Perception, Reality – Alan Watts
This is a great video where Alan Watts, in his inimitable way, breaks down how our limited perceptions create and affect our experience of life.
The metaphors of the web and embroidery to describe what is often called the unconscious, and the ways we can get trapped in perspectives, are interesting ways of clarifying these ideas.
Taking the relative way our minds perceive, and breaking down common stuck places and varying perspectives and points of view, this talk can be an interesting journey of examining how we may be looking at the world.
Transcript: First, the web of considered as selectivity experience considered as what we pay attention to, on the one hand, and what we ignore on the other, and I showed how the way in which we pay attention to the world creates isolates.
I’m using as a noun isolates that we call particular things events and persons, and they seem to be disconnected and to be alone, because we ignore the connections between them and I used the analogy of weaving where the threads go underneath and join On the back in a way that is not seen on the front, so you might say in the unconscious, although I don’t, particularly like that word, because it makes it seem as if it was something rather dead, but on the unconscious side of Life as on the back of the weaving or the back of the embroidery, there are connections which are not published now in the second part of the theme was the web as mutuality.
When I discussed the way the existence of a web, the existence of cloth or anything like that depends on a mutual support of the warp and woof. And this miraculous thing occurs that when the things support each other being comes into being both comes into being.
And so in exactly the same way, our world is a manifestation of relativity, and this requires a balance, a combination, a relationship of opposites in every domain of life, and although these opposites are explicitly different and even antagonistic, they are implicitly one and that’S, the secret see there these two secrets that we went into the connection between what are supposed to be separate things and events and the mutual unity between what are manifestly, that is to say openly for purposes of publication opposites.
Now this afternoon I’m going to take two other aspects of the web. The web is a trap like the spider’s. Web is a trap for flies. Also, the lovely embroideries are worn by women as traps for men from a certain from a certain point of view, and I want to consider the web as something playful.
You see there are so many ways of looking at it and you will find that all these ways are are right, but what we need is the fullness of the view. There are people, for example, who can see the web as a trap and get stuck with that.
There are people to whom existence is simply hateful. They see it as nothing, but a ghastly mistake the Lord really earned when he created this well, the costume. He arranged it in such a way that everything lives by eating something else, and what I’m doing.
Is I’m describing a certain point of view? You see, I’m, not exactly philosophizing. I’m describing a point of view. You can look at life in such a way that the whole thing is a. Is this ghastly mistake? For example, there is no such thing as genuine kindness or love.
Everybody is really pretending that they’re, loving other people in order to get some advantage from them, and indeed there is a point of view which occurs in certain forms of paranoia where people don’t seem to be real.
They are mechanisms, and you can sink that out quite intensely with a good deal of intelligence. After all, if you start from a good old, Darwinian or Freudian basis and see that man is a material machine and that the consciousness of man is simply a very involved and complicated form of chemistry and that’s it what it is, you see Well then, this awful are mechanical things.
These Frankenstein’s, that everybody is they come around and they say well, I’m alive. I’m a human being. I have a heart, I love. I hate. I have problems. I feel, and you feel like saying, come off it, you’re, just a monster and you put on the civilized Act because really you’re, just a set of teeth on the end of a tube and you’ve Got a ganglion behind those teeth which you call your brain.
You’re, so alleged mind, and this thing is really basically there for two purposes: one to be cunning enough to get something to eat, to put down the tube and the other. You know what mr. Freud’s libido and everything else you see can be construed as an elaborate subtle way of pretending that that’s, not really what you want to do, but you do but you put on a great show now.
Some people, according to this view, get mixed up. They so repressed that what they really want to do is to even to screw that they get involved in how higher things that are the masks for these activities and think that that’s.
The real purpose of life, and then they become what’s called a neurotic and because they get involved in being pure camouflage. So that’s. What’s called escaping from the facts? Not looking at life not looking at reality correctly now, this is a very strange thing.
