All quotes from Alan Watts’

See, that’s what makes everything a thrill. If you knew you would always win in any situation, it would be just a pushover and life would suddenly cease to have any interest whatsoever. You would be—I mean, imagine yourselves in total control of everything that happens; a kind of Jehovah type. You would be bored to death! Everything would be just what—no surprises, nothing. You see, when, in a game—you’re playing a game and the outcome of the game becomes known. Supposing in the course of bridge, the four players all suddenly realize together that one of them has all the cards, it will take the tricks, what do they do? They don’t play the game. They cancel it and begin again. Shuffle the pack. When, in chess, two pundits are sitting there, meditating, and one of them suddenly says, “Well, it’s obvious. In 53 moves you’re going to win,” they cancel the game. So, in the same way, an omniscient God who knew the whole future would cancel the universe and say: “Think up another!”

Anyone knows from a physical point of view that every organism is simply a pattern of behavior which can’t be separated from the pattern of behavior which we call its environment.

Forgetting renews. And that also is a function of all demolitions, of deaths, of destruction of patterns, of knocking down buildings, of the whole change process in the universe. Because we want to do what we’ve done before over again. Only, if you remember it too often, it’ll become boring. So if you forget, then you can do it again, and it’ll be just as amazing as it was the first time. And so there absolutely has to be a forgettery built into this universe in just the same way and for just the same reasons that there must be an eliminative process in the body as well as an eating process. And both are vitally important.

When you manage to protect yourself so successfully against all the powers of darkness, you reach a point where you become the kind of creature that’s no longer worth protecting. It’s the same sort of thing that happens that, if to defeat the Nazis you have to become Nazis, what was the point of the fight? If to defeat the Gestapo and the Secret Service and the red Chinese and all that plot we have to have a secret police ourselves, who are going to be just as bad as theirs, what is gained? What are you protecting? See? The biggest farce of all is this: that if you want to know the real lowdown on the next war, join the Air Force and be safe. Because the only people who are really going to be protected are the guards. You know, you’ll either be way up there, or else you’ll be in great vast basements in Nevada, where they’ve built under-mountain airports with all sorts of oxygen tanks and supplies and things that will last forever—because what a farce the whole thing has become. The original idea of guards and soldiers was to protect the women and the children. Now what we do is: we have the women and children bombed out of existence in the cities, whereas the guards are guarded. So all guarding eventually becomes guarding of guards. It’s circles of defense protecting circles of defense. And in this way, mammals turn into mollusks.

These, then, in sum, are the advantages and limits of waking consciousness: that it is a version of the world where what is important is what is valuable for survival; where we live for a future where we live always watchful for trouble. Because death is the thing most of all to be avoided. But this is a form of life which is always in danger of becoming not worth living, and which totally ignores a whole world of experience going on all the time around us which is magical, gorgeous, and far surpassing in depth and wonder most of the things which ordinary waking consciousness people call pleasures.

What it seems necessary for us to do is not, as it were, to try to get rid of the sense of having a separate ego. You can’t do that. You can’t wash off blood with blood. And if you try to get rid of it, you actually intensify the hallucination that it exists as a real thing. But the ego exists in the same way as the equator. That is to say, it is a social institution, an imaginary boundary, which has a certain convenience to it. But when you start mistaking social institutions for physical processes, you are under a hallucination.

Meditation is not self-improvement. Do not enter into it under any such delusions. There is no one to be improved. Meditation is a form of enjoyment. It’s a way of digging the universe.

It’s important to go through that state, in a way; important to realize that you don’t know anything. You don’t know what it’s all about. You don’t understand the universe. It’s all incomprehensible. Words and systems were just a way of whistling in the dark. We all whistled in the dark together and agreed that we had the same whistle, and that was great, but we really don’t know anything. Anybody who poses as an authority about anything at all is just making an authoritative noise.

I, for the life of me, cannot get to the bottom of this. Because nothing is more artificial than the distinction between the artificial and the natural. A bird’s nest is as artificial as a house. So is a bee’s nest. Everything done by artifice is artificial, I suppose. And yet, if you look (as the Chinese do) at art as a work of nature, you wonder what all this means.

You magnify your senses with a telephone (which enables you to hear for thousands of miles), with television (which enables you to see for thousands of miles), or with the telescope, or with a microscope (which enables you to see things totally invisible to the naked eye). May I ask whether these things are bad artificialities? Whether it’s really wrong to use telephones, television, microscopes, telescopes? Is that bad?

You say, “Well, that’s really the way it always was. When I was born I was kicked off the edge of a precipice. And I’ve been consoling myself all this time by hugging to a big chunk of rock that fell off with me.” But, you know, there is no security. And if you go with it, you see, and you don’t try to fight and to find something to cling to, it’s alright. Then you discover that the void that you were so frightened of is the clear light. This thing. That it isn’t empty in the ordinary sense of the word at all. But once you let go of your clinging, that’s all you let go of. There’s no you to let go of, really. All the thing to do is stop clinging.