What Is Wrong With Our Culture? ~ Alan Watts

Why is it that we don’t seem to be able to adjust ourselves to the physical environment without destroying it? Why is it that in a way this culture represents in a unique fashion the law of diminishing returns? That our success is a failure.

That we are building up – in other words an enormous technological civilization which seems to promise the fulfillment of every wish almost at the touch of a button. And yet as in so many fairy tales when the wish is finally materialized, they are like fairy gold, they are not really material at all. In other words, so many of our products, our cars, our homes, our clothing, our food; It looks as if it were really the instant creation of pure thought; that is to say it’s thoroughly insubstantial, lacking in what the connoisseur of wine calls body.

And in so many other ways, the riches that we produce are ephemeral. And as the result of that we are frustrated, we are terribly frustrated. We feel that the only thing is to go on and getting more and more. And as a result of that the – the whole landscape begins to look like the nursery of a spoiled child who’s got too many toys and is bored with them and throws them away as fast as he gets them, plays with them for a few minutes.

Also we are dedicated to a tremendous war on the material – basic material dimensions of time and space. We want to obliterate their limitations. We want to get everything done as fast as possible. We want to convert the rhythms and the skills of work into cash, which indeed you can buy something with – but you can’t eat it.

And then rush home to get away from work and begin the real business of life, to enjoy ourselves. You know, for the vast majority of American families the – what seems to be the real point of life, what you rush home to get to is to watch an electronic reproduction of life. You can’t touch it, it doesn’t smell, and it has no taste.

You might think that people getting home to the real point of life in a robust material culture would go home to a colossal banquet or an orgy of love-making or a riot of music and dancing; But nothing of the kind.

It turns out to be this purely passive contemplation of a twittering screen. You see mile after mile of darkened houses with that little electronic screen flickering in the room. Everybody isolated, watching this thing. And thus in real – in no real communion with each other at all. And this isolation of people into a private world of their own is really the creation of a mindless crowd.

And so we don’t get with each other except for public expressions or getting rid of our hostility like football or prize-fighting. And even in the spectacles one sees on this television it’s perfectly proper to exhibit people slugging and slaying each other but oh dear no, not people loving each other, except in a rather restrained way.

One can only draw the conclusion that the assumption underlying this is that expressions of physical love are far more dangerous than expressions of physical hatred. And it seems to me that a culture that has that sort of assumption is basically crazy and devoted – unintentionally indeed but nevertheless in-fact devoted not to survival but to the actual destruction of life.


Alan Watts ~ The Book: The Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are (full, audio book)

Alan Watts’ seminal text first published in 1966, here read/narrated by author Ralph Blum (who in 1982 wrote the Book of Runes and kick-started interest in runic magic). Of all his brilliant texts, this one just… nails it, over and over again. Ouch.


1. Inside Information
2. The Game Of Black-and-White
3. How To Be A Genuine Fake
4. The World Is Your Body
5. So What?
6. It


“Money Is Not Wealth,” by Alan Watts


“Money is a way of measuring wealth but is not wealth in itself. A chest of gold coins or a fat wallet of bills is of no use whatsoever to a wrecked sailor alone on a raft. He needs real wealth, in the form of a fishing rod, a compass, an outboard motor with gas, and a female companion. But this ingrained and archaic confusion of money with wealth is now the main reason we are not going ahead full tilt with the development of our technological genius for the production of more than adequate food, clothing, housing, and utilities for every person on earth.

It is not going to be at all easy to explain this to the world at large, because mankind has existed for perhaps one million years with relative material scarcity, and it is now roughly a mere one hundred years since the beginning of the industrial revolution. As it was once very difficult to persuade people that the earth is round and that it is in orbit around the sun, or to make it clear that the universe exists in a curved space-time continuum, it may be just as hard to get it through to “common sense” that the virtues of making and saving money are obsolete.

It is an oversimplification to say that this is the result of business valuing profit rather than product, for no one should be expected to do business without the incentive of profit. The actual trouble is that profit is identified entirely with money, as distinct from the real profit of living with dignity and elegance in beautiful surroundings.

To try to correct this irresponsibility by passing laws would be wide of the point, for most of the law has as little relation to life as money to wealth. On the contrary, problems of this kind are aggravated rather than solved by the paperwork of politics and law. What is necessary is at once simpler and more difficult: only that financiers, bankers, and stockholders must turn themselves into real people and ask themselves exactly what they want out of life — in the realization that this strictly practical and hard–nosed question might lead to far more delightful styles of living than those they now pursue. Quite simply and literally, they must come to their senses — for their own personal profit and pleasure.”


Discussion/Meditation Notes:

What does wealth mean to you?

Can you share a personal experience of a time when you understood the “real profit of living with dignity and elegance in beautiful surroundings”?

What do you want out of your life?


Discussion ~ “The Nature of Consciousness”, by Alan Watts

“To go out of your mind once a day is tremendously important, because by going out of your mind you come to your senses. And if you stay in your mind all of the time, you are over rational, in other words you are like a very rigid bridge which because it has no give; no craziness in it, is going to be blown down by the first hurricane.”  ~Alan Watts


In order to come to your senses, Alan Watts often said, you sometimes need to go out of your mind. Perhaps more than any other teacher in the West, this celebrated author, former Anglican priest, and self-described spiritual entertainer was responsible for igniting the passion of countless wisdom seekers to the spiritual and philosophical delights of Asia and India.

Alan Watts ~ The Art of Meditation

We’re always thinking about something else these days, and missing what is here right now. Our obsession with the expectations of a global society continually pulls us away from our true selves, and to find that, we have to stop the chatter in our heads. The guru Alan Watts explains this, in simply the best and most concise interpretation of, and justification for, meditation out there.