You see that it is partly true that the universe so far as its biological aspect is concerned, is this weird system that lives by everybody eating everybody else. Only what we do to maintain what is called order and civilization is that various species make agreements as it were, that they won’t eat each other.
They’ll cooperate and so be an enormous gang which can beat down the others. So, though, the human being is the most successful so far of this gangster arrangement, we are the most predatory monsters on earth and we have cooperated to assault the fish in the vegetables and the chickens and the cows and everything you see only we do it by Not letting our left hand know what our right hand do it.
In other words, ladies and gentlemen, unless gentlemen happen to be prone to going hunting as a sport, they don’t, see their food killed. They don’t, see the slaughterhouse, and so what you get in the butcher in the market.
This steak, you know, is a thing in its own right. It has nothing to do with a cow, a steak is the thing shaped thus and so, and it looks as if it might be like a banana or something like that. You know, and nobody worries and when a fish is darpa does indeed look like a fish, but it’s, not the squiggly squirmy fish that comes out on the end of the fisherman’s line.
You know when you really fish, you realize that the fish doesn’t like it very much. No there is that absolutely extraordinary side of things. That is really terrifying, and so let me repeat, the illustration are used of the cross in the net, where one side of it is scissors that cut and eat teeth to chew and get this thing in, and the opening side of it is like James Joyce’s in Eunice, please the girl who says yes – and I said yes, yes, yes, she wants to be absolutely ravished by her man see so it’s, open, open, open, but now comes the the the.
If we take the dark view of things, the horrible view, this excuse me if I go into some rather grisly details, but have you ever heard of the vagina dentata? That is the idea that, in the sexual organ of the woman, there are teeth and a lot of men have this fantasy and so are rendered impotent.
They don’t make love because they feel that the price of this blessed experience is creative experiences. Loving experience is you’re going to get trapped, you’re, going to get emasculated. You’re gonna lose your precious number, and this is a very ancient fantasy.
It appears throughout all known history, because this is simply the woman’s, come up where she attracts that she’s out really to get you. She is basically a spider mother who is selfish and doesn & # 39.
T really love. You not really but says she does and of course there are, on the other side, all the tricks of the men without mention. So this is a view of the world as a system of mutual exploitation and of maximal selfishness.
Now it’s, a very profitable view to explore. Everybody should do in their lifetime. Sometime two things. One is to consider death to observe skulls and skeletons and to wonder what it will be like to go to sleep and never wake up.
Never that is the most is a very gloomy thing for contemplation, but it’s like manure, just as manure fertilizes the plants and so on. So the contemplation of death and the acceptance of death is very highly generative of creative life.
You’ll, get wonderful things out of that, and the other thing to contemplate is to follow the possibility of the idea of if you are totally selfish, that you don’t have a good thing to be said for you at all.
You are a complete utter rascal. Now the Christians have avoided this because, although they say in their Episcopalian form of confession that we have earned and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep and we have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts too much.
You know we have offended against our holy laws. They left undone those things which we ought to have done and we have done those things which we ought not to have done and there is no health in us, but it ought to be different and we’re going to do our best to Amend with the help of God’s grace, and that is a real common act, because if you equate health with genuine love and perfect unselfishness, then in that sense there is no health in us when we look at ourselves from this point of view, Now, when you go deeply into the nature of selfishness, and what do you discover, you say I love myself.
I seek my own advantage now. What is the self that I love? What do I want and that becomes an increasingly ever deepening puzzle? Now I’ve, often referred to this. When you say to somebody else, I love you.
It’s, always rather disconcerting to the person to whom you say that if you imply that you love them with a pure, disinterested and holy love, they automatically suspect it as being a little bit phony.
But if you say I love you so much, I could eat you that’s, an expression as a way of saying to a person. You attract me so much that I can’t help it. I am absolutely bowled over by you. I’m gone and people like that, then they feel they’re, really being loved that it’s, absolutely genuine.
