Alan Watts' view of what life really is

"Life is not the problem to be solved, but an experience to be had": these words of Alan Watts not only clearly show his closeness to Eastern philosophies.

He often points out in his books and lectures that there is a crucial difference between Western and Eastern ideas.

"Life is not a problem to be solved, but an experience to be had."

Alan Watts

Does this quote come from Alan Watts?
Watts' did not make this statement first, but was probably simply referencing Søren Kierkegaard here, who had previously formulated these words: "Life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced."

While especially in Christianity (as well as in Islam and Judaism) things and events usually have to have a purpose and thus follow a certain plan or intention, in Hinduism as well as in Buddhism and Zen there are things and events that just happen.

In Hinduism, it is the great game (called the Purple) the Saguna Brahman which is the highest self, gets so lost in its performance that it forgets that everything is just a game. I have a separate article about Alan Watt's exposition of this principleif you are interested in this topic.

In Buddhism, and especially in Zen Buddhism, there is the idea that things just happen by themselves. Especially nature and all things that grow. This is a great contrast to the creationism of the Christian worldview, where everything is meticulously planned and intended by some kind of grand architect. Often it is even difficult for us in the West to grasp this foreign approach at all.

Alan Watts had studied theology, but then changed his orientation and devoted himself to Far Eastern philosophy, because the Christian world view seemed too limited. And so he discovered then also this view (in case you Alan Watts Life more interested you can find Lukas' article here).

I myself have a lot to gain from the idea that life should simply be lived. For a long time I didn't know what irritated me so much when I observed society (and also myself) working on something every day without knowing exactly for what. 

Through Alan Watts, however, a new perspective opened up to me: The idea of life is simply to be lived and experienced. It's not about accomplishing great things or maybe even just simply accomplishing tasks every day whose meaning defies our logic.

Alan Watts had made the comparison in another lecture (or several) that life is like a dance or a piece of music. The purpose of the dance is not to arrive at a certain point in space, but simply to dance. The purpose of a piece of music is not to arrive at the end as quickly as possible. He drew here the picture of composers who wrote only pieces that are no more than a crashing chord, each of which was the finale of the piece.

This way of looking at things takes away an enormous amount of pressure and allows life to be more relaxed. Even unpleasant experiences are taken more easily, because they are part of the experience instead of being an obstacle in reaching "the big goal".

By the way, I have not noticed any change in my morals since I have integrated this concept more into my life. I still act according to my moral compass and try to do as much good as possible. I just take a more relaxed approach to things and events in life.

I think you can also benefit from this way of looking at things. I don't tell anyone what they have to or should do, but maybe you'll feel like trying to see life that way.

Oh, how many good quotes I never found again. So that this does not happen to you: just pin 🙂

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