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

4.25 of 5 stars 4.25  ·  rating details  ·  4,156 ratings  ·  311 reviews
“Anyone whose life needs a course correction would be fortunate to be guided by The Wisdom of Insecurity. My life still is, some thirty years later." —Deepak Chopra, from the Introduction

Alan W. Watts’s “message for an age of anxiety” is as powerful today as it waswhen this modern classic was first published.

We spend too much time trying to anticipate and plan for the futu
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Paperback, 160 pages
Published February 8th 2011 by Vintage (first published 1951)
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Sanjay Gautam

Any system approaching perfect self control is also approaching self frustration. Such a system is a vicious circle, and has the same logical structure as a statement which states something about itself, for example, "I am lying", when it is implied that the statement itself is a lie. The statement circulates forever, since it is true to the extent that it is false, and false to the extent that it is true. In other words: I can't throw a pebble so long as I am holding on to it- so as to maintain
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Daniel
It's funny..., I showed this book to one of my brilliant high school students and he took a look at it and called it a self-help book for people who aren't strong enough to think for themselves and read Nietzsche. (Sounds exactly like something I would have said when I was his age, how far have I fallen...)
Anywho, I wasn't sure whether or not i wanted to give this four or five stars...and I couldn't help it, not only does Alan do a great job explaining some nuggets of Zen Buddhism to the masse
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Brianna
I think this book is bloody brilliant.

For the last couple of months, I've been very lost as far as my personal philosophy and religion. I used to be a Christian; I used to be an atheist; I used to be an agnostic; and then I couldn't even commit to not committing to anything. And I've been in a lot of pain, not from my philosophical and religious drifting but a medical condition beyond my control.

And then one day, on a whim, I decided to browse my local library's used bookstore and I saw this boo
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Ldrutman Drutman
To even attempt a review of this almost undermines the point, for Watts is writing about how definitions and descriptions always try and fail to fix what is fundamentally transient and flowing. But to attempt anyway: This is a book about living in the present moment, and it kind of messes with your mind in that great expansive sort of way. What if there really only is this present moment, unfolding forever? Watts was one of the early popularizers of zen buddhism in the west, and this book was wr ...more
Tyler
If you are the type of reader that highlights the important parts, i would suggest just dipping this entire book in yellow dye. I read it in a little more than 4 hours but i could spend days talking about it. The clarity of Watts' writing amazes me. Highly recommended.
Doug Hagler
Alan Watts is an ex Episcopal priest who converted to Zen Buddhism and then to Taoism, and then sort of moved beyond both in his own way. The Wisdom of Insecurity is a book that was for me life-changing. It argues, among other things, that insecurity, indeterminacy, is the truth of existence, and that to cling to particular things as if they were eternal is to waste your time and strength. He says it far more eloquently than I can. If you are the kind of person who asks questions, this is a book ...more
Webster Bull

This slim bit of hokum gets a second star only because I found it powerful 40 years ago. Unfortunately for the book, I am 40 years older, and Watts, who died in 1973 at the age of 58 claiming that immortality is a religious fiction, seems to have proved his point.

Defrocked as an Episcopal clergyman after being caught cheating on his first wife, Watts married twice again on his way to becoming an early popularizer of zen buddhism. It may seem gratuitous to mention Watts's serial marriages, but t
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Stephanni Bahr
Very simply written and accessible, yet very complex at the same time. An amazing book that I will come back to again later and he says so much more than what I am going to mention here. In this book, Watts often states the obvious. But only because it needs to be stated in order to remind the reader of what is important or to ensure it is not forgotten. Sometimes what is the most obvious is exactly what we don't see. I saw this book as a sort of manual on how to train the mind to experience or ...more
CutFromAbove
It's unbelievable that this short book was written in 1951, foreshadowing massive amounts of today's popular "self-help" ideology. However, this makes the stunning revelations in the book less stunning than they would have been 60 years ago. There's some good work here on the layers that our minds add to the true reality, and some good metaphors to explain why those should not be important to us. But it's a bit idealistic and very difficult to apply in practice. It's a personal revelation, not a ...more
Isz
This book forever changed my life and irreversibly changed the way I look at anything and everything. Alan Watts has an ability to cut through the bullshit in human life and expose what it means to be alive: nothing.

