All quotes from Alan Watts’

It was like someone came to work and they said to him, “Sorry, chum, but you can’t build today. No building can go on. We don’t have enough inches.” He’d say, “What do you mean, we don’t have enough inches? We’ve got wood, haven’t we? We got metal, we even got tape measures!” They say, “Yeah, but you don’t understand the business world. We just haven’t got enough inches! Just plain inches. We’ve used too much of them.” And that’s exactly what happened when we had the Depression. Because money is something of the same order of reality as inches, grams, meters, pounds, or lines of latitude and longitude. It is an abstraction. It is a method of bookkeeping to obviate the cumbersome procedures of barter.

Not so long ago, the Congress voted a law imposing stern penalties upon anyone who should presume to burn the American flag. And they put this law through with a great deal of patriotic oratory, and the quoting of poems and so on about Old Glory, ignoring the fact entirely that these same congressmen—by acts of commission or omission—are burning up that for which the flag stands. They’re allowing the utter pollution of our waters, of our atmosphere, the devastation of our forests, and the increasing power of the bulldozer to bring about a ghastly fulfillment of the biblical prophecy that “every valley shall be exalted, every mountain laid low, and the rough places plain.” But—you see—they don’t see, they don’t notice the difference between the flag and the country. Or, as Korzybski pointed out, the difference between the map and the territory.

Let’s suppose I have a rope, and this rope begins by being manila rope, then it goes on by being cotton rope, then it goes on with being nylon, then it goes on with being silk. So I tie a knot in the rope, and I move the knot down along the rope. Now, is it—as it moves along—the same knot or a different knot? We would say it is the same because you recognize the pattern of the knot. But at one point it’s manila, at another point it’s cotton, another point it’s nylon, and another it’s silk. And that’s just like us. We are recognized by the fact that, one day, you face the same way as you did the day before, and people recognize your facing. So they say that’s John Doe or Mary Smith. But, actually, the contents of your face—whatever they may be; the water, the carbons, the chemicals—are changing all the time. You’re like a whirlpool in a stream. The stream is doing this consistent whirlpooling and we always recognize—like at Niagara: the whirlpool is one of the sights, but the water is always moving on. And we are just like that, and everything is like that.

There’s nothing in the physical world that is what you might call substantial. It’s pattern.

In the first place, we confuse abstract symbols—that is to say, numbers and words and formulae—with physical events as we confuse money with consumable wealth. In the second place, we confuse physical events—the whole class and category of physical events—with matter. But matter, you see, is an idea; it’s a concept. It’s the concept of stuff, of something solid and permanent that you can catch hold of. Now, you just can’t catch hold of the physical world. The physical world is the most evasive, illusive process that there is.

The mystical experience is nothing other than becoming aware of your true physical relationship to the universe. And you’re amazed—thunderstruck—by the feeling that, underneath everything that goes on in this world, the fundamental thing is a state of unbelievable bliss. Well, why not? Why else would there be anything happening?

You say, “My guru is very wise and he’s instructed me to do this, that, and the other.” But it was you who decided on this guru. How did you know he was a good one? See? You gave him his authority because you picked him out. It always comes back to you, but we like to pretend it doesn’t.

One’s self is certainly not the stream of consciousness. One’s self is everything that goes on underneath that, and of which the stream of consciousness is a mere—well, it has about the same relation to one’s self as the bookkeeping does to a business. And if you’re selling grocery, there’s very little resemblance between your books and what you move over your shelves and counters. It’s just a record of it, and that’s what our consciousness keeps.

That’s life! Life is simply a way of postponing death.

If you find this frustrating, if you really don’t like it, you don’t have to do it! You can stop. And the paradox is that, when you stop, you become happier and more energetic.

I’ve never heard a preacher—to this day!—give a sermon on the passage in the Sermon on the Mount which begins: “Be not anxious for the morrow.” They do occasionally refer to it and say, “Well, that’s all very well for Jesus.” But the the actual putting into practice of this—nobody will agree with. They say it’s not practical to not give a damn about how you’re going to provide for the next day’s meals, and all that sort of thing. But it is practical. It’s much more practical than what we’re doing, if you mean by “practical” that it has survival value.

It really is a great deal to go with the dance and know that that’s what you’re doing, instead of agonizing about the whole thing.

The Buddhist theory is not cause and effect, it is called pratītyasamutpāda. And that means “interdependent origination.” In other words: when the wind blows, the trees move. This is not two events, but one. Wind blowing and trees waving are all the same process.

Our conscious relationship to the world is a transactional relationship in which you can speak about the subjective standpoint and the objective standpoint. But that, really, you’ve got one continuum in which these two standpoints are simply opposite ends of a diameter. You go with it, it goes with you, and vice versa.

It’s the music that finally counts in life. As I was explaining yesterday, one may regard the universe as a musical phenomenon: that it is a huge system of extremely complex vibrations which is playing. And that’s what it’s all about. You don’t ask: what does Mozart mean? You just listen to Mozart. It’s great. So you don’t ask what the universe means.

It begins to become clear to you that there really is no one separate from this changing stream of feelings who’s having them; they’re just there. And in that moment the problem of what to do about yourself vanishes because there is no separate self.

If you think about the past, that’s happening now. Think about the future—that’s happening now. There is nothing else but now! So then, when you discover that, meditation becomes automatic.