may return to the true home of our heart's desire. But if we are citizens of this world , and if there can be no final satisfaction of the soul's discontent, has not nature, in bringing forth man, made a serious mistake?

For it would seem that, in man, life is hopeless conflict with itself. To be happy, we must have what we cannot have. In man, nature has conceived desires which it is impossible to satisfy. To drink more fully of the fountain of pleasure, it has brought forth capacities which make man the more susceptible to pain. It has given us the power to control the future but a little- the price of which is the frustration of knowing that we must at last go down in defeat. If we find this absurd, this is only to say that nature has conceived intelligence in us to berate itself for absurdity. Consciousness seems to be nature's ingenious mode of self-torture.

Of course we do not want to think that this is true. But it would be easy to show that most reasoning to the contrary is but wishful thinking-nature's method of putting off suicide so that the idiocy can continue. Reasoning, then, is not enough. We must go deeper. We must look into this life, this nature, which has become aware within us, and find out whether it is really in conflict with itself, whether it actually desires the security and the painlessness which its individual forms can never enjoy.

~ Alan Watts, The Wisdom of Insecurity, p. 36-38


  1. Great book! You might also enjoy "Comfortable with Uncertainty" by Pema Chodron. I've learned so much about making peace with not knowing.

    1. Yeah, I really enjoy Watts. It is an exceptional book! Thanks for the book suggestion. I'm going to put it on my list. I really enjoyed Pema Chodron's book, "Taking the Leap".

  2. I must read this. Thanks much for sharing.

  3. Your constant quest for the truth always amazes me sis. And your sources are so diverse and thought provoking. It moves me also from my place of comfort and makes me ask questions.

    I know to take a piece from your source without reading the full text would make conflicts in understanding the author's context but this struck me:
    "To be happy, we must have what we cannot have."

    I have understood it at a different angle... and somehow it reminds me of St. Augustine,"Our hearts are restless until it rests on Thee."

    I haven't ventured in such a deep journey as you but I am with you to support you and pray for wisdom and guidance.

    You might... you will find what you are looking for...maybe not here... maybe on what is out there...

    1. "Your constant quest for the truth always amazes me sis"

      Thank you...You've always been so encouraging. :)

      "It moves me also from my place of comfort and makes me ask questions."

      I think asking questions oftentimes is uncomfortable but necessary...and I can only imagine your questions will lead you deeper into your faith, which I find beautiful. :)

      Thank you for your thoughts, as always. I love hearing your reflections.


  4. I have been reading Watts for some 40-odd years, and listening to his lectures, first on cassette tapes, today on MP3s, almost as long.

    I highly recommend the following novels that tie into the process: The Razor's Edge by W. Somerset Maugham, Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse, Demian by Hermann Hesse, Narcissus and Goldman by Hermann Hesse, The Stranger by Albert Camus, and Nausea by Jean-Paul Sartre.


    1. Thank you so much Craig. I was really excited when I read your comment..I enjoy coming across others who also have gotten benefit from and have enjoyed Alan Watts' books and lectures. You definitely are more experienced in his philosophy than I am so I appreciate your book recommendations and am adding them to the top of my reading list.

      Right now, along with re-reading The Wisdom of Insecurity, I am reading Richard Dawkins' "The Ancestor's Tale". Looking forward to starting some of the books you suggested when I'm done with that. :)

      I checked out your website btw...Very intriguing! I'm going to come back to it tonight when I have more time to really read more of what's on it in depth. It's content seems really relevant right now for where I find myself. Thanks so much for stopping by! :)