But now I love you so much. I could eat you now what the devil do I want. I certainly don’t want to eat the girl in the sense of literally devouring her cause. Then she disappear ah, but I love myself and what is me, how do in what way do I know me? Well, if suddenly, it tells to me that I know me only in terms of you see when I think of anything that I know and that I like, then it’s, always something that can be viewed as other than me.
I can never get to look at me real me. It’s, always behind it’s, always hidden, and I really don’t know it well enough to know whether I love it or not. Maybe I don’t, maybe it’s, an appalling Ness, but certainly the things I do love and that I one from a selfish point of view.
When I really think about them, they’re, all something else that’s in a way outside me. Now we start if there is a reciprocity, a total mutual interdependence between what we call the self and what we call the other.
That’s, the warp in the wolf, and so, if you are perfectly honest about loving yourself and you don’t, pull any punches. You don’t pretend that you were anything other than exactly what you are. You suddenly come to discover that the self you love, if you really go into it, is the universe you don’t like all of it.
You are selective about it, as we saw in the beginning. Perception is selection, but on the whole, you love yourself in terms of what is other, because it’s only in terms of what is other that you have a self at all.
So then, I feel that the group, one of the very great things that CG Jung contributed to mankind’s. Understanding was the concept of the shadow that everybody has a shadow and that the main task of the psychotherapists is to do what he called to integrate the evil to, as it were, put the devil in us in its proper function.
Because you see it’s, always the devil, the unacknowledged one, the outcast, the scapegoat, the bastard, the bad guy. You see the black sheep of the family, it’s. Always from that point that which we could call the fly in the ointment, you see that generation comes, in other words, in the same way as in the drama, to have the play it’s necessary to introduce the villain.
It’s necessary to introduce a certain element of trouble, so in the whole scheme of life there has to be the shadow, because without the shadow that can’t be the substance. So this is why there is a very strange association between crime and all naughty things and holidays.
The easy, holiness is way beyond being good good people, aren’t necessarily holy people. A holy person is one who is whole, who has, as it were, reconciled his opposites, and so there’s, always something slightly scary about holy people, and other people react to them in very strange ways.
They can’t, make up their minds, whether they’re, Saints or Devils, and so holy people have throughout history, always created a great deal of trouble, along with their creative results. To take Jesus, for example, trouble that Jesus created is absolutely incalculable.
Think of the Crusades, the game, petitionary haven & # 39. T only knows what’s, going on in the name of Jesus, very remarkable Freud’s, a big problem in as well as the great healer. You see it all flows together.
So the holy person is scary because he is like the earthquakes or venom. Still he’s like the ocean, see the ocean on a lovely sunny day and say: oh isn’t that gorgeous and you can go into it and relax and float around but boy when the storm comes.
Does that thing get mad terrifying, so there is in us the ocean, you see and Jung felt that the whole point was to bring the two together and buy a kind of a fantastic honesty to penetrate one’s, own motivations to the depths Jung Had a tremendous humor and he knew that nobody can be completely honest, that you will try and do have a great deal of success in exploring your motivations and your dark unconscious depths.
But there will be a certain point at which you will say. Well, I’ve. Had enough of that. Do you see how, in a strange way there’s, a certain sanity in that, when a person indulges in a certain kind of duplicity of deception, there is something you won’t laughed when I said that it was something humorous about It and this humor is very funny thing.
Basically, humor is an attitude of laughter about oneself. There is malicious, humor or which is laughing at other people, but real, deep humor is laughter at oneself now. Why fundamentally, do you laugh about yourself? What makes you laugh about yourself, isn’t it, because you know that there is a big difference between what goes on the outside and what goes on the inside that, if I hint you see that your inside is the opposite of your outside, it Makes people laugh if I don’t, do it unkindly? If I get up in the attitude of a preacher and say you’re, a bunch of miserable to be different, nobody laughs! But if I hate when, after all poets will be boys, we all know, then then then people laugh.
