The Wisdom of Insecurity: A Message for an Age of Anxiety


Every book contains within it a beginning, end, and adventure in-between. However, in The Wisdom of Insecurity, Alan W. Watts attempts to traverse time, space, ego, and culture without moving an inch. At the time this book was written, Watts was alone in his pursuit of understanding.

He was among the first, if not the first, proponent for the philosophical and metaphysical combination of Eastern and Western thought. In his native England it was quite alright for an eccentric to be interested in Buddhism, Vedanta, Taoism, and other various forms of Eastern thought. But he lived in America where the general populace was much less keen on listening to or reading things of that nature.

So in order to circumvent this barrier, Watts uses an incredibly artful array of examples including music, dancing, and language techniques that allow him to introduce these foreign concepts without having to directly reference their origin. For example, the first chapter of the book, titled Age of Anxiety, is a wonderfully flushed out lesson on the First Noble Truth that Life is Suffering“, but never once does Watts mention Buddha or Buddhism when presenting it.

Throughout, Watts sets himself up for failure by providing paradox to his own analysis. He uses those paradoxes as a way to show the reader the self beyond self of no self and ultimate reality found by enjoying the present moment, exactly as it is here and now without planning or expectations of joy to come. He introduces the radically new concept of the Here & Now to an audience captivated on what was to come rather than what is happening.

Though sometimes wordy when trying to get to the point, Watts presents new and old concepts ofGod and the eternal self” by playing on the doubts and short comings found in all people. Through this, he gives those who PAY ATTENTION and are open to learning the ability to calm their anxieties in order to live a simple, peaceful existence.

Personally I enjoyed this book on my first read, though challenged by the concepts Watts presented. I felt hungry to read more and grasp at what he wrote. Yet, I have come to the realization on further reading that what he says is DON’T GRASP, and that the more you try to grasp, the more it will slip between your fingers. “When you begin to think about it, it is altogether missed……For when you really understand that you are what you see and know…there is simply ‘all this'”, and that in the end, all you can do is live peacefully and happily, flowing with the river of the Tao or Dancing along with life.


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