March 10, 2004


The Wisdom of Insecurity:
A Message for an Age of Anxiety

Alan W. Watts

Opportunity Knocks -- I haven't been reading much lately. Stacks of The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune have piled up beside my fireplace rocking chair. Past issues of The New Yorker are stuffed into the narrow magazine rack beside my desk. Nearly a half-dozen books are double-parked, half-finished, on my nightstand. I have now-and-then grappled with writer's block, but this is perhaps my first instance of "reader's block" -- the similarly cloudy, equally frustrating experience of being unable to muster the enthusiasm to finish (let alone start!) a new piece of reading. Finally, in an end-of-the-week rush of liberation, I have finished this 152-page philosophical lecture by one of America's most prominent interpreters of Zen Buddhism. My reading of this short book has been slow-going for another reason besides languor: Watts' writing has challenged how I see the world, how I see my life, how I see myself. And such a challenge does not make for quick reading. This book, in and of itself, has not changed my outlook, but it has opened the door to a big new room to explore. A room called, "Living in the present." The question now is, do I have the courage to walk through the door and spend some time in this new room? Watts, I believe, would say, See? You're still focused on the future -- and then encourage me with a gentle, Yes.

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