Read it with a fresh mind, read it more than once, and remember that Watts will often sacrifice the clarity of his point for a play on words or a joke.
Fatemeh Roshan

حکمت بیقراری: پیامی برای عصر اضطراب
هیچ وقت فکرشم نمی کردم شعری که چندین سال تو فکر و تمام جزوه هام بود، موضوع یک کتاب باشه!

جمله بیقراریت از طلب قرار توست/طالب بیقرار شو تا که قرار آیدت

وقتی طالب یک امر ثابت باشیم، هرچیزی که برای آن امر ثابت خطری ایجاد کند، ما را مشوش میکند. اگر دغدغه من این باشد که آنچه دارم دست نخورده باقی بماند، چون علل و عوامل بسیاری وجود دارد که آن را به مخاطره میاندازد، دائماً دلهره و دلشوره خواهم داشت و دائماً مضطرب و ناراحت خواهم بود. زیرا جهان را با این امر ثابت و آسیب پ
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Glenda
I keep coming back over and over to this book. It helps me cope with tragedy, anxiety, and the pressures I put myself under. The simple message in this short book is one of surrender and non-duality. It is filled with simple examples illuminating eternal truths of all spiritual paths and applying them to the modern world.

Mason
Words could never do the contents of this book or the power of the author ANY justice.
Elizabeth
Utterly disappointing. It's like listening to a reasonably intelligent person talk out loud while cleaning his navel.

Watts posits all sorts of random ideas without backing them up in any form (i.e. evidence or even further thought), and there is no clear logic to the order in which he presents these ideas. I was expecting a thought-provoking question or two to rise to the surface, so I kept at it, but in the end was left with the distinct feeling that I'd just listened to a stoner with a big ego
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Donna Quesada
His wit, his piercing insight and cleverness at explaining the unexplainable has been duly noted, so I'll leave that to the side and comment on something a bit more subtle but equally delightful and delicious: His nuanced way of speaking, his style and elegance, his ease with the subject matter, and his sense of humor about it all. His voice is at once conversational and authoritative. And no one can turn a phrase with quite the same panache.

Nowhere is this flair more evident than in these "Wat
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Mackenzie Brooks
"How long have the planets been circling the sun? Are they getting anywhere, and do they go faster and faster in order to arrive? How often has the spring returned to the earth? Does it come faster and fancier every year, to be sure to be better than last spring, and to hurry on its way to the spring that shall out-spring all springs?

The meaning and purpose of dancing is the dance. Like music, also, it is fulfilled in each moment of its course. You do not play a sonata in order to reach the fina
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Nathan
Beginning to think that everyone should read this book. Everyone.
Fred Darbonne
Fair warning: This work is not for the faint of heart, nor for those who desire every writer to flatter what they already believe or to help them prove that they are “right,” and others are “wrong.” Alan Watts does none of these things, but instead challenges our constant striving for security and permanence in a world that in reality is always changing, exposing our endless search for security for the illusion that it is. For Watts, “this insecurity is the result of trying to be secure.” We can ...more
Steve Woods
This is an amazing book for 1951. Watts is probably one of the clearst writers dealing with the indescribable I have ever read. In this book he deals with the major teachings of Buddhism including the first 3 of the noble truth, impermanence, no self and dependent origination without a single word of jargon. He is able to relate these teachings in a meaningful way to the daily life and concerns of a person living in a western culture with poise clarity and some beautiful if sometimes ruthless tu ...more
Stephen Gallup
First read this slim volume way back in the early 70s. Picked it up one day last month thinking I could reread it during a lunch hour between depositions downtown. Wrong! Every paragraph is worth five minutes' thought. But at the same time the concepts are so basic and so fundamental to everyday life.

As I slowly proceeded, I was reminded of a great many other books from the same general time frame, including Aldous Huxley's Island and Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five . However, the one id
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Katherine
Let me start out by stating that philosophy is not my favorite subject so it won't be a surprise that this review will most definitely reflect that prejudice. There were moments of enlightening wisdom in this little book specifically regarding being in the present moment and that embracing the uncertainty of life is the best means of riding out the insecurity that is inherent in living. Those I considered the high points.

