All quotes from Alan Watts’

We don’t like, nowadays, anyone to suggest that our social institutions are not altogether serious. We can’t stand it because we are much too insecure. And this is a very dangerous state of affairs. And so it is really high time that, in many ways, the institution of the fool was reintroduced.

The seed develops into the tree. And you might say, from one point of view, then, that the point of the seed is the tree; that’s the purpose of the seed. But that doesn’t really hold up, because then the tree goes and has seeds again. And so you might say, then, that the purpose of the tree is the seed. Which is which? The whole thing is one process, you see? They really aren’t parts. The seed isn’t one event and the tree another. It’s all one long, continuous event, going on and on just for the sake of going on and on.

The whole relationship of trees and birds and worms and bees and so on is a network. And every aspect of the network—you might say every part of it—depends for its existence on every other part. That means, you see, that the network as a whole is a single organism. Just as, in your own physical body (and you call yourselves a single organism), there are billions of creatures of very different kinds, and they’re all running around inside your blood stream and doing their stuff. They’re having battles, love affairs, all kinds of things. And this huge variety of stuff going on constitutes your life as an individual. And so, in turn, you are some kind of a little wiggle in some other sort of stream which constitutes a larger organism yet.

When we ask the question “Who are you?” people think of this question in two different ways. One person, when asked “Who are you?” will answer, “I’m a doctor.” Another person will fall silent because he realizes how profound the question is. He realizes that he’s been asked what his ego is. But a lot of people don’t realize that when they are asked, “Who are you?” I noticed just a little bit of difficulty in my investigations of discussing identity with people; that they fix on their role and use that to describe their identity: their name, their family, their place in society, what they do, what their hobbies are, and so on—all these are roles.

This sensation of being a separate “I” cut off from all other “I”s is an illusion. It’s a pure hallucination, because that is not the way we are functioning physically. We are functioning physically not as separate entities, but as beings that live in such a close relationship with everything else that there really is no way of dividing us from it.

The perfectly, gloriously happy person wouldn’t remember anything, because every experience would be completely satisfactory. All memory is really a form of regurgitation of undigested experience.

Is a zebra a yellow horse with black stripes or a black horse with yellow stripes? The answer is: it is an invisible horse which has been striped yellow and black so that people won’t bump into it. Now, in a similar way, reality is an invisible state of affairs beyond all description and thought, but it has been striped black and white so as to be seen. And this is life and death, up and down, sound and silence—the whole vibratory character of being. And the fundamental game that the universe is playing is to forget that this is so.

Step by step, almost like Achilles approaching the tortoise, the student is being brought together with himself to the point where he catches up with his own inner being and can accept it completely. And that is, you see, the most difficult thing to do: to accept one’s self completely. Because the moment you can do that, you have, in effect, done psychologically what is the equivalent of saying, in philosophical or theological terms, “You as you are now are the Buddha”—just as I was explaining a few minutes ago. That’s unbelievable. Because we’re always trying to get away from ourselves as we are now in one fashion or another. And we will only stop doing that through a series of experiments in which we try resolutely to get away from ourselves as we are.

If you are going to outwit the devil, it’s terribly important that you don’t give him any advance notice!

When you reach a certain point of despair, when you know that you are the one weird child who will never be able to swim, at that moment you’re swimming. Because the desperation and the total inability to do it at all has brought you to a point which we might call “don’t care.” You stop trying. You stop not trying; trying to get it that way. You just have arrived at the insight that your decision, your will, doesn’t have any part in the thing at all. And that’s what you needed to know. You’ve overcome, you see, the illusion of having a separate ego.

If I say, “Well, I’m going to get rid of my ego,” that’s what the Taoists call “beating a drum in search of a fugitive.” He hears you coming! So the ego—that is to say, the illusion of having a separate will and a separate “I”-center that can be an effective agent—that cannot be overcome by a decision which seems to be centered in the ego. You might as well put out fire with fire. It can come only when an attempt to act from the ego-center has been revealed to be completely futile. Then the thing happens, because you’ve really discovered that it was, after all, an illusion.

The important thing to find out is this: that the sensation of being the knower and the experiencer of all this is not, as it were, aside from everything else that’s going on, but it’s part of it. Just as you—although you experience your own existence subjectively—you are nevertheless part of the external world. You are in my external world just as I am in your external world.

Then there is a curious flip. The individual (who has always felt himself to be the tiny little thing on the end of the big determining process) suddenly goes bllwwwp! Have you watched, sometimes, a tiny little piece of mercury coming nearer and nearer to a large piece of mercury? There’s a sudden moment when they touch each other, and bllwwwp! The little thing vanishes into the big one almost more dramatically than a drop into the ocean. In this case that I’m talking about it isn’t that the individual organism vanishes; the individual human being doesn’t vanish. But he experiences no longer a passive relationship to the world. He simply sees that all that he is and all that he ever was was something that the entire process was doing.

Now, what do you want to do? Do you want to live your life in such a way that you’re always saying to it, “Eeeh, bwuuh, bleeeaaaah!” You know? Do you want—is that a good way to conduct things? Or do you want to live your life in such a way that you say, “Come on! Let’s go!” You see? “Let’s swing this thing!” On the one hand, you see, you’re always intentioned against it. Do you remember—I pointed out to you this morning that the person who’s constantly anxious is a person who is resisting the flip-floppability of things? Life is vibrating. It’s going bllwwp, bllwwp, bllwwp, bllwwp, bllwwp all the time, and the anxious person says, “God’s sake, don’t do that!” Because, you know, you might do it too much! “I don’t want to bllwwp like this. Makes me feel nervous! Stoppit!” And so, as he puts his weight on this bllwwp, bllwwp, he goes bllwbllwbllwbllwbllwbllw, like this, you see? He gets trembling. So instead of him saying, “C’mon, let’s bllwwp! Let’s go and do this thing,” so, in exactly the same way, the person who wants to say, “Well, you’re nothing but some kind of chemicals. And they’re just a lot of… you’re a bag of pus and blood, basically, with a few bones inside.” And that person is doing the same thing, you see, as the person who’s putting pressure on the flip-floppability of things, and so he gets anxious.

Once you know it’s going to keep flipping, and it’s going to keep flipping, and it’s going to keep flipping, and the only thing is to go with that flip. See? Get ready to go. Are you ready? BLLWWP! Then you can laugh—because you know there’s no way out.