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

4.26  ·  Rating details ·  9,037 Ratings  ·  629 Reviews
In this fascinating book, Alan Watts explores man's quest for psychological security, examining our efforts to find spiritual and intellectual certainty in the realms of religion and philosophy. The Wisdom of Insecurity underlines the importance of our search for stability in an age where human life seems particularly vulnerable and uncertain. Watts argues our insecurity i ...more
Paperback, 152 pages
Published September 12th 1968 by Vintage (first published 1951)
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Lee I read this book in my late teens and in my forties,and now again in my late sixties. I'm gaining on the bastard.

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Sanjay Gautam
Dec 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Dec 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
May 07, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Ldrutman Drutman
Aug 29, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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.
Sep 08, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2011-project
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
Doug Hagler
Aug 04, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Dec 27, 2016 added it
Yes, I have been reading and rereading lots of Watts lately, partly the result of a felt need on my part. Watts was a pivotal figure in bringing an understanding of Zen Buddhism to the west and was conversant in religious and philosophical traditions of both East and West.

In this book he explores the reasons why so many of our religious and philosophical attempts to deal with anxiety and insecurity, epidemic to modern society, are misdirected and misguided, trying desperately to avoid and flee t
Stephanni Bahr
Dec 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Fatemeh Roshan
Feb 15, 2014 rated it liked it

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
May 31, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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.
Oct 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Words could never do the contents of this book or the power of the author ANY justice.
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
Feb 10, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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.

Stephen Gallup
May 20, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Donna Quesada
May 31, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: my-5-star-50
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
Mackenzie Brooks
Mar 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
"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
Jalendhari Tabeeb

ﺯﻣﺎﻧﮯ ﮐﯽ ﻳﮧ ﮔﺮﺩﺵ ﺟﺎﻭﺩﺍﻧﮧ
ﺣﻘﻴﻘﺖ ﺍﻳﮏ ﺗﻮ ، ﺑﺎﻗﯽ ﻓﺴﺎﻧﮧ
ﮐﺴﯽ ﻧﮯ ﺩﻭﺵ ﺩﻳﮑﮭﺎ ﮨﮯ ﻧﮧ ﻓﺮﺩﺍ
ﻓﻘﻂ ﺍﻣﺮﻭﺯ ﮨﮯ ﺗﻴﺮﺍ ﺯﻣﺎﻧﮧ

The real reason why human life can be so
utterly exasperating and frustrating is not
because there are facts called death, pain,
fear, or hunger. The madness of the thing
is that when such facts are present, we
circle, buzz, writhe, and whirl, trying to
get the “I” out of the experience. We
pretend that we are amoebas, and try to
protect ourselves from life by splitting in
two. Sanity, wholeness, and integr
Fred Darbonne
Mar 01, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Willer Daza
Jan 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Very interesting book. Alan Watts was one of the firsts to bring elements of eastern cultures into western thought and forms. The writing is timeless, for even today I can read and relate to most of the things he mentions in this book that was published in 1951. In fact, the reason why everything he mentions can perfectly fit into any day an age is that it reflects the relentless pursuit of human beings for meaning. But it is exactly this pursuit that has tampered many efforts of humanity to rea ...more
Jan 16, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a important book for me. It contains some really mind expanding ideas, and the way it was delivered spoke directly to me. I feel stronger now I've read it, and would recommend to anyone guilty of "thinking too much".
The only reason I did not give 5 stars is the last chapter, which in my opinion is confusing and inferior than the rest of the book.
Jun 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: buddhism
Beginning to think that everyone should read this book. Everyone.
howl of minerva
Many passages appear word-for-word in "The Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are". Not sure if this an editorial thing or self-plagiarism.
Ernie Truman
Mar 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
Some of us seem to think that there is a distinction between the pain we feel and the self we create when in fact they are one and the same. You can't have a self that retreats from emotional pain and have it not be linked to that pain. Yet this is just what we do. Something happens, a disturbance is brought up, one that usually offends the self which we could call a memory trace that we take for who we are, and then we use this self to justify the anger which seems to have arisen for no particu ...more
Chris Webber
Mar 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
What an incredible book this is! Highly recommend for those who find themselves having anxiety and not knowing how to process or dispel those paralyzing waves that can roll over you.
Peter N
Apr 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Alan Watts is a name I admittedly resisted for some time. I show my friend a book by an actual, modern-day Buddhist practitioner, teacher, and peace activist, and it’s playfully dismissed, ironically or not. I bring up the name Watts, though, and the tone changes, almost with reverence. I struggled with why this annoyed me because I hate conflating that overly reactionary term ‘appropriation’ when cultural exchange, appreciation, or evolution is often more applicable. After all, it is highly unl ...more
Aug 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Feb 04, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Very difficult to give a such a highly regarded book 2 stars, but I'm playing safe with Goodreads' system that 2 stars means 'It was ok'. Because if someone asked me what I thought of this book in conversation, that would be my likely response.

In many regards a book ahead of its time, and for that reason I can understand its long-standing adoration. However, from my point of view as a very pragmatic person (although willing to try and open my horizons and better myself in any which way), I strug
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
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Old Souls Book Club: The Wisdom of Insecurity, by Alan Watts 1 10 Jun 08, 2017 07:35PM  
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Would anybody care to comment? 7 69 Jul 06, 2012 10:02PM  
  • The Myth of Freedom and the Way of Meditation
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  • The Life of the Mind
  • Zen Effects: The Life of Alan Watts
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  • Manual of Zen Buddhism
  • Zen: The Path of Paradox
  • Emptiness Dancing
  • The Only Dance There Is
  • The Secret of the Golden Flower: A Chinese Book of Life
  • Spiritual Enlightenment: The Damnedest Thing
  • The Archaic Revival
  • The Zen Teaching of Huang Po: On the Transmission of Mind
  • For a Future to Be Possible: Buddhist Ethics for Everyday Life
  • The Phenomenon of Man
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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.” 282 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.” 228 likes
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