The rest of the never-ending double-talk of "I" versus "me" and the sillin
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June
I feel like this book is a good summary of what should be common sense but never will be in any Westernized society. It touches a bit on ideas also connected to Evolutionary Psychology, and other concepts of the physical reality of the human realm. A lot of the ideas presented are repeated, but with things that heavy, they need to be. I was given this recommendation by someone who flowed in and out of my life like a flood, and I could only hope to pass it on to someone in the same way. Huge fan ...more
Mark Bao
A number of very interesting insights, unfortunately couched in an overwhelming amount of unfounded speculation, illogical and mystical concepts, and baseless assumptions. Worth a reread at some point, in case I didn't "get it". There is some good stuff in here, and this is what I took away:

• Live in the present, because the present is essentially all there is; the past and future are mental memories that we evoke in the present.
• We have no assurance of a happy future, and if we make plans for
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Joe
Easily in the top echelon of the most challenging books I've ever read, "The Wisdom of Insecurity" by the late Alan Watts is a necessary deconstruction of the idea of "security." Throughout the course of the book, Watts adventures into science, religion, philosophy and rational argument to make his case that as a society living for the future, we're misguided and will never achieve what we're looking for (due to the fact that it doesn't exist). He condones living for the present and accepting yo ...more
Arjun Balaji
One of the most deceivingly tough books I've read in a long time. I learned a lot about anxiety and frustration, particularly the unnecessariness of it (Watts' fundamental premise is that anxiety largely comes from our visceral need for security). In many ways, this is likely better suited for 2015 than 1950. Watts is a man ahead of his time.

It seems silly to even try to write about this — Watts rams against our excessive use of definitions and symbols to derive meaning. That being said, here's
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Julie
I bought this based in large part on the shout-out Alan Watts receives in the movie Her. I'm not entirely sure how to rate this book--on one hand, it makes for a short and compelling read, but on the other hand, I don't believe or agree with the author's main point, which is that there is no such thing as the self. Watts argues that there is no such thing as "I"; there is no soul; there are only thoughts without a thinker. This is not Watts' original idea, but rather reflects Buddhist and Easter ...more
Rick Harper
This is an amazing book. After a quick read through, it's time now and necessary to start over and go slowly. I'll definitely be reading more of Watts.


A couple of quotes I enjoyed:
"The meaning and purpose of dancing is the dance." Of course, this is referring to the meaning of life.


"...to the undivided mind, death is another moment, and cannot yield it's secret until lived to the full."


"...the split between I and me, man and the world, the ideal and the real, comes to an end. Paranoia, the mind
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Gabriel
I want to hate Alan Watts as the forerunner of Western Buddhism, in which it is largely about spiritual pornography, et cetera, as opposed to the more hard-boiled stuff you might find if you stepped outside your gated community for once. (When I say You, I dont necessarily mean you, but someone who could very well be you but hopefully is not.) But I dont hate this book. Having lived within the waters of insecurity, and believing inherently in the wisdom of living in the waters of insecurity, thi ...more
Tammy Stathelson
I learned the lesson of living in the moment a couple of years ago and I haven't forgotten.This moment is all that I have. Yesterday is gone and tomorrow may never come.

This is not a book that I would have picked up to read myself. I read it for school. I didn't hate it, but I wouldn't have read it if it had not been required.
Adam Lofbomm
Brilliant, concise, no-nonsense approach to cultivating mindfulness and cutting through self-deception.
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Would anybody care to comment? 7 59 Jul 06, 2012 10:02PM  
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Alan Wilson Watts was a British philosopher, writer and speaker, who held both a Master's in Theology and a Doctorate of Divinity. Famous for his research on comparative religion, he was best known as an interpreter and popularizer of Asian philosophies for a Western audience. He wrote over 25 books and numerous articles on subjects such as personal identity, the true nature of reality, higher con ...more
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“Tomorrow and plans for tomorrow can have no significance at all unless you are in full contact with the reality of the present, since it is in the present and only in the present that you live. There is no other reality than present reality, so that, even if one were to live for endless ages, to live for the future would be to miss the point everlastingly.” 158 likes
“What we have forgotten is that thoughts and words are conventions, and that it is fatal to take conventions too seriously. A convention is a social convenience, as, for example, money ... but it is absurd to take money too seriously, to confuse it with real wealth ... In somewhat the same way, thoughts, ideas and words are "coins" for real things.” 129 likes
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