Now we see what’s. What’s happening when we do that? Now I passed you around a lot of embroidery to look at before we started, and I’m perfectly sure that you’ve got the point that there’s, a big difference between the front of the back in some forms of embroidery.
The back is very different from the front, because people take shortcuts in the front. Everything is orderly and it is supposed to be kind of messy on the back side. See which side will you wear you’ve got to be sure you’ll, get the front and front have the back in the back.
The back has all the little tricks in it all the shortcuts all the low down that people don’t acknowledge, see and it’s exactly the same with the way we live. You know like sweeping the dust under the carpet in the hair just before the guests come I mean we do ever so many things like that and if you don’t, do it.
If you don & # 39, t think you do it and you think well, really I have my embroidery is the same on both sides see well, you’re deceiving yourself, because what you’re doing. Is you’re? Taking the shortcuts in another dimension, which you’re keeping out of consciousness, everybody takes the shortcuts.
Everybody plays tricks. Everybody has in himself an element of duplicity of deception, because you see, from this point of view that I’m discussing where the web is the trap to be, is to deceive. Think of camouflage the chameleon who changes its color.
Think of the butterfly pretending it has eyes. Think of the flower saying to the be like my honey bee, says wow, but then that means that the bee has to be and it has to go on living and all the trouble it takes to go around.
Collecting honey and raising other bees and organizing itself and doing that dance which tells the other bees where there’s more honey, the owner started to do with the flower. I was deceptive. Now you’re.
The same way I’ve, often said well, life is a drama and a drama is a deception. It’s, a big act when you peel an onion and you don’t, really understand the nature of an onion. You might look for the pit in the center, like any ordinary fruit has, but the onion doesn’t have a center.
It’s all skins. So when you get right down there’s, nothing, but a bunch of skins. You say well that was a kind of disappointing, but of course you have to understand that the skins were the part that you eat well in rather the same way see you find when you explore yourself and your motivations and you go through and through, and you Try to find out that thing, which is really genuine, that’s.
Why, in Zen discipline they give you cones, which require a perfectly genuine act, an act of total and absolute sincerity, and people knock themselves out trying to do this thing, but they always know that the Masters going to catch him, but he reads their thought.
You know that story of from von Kleist about the man who had a fight with a bear and the bear could read his thoughts so that the only way of hitting the bear was to do so, not on purpose, because the bear would know in advance.
So it’s, the same in working with a Zen master. You have to do the genuine act, not on purpose, but since you are put in a situation where it’s rather formal and you’re supposed to do it on purpose, you’re.
Stuck you see, so you explore the onion and you go in in in and then you find well, it’s all a deception. Now then, the question arises: who is deceiving? Who? Who’s? Fooling? Who I’m? Fooling me, what is fooling fooling is playing like you’re there when you’re, not you know getting somebody else to answer your name in the roll call, so we’re.
All you see. This is the metaphysical basis of it. This is what the Hindu is mean by my yah, the world. Illusion the world is playing it’s there when it isn’t and it’s a trap and it sucks you in and you can’t get out of it and it’s.
A far a big trap too, but always when you get an idea like this or a feeling like this, follow it to its extreme don’t back out from it. If you find you’re selfish, go to the extreme of what selfishness means, confusion largely results from not following feelings or ideas to their depth.
You know people think they want to be immortal. They’d like to live forever. Do you really want to do that think about it really go into it? What it would be like people say they want this, that and the other they want this kind of car.
They want this kind of dress or so on, and this much money and so on it’s, always a good idea to think it right through what it would involve to be in that situation to have desires fulfilled also, when you form a relationship To another person think it through to you see how inconvenient would they be, however, attractive and always turn the embroidery round and look at the underside, but don’t get hot doing it see that’s, something one does on the side And secret, because otherwise you play the game that everything is it supposed to be on the front.
But that makes you humorous, and that makes you human