Who is Alan Watts? Alan Watts is a British philosopher whom I know became famous through his ideas of how the world is/works. He is known for publicizing his ideas and opinions that most don’t agree with, including me. But he makes really great points in a lot of his work, and I would like to share that. He wrote a poem that I happen to find conveys a lot of what he says pretty blatantly, Birdle Burble that he wrote for his friend James Broughton.
In summary, his poem means to say to live and go on with life. But at the same time, it’s not meant to make much sense. And an example of that would be this couplet in his poem. “The stars in their courses have no destination; The train of events will arrive at no station;”(Alan Watts). It really just means to say that it doesn’t matter whether one is grammatically correct or not. One should just keep on living and writing regardless of any errors. As I read it, I felt as though he had made a poem version of a good bit of his philosophy on life. Written in many of his books about Zen, he touches on topics such as focusing on being happy on your terms and believing in yourself. I couldn't agree more and that lead me to research more about him.
Due to that, I was able to stumble across a famous quote of his, “To have faith is to trust yourself to the water. When you swim you don’t grab hold of the water because if you do you will sink and drown. Instead you relax, and float.” (Alan Watts). This really had me thinking for a long time because I experienced almost drowning in a pool when I was younger. I was around 12 years old when it happened and it was very scary for me. I remember trying to get a hold of the edge of the pool because I kept feeling like I was sinking and kept trying to jump out. Now that I’m older though, I don’t find it as scary but even to this day I am not able to float on my own in the water.
Having gone through that experience and reading that poem which connected me to his other works I came to realize that I really just had no faith in myself to float. I didn’t try and practice or jump anymore to try again. To me, it was logical to not put myself in that kind of situation again when my logic really should have been to try again. His words had me reflecting on how my attitude towards swimming or trying to float again was for a long time. I was very apprehensive and only was able to picture the worst because I thought that was all I was capable of. Since I’ve found his work I began to try again and go through the process of trial and error instead of just giving up. But at the same time, just as in the poem, try not to get too hung up on it and continue on living.
The main point that should be taken away from his poem is to live happily. Just like he has said plenty of times before in his other works as well, it's not perfection you should strive for but happiness. It’s easy to fall into the habit of correcting yourself and seeing all your mistakes in front of you. But we live in a world with limited time, so why waste it being precise when you can just let it be, and be happy? Alan Watts has helped me perceive these ideas or everyday obstacles in a new light and hopefully, it has helped others too.
- Watts, Alan. “A Quote by Alan W. Watts.” Goodreads, Goodreads, www.goodreads.com/quotes/172065-to-have-faith-is-to-trust-yourself-to-the-water.
- Watts, Alan. “Clear Writing with Mr. Clarity.” Clear Writing with Mr. Clarity, Joe Roy, 30 June 2011, 4:44 AM, clear-writing-with-mr-clarity.blogspot.com/2011/06/.