Alan Watts: Views of Life

The Chinese view nature as biological. The Chinese call nature 'zi ran,' and this expression means 'of itself so', 'what happens of itself' or we might say spontaneity. Everything that happens, happens of itself in a certain spontaneity. There is no principle that forces things to behave the way they do, it is a completely democratic theory of nature.

The Indians view life as drama and everything happens to the self. The Brahman, the self pretends that it's lost and is us, and all our adventures, and all our troubles, and all our agonies and tragedies it gets mixed up in, then after a long period has elapsed, there is a catastrophe, the universe is destroyed in fire, and after that the Brahman wakes up, and says "well, good crazy what an adventure that was", he wipes the sweat of his brow and says "phew, let's rest a while." So for another period the divine self rests and knows who it is, "it's me!" Then it says "well, this rather boring, let's get going again, let's get mixed up! So that's a theory of drama, of play! - (see Kali Yuga page)

Then there's the Judeo-Christian view of the maker, the architect, the constructor, the allmighty dictator who 'made' nature. Then around the 18th century Western people became increasingly doubtful wether there was such a God, but they kept their belief in this artifact, this machine and by the time of Newton people were explaining the world in terms of mechanism.

And we're still under the influence of that idea, because when you see drawings of human physiology they usually show the human being as a kind of mechanism, as a sort of factory. When you go to a hospital, you are processed, the heart specialist looks only at your heart because he can't understand anything else, the otolaryngologist which means the ears, nose and throat man looks at that section of you and he doesn't know about anything else and maybe a psychiatrist looks at you and goodness knows what happens there and so on and so on.

Everybody looks at you from their specialised point of view as if they were a bunch of mechanics examening your automobile. We ask for this, because most of us consider ourselves as chauffeurs inside our bodies which you own in the same way as you own a car and if it goes wrong you take it to the mechanic to fix it. You don't really identify with your body just as you don't really identify with your car. So here is this whole theory of nature which has grown up in the west as an artifact, something made. Most westerners wether they are Christians or non-Christians don't trust nature. Of all things nature is the thing least to be trusted! You must manage it, you must watch out for it, it comes out with weeds and insects and it will always go wrong if you don't watch out it! And above all human nature isn't to be trusted! Cause if you don't hold a club over your own head you might go out and rape your grandmother!

Now the Chinese would say, if you can't trust yourself, you can't trust anything. Because if you can't trust yourself, can you trust your mistrust of yourself? Is that well-founded? See? If you can't trust yourself you are totally mixed up, you haven't a leg to stand up and you haven't a point of departure for anything!

You are not merely a Grey Machine
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"If you are intelligent and reasonable, you can not be the product of a mechanical and meaningless universe."
Alan Watts (This is merely an edited excerpt from the excellent The Tao of philosophy - Man in nature.)

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