I’m Chase Reeves. I collect and develop thoughts on how to make and live matterfully.

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“You already have the precious mixture that will make you well. Use it.”

Rumi

A note to Ice to the Brim readers about Alan Watts

Hey y’all! (I’m talking mostly to you, email subscribers.) It might seem like my blog’s been taken over by Alan Watts quotes. Yes, it has; you’re not crazy.

I’m in the middle of an excellent lecture series by Alan Watts called You’re It and it’s kind of hitting all my buttons.

What I’ve known of Watts before always left me feeling pretty good about him, but I never dove deep into his work. Now, however, this book is giving me full on hunger pangs for more.

Listen, if you’re interested in this kind of stuff too, shoot me a lil’ tweet or something. I don’t know, feels like this stuff could matter a lot and it’s kind of lonely out here.

K. Hi. Sorry I don’t write to you more!

“The part of you that wants to improve is the same part of you that needs improvement.”

Alan Watts

Alan Watts on the Legitimacy of Words

“The poet is trying to describe what cannot be said. And he gets close, you know? He often really gives the illusion that he’s made it. And that’s a great thing, to be able to say what can’t be said. I am trying to express the mystical experience and it just can’t be done. And therefore everything I’m saying to you is a very elaborate deception. I’m weaving all kinds of intricate nonsense patterns which sound as if they’re about to make sense and they don’t really [laughter]. […]

The patterns that people make with words are just like the patterns of ferns, or of the marks on sea shells — they are a dance and they’re just as much of a legitimate form of life as flowers.”

Alan Watts

“We might work on this possibility that civilisation is a mistake and that we have taken completely the wrong track…”

Alan Watts

“The mystical experience is nothing other than becoming aware of your true physical relationship to the universe, and you are amazed, thunderstruck by the feeling that underneath everything that goes on in this world, the fundamental thing is the state of unbelievable bliss.”

Alan Watts

“It is perfectly obvious that the whole world is going to hell. The only possible chance that it might not is that we do not attempt to prevent it from doing so.”

Robert Oppenheimer, “Father” of the atomic bomb

Alan Watts on the Most Difficult Task

“That’s what consists in being a [Zen] master. He’s not doing it because he wants to be superior, to put down other human beings. He’s doing it out of great compassion because he feels he knows something, which if you could find out, you would just be so happy and would want to give it to everybody else. But you can’t give it away because everybody’s got it, because what you’ve got to make them do is to see that they have it, that you don’t give it to them. And that’s the most difficult task. ”

Alan Watts


This line at the end — it’s at the very end of Chapter 6 of his lecture book You’re It — as the words come out his voice goes introspective, somber.

This to me is what he felt he was making his life about. I’m endlessly grateful for people like him who didn’t stop to simply enjoy themselves when they realized the whole name of the game was to enjoy yourself.

(Watts was a great enjoyer of himself as well. No bones about it.)

What Alan Watts Calls Himself

“… fake, rascal, philosophical entertainer, ego inside a bag of skin. ”

What Alan Watts Called Himself

How his friends remember him:

“He saw the true emptiness of all things. He taught us to be free. To see through the multiplicities and absurdities to the Great Universal Personality and Play. He gave us the Dharma Eye of a new age…”

“Wide Mind, Joyous Mind, Careful Loving Mind. For the true life is beyond life and death, origination, and extinction. We are with you in the many paths you opened for us…”

“Alan Watts was a philosopher, a poet, a calligrapher, a lover, a friend, a dharma reveler, a revealer, a great founder of the spirit for all of us…”

Alan Watts is one of those lights in my life. I want to learn more about him. I understand there’s some scandal in how he ended his days, but this recount of his life makes me wonder how much is true.

Dude was a badass mystic trickster.

Alan Watts on Good Government

“Chuang Tzu (Lao Tzu’s successor) put it this way: ‘people who speak of having good government without its correlative — misrule — or right without it’s correlative — wrong — do not understand the basic principles of the universe. One might just as well speak of having yang without yin. Such people must be either naves or fools.’ Of course, how would we know we were wise if there weren’t naves and fools? ”

Alan Watts

Bo Burnham on Who’s Qualified to Talk About Something

“I think the problem is that oftentimes, the only people that are qualified to talk about something are people that, were they to talk about it, they’d be hypocrites. I don’t think I would know certain things if I hadn’t benefited from it. So I feel like it’s sort of my job to just pull the rug out from under something.”

Bo Burnham

Still sort of reeling from watching his “Make Happy” special on Netflix. This video came out showing the final song of the show… that line about giving the audience what he can’t give himself. Damn. Got me.

Here’s another quote from this article that I liked:

“I’ve always just been very confused about how comedy is supposed to be about honesty, how everyone would always say to me, ‘You got to be more honest up there,’ but honestly what I’m feeling is: this is strange. That’s the first thing I’m thinking. That me standing up here is super weird. This is all very weird and us pretending this isn’t weird, pretending like I’m your best friend, just a cool guy at a party getting up making jokes, is really strange.”

Chogyam Trungpa on the Wisdom of Emotions

“We have to be brave enough to actually encounter our emotions, work with them in a real sense, feel their texture, the real quality of the emotions as they are. We would discover that emotion actually does not exist as it appears, but it contains much wisdom and open space. The problem is that we never experience emotions properly. We think that fighting and killing express anger, but these are another kind of escape, a way of releasing rather than actually experiencing emotion as it is. The basic nature of the emotions has not been felt properly.”

Chogyam Trungpa

Bo Burnham on Performing and Living Without an Audience

Bo Burnham Make Happy Audience quote

As a blogger, podcaster, marketer, wannabe comedian, entrepreneur person this was a really powerful thing to watch. Here’s the quote in text:

“I was born in 1990 and I was raised in America when it was a cult of self expression. And I was just taught, you know, express myself and have things to say and everyone will care about them. And I think everyone was taught that and most of us found out no one gives a shit what we think. So we flock to performers by the thousands cuz we’re the few who have found an audience. And then i’m supposed to get up here and say ‘follow your dreams’ as if this is a meritocracy? It is not, OK. I had a privileged life and I got lucky and I’m unhappy. They say it’s like the “me generation.” It’s not. The arrogance is taught, or it was cultivated. It’s self-conscious, that’s what it is; conscious of self. Social media is just the market’s answer to a generation that demanded to perform. So the market said, ‘here, perform everything to each other all the time for no reason.’ It’s prison. It’s horrific. It is performer and audience melded together. What do we want more than to lay in our bed at the end of the day and just watch our life as a satisfied audience member. I know very little about anything, but what I do know is that if you can live your life without an audience you should do it. And now you’re thinking, ‘how the fuck are you gonna dig the show out of this weird hole?’”

Bo Burnham

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives… There is no shortage of good days. It is good lives that are hard to come by. A life of good days lived in the senses is not enough. The life of sensation is the life of greed; it requires more and more. The life of the spirit requires less and less; time is ample and its passage sweet.”

Annie Dillard