I pulled off a book from my bookshelf the other night with the title of this post. The book is a collection of writings, including nine chapters never before published in book form by Alan Watts. Watts was a British pilosopher, lecturer and author who interpreted Eastern thought for Westerners. He was born close to where I live in Chiselhurst, Kent in 1915 and died in California in 1973. Other more famous titles of his include “The Way of Zen” and “The Book”.
I have copied the article below – which has the same title as the book – which gives a good insight into Watts’ writing – as well as a piece to ponder on this Thursday:
Become What You Are
It has been said that the highest wisdom lies in detachment, or, in the words of Chuang-tzu: “The perfect man employs his mind as a mirror; it grasps nothing; it refuses nothing; it receives, but does not keep.” Detachment means to have neither regrets for the past nor fears for the future; to let life take its course without attempting to interfere with its movement and change, neither trying to prolong the stay of things pleasant nor hasten the departure of things unpleasant. To do this is to move in time with life, to be in perfect accord with its changing music, and this is called Enlightenment.
In short, it is to be detached from both past and future and to live in the eternal Now. For in truth neither past nor future have any existence apart from this Now; by themsleves they are illusions. Life exists only at this very moment, and in this moment it is infinite and eternal. For the present moment is infinitely small; before we can measure it, it has gone, and yet it persists for ever. This movement and change has been called Tao by the Chinese, yet in fact there is no movement, for the moment is the only reality and there is nothing beside it in relation to which it can be said to move. Thus it can be called at once the eternally moving and eternally resting.
How can we bring ourselves into accord with this Tao? A sage has said that if we try to accord with it, we shall get away from it. But he was not altogether right. For the curious thing is that you cannot get out of accord with it even if you want to. Though your thoughts may run into the past or future, then cannot escape the present moment. However far back or forward they try to escape, they can never be separated from the moment. For those thoughts are themselves of the moment; just as much as anything else they partake of and indeed, are the movement of life which is Tao.
You may believe yourself out of harmony with life and its eternal Now; but you cannot be, for you are life and exist Now – otherwise you would not be here. Hence the infinite Tao is something which you can neither escape by flight nor catch by pursuit; there is no coming toward it or going away from it; it is, and you are it. So become what you are.
Source: Become What You Are – pp10-11 from the book with the same title by Alan Watts – (c) Shambhala Press 2003
More on Alan Watts: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Watts
Podcasts at: http://www.alanwatts.org/