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We fail to live because we are always preparing to live - sometime in the future. We base what we want on our experiences in the past because, after all, that's the best prediction of what we will like in the future. Watts feels many religions are equally obsessed with the future (eternal life in Heaven) and the past (dogma handed down over the generations). However, he writes: 'there is no reality than present reality, so that, even if one were to live for endless ages, to live for the future would be to miss the point everlastingly.'
However, the problem is more deep seated. We are anxious not only because we are not living in the eternal now but because we think there is a separate I. We are not certain where this I lives: in our heads, our bodies but we are certain there is a I and everybody else is you. But Watts believes there is just one of us and this one includes the flowers, plants, animals and everything. I've comes across this idea before but Watts has a new spin: we 'reach a point where what is unknown is not a mere blank space in a web of words but a window in the mind, a window whose name is not ignorance but wonder.'
Unfortunately. most of us are too timid to open the window, we close ourselves down with repetition. distraction and addiction. But once we open up to wonder, see the connections between everything, we will no longer be the anxious I desperately trying to feel OK.
At least this is what I think is Watts case, I certainly buy the beauty of the eternal now. This book filled me with wonder. I guess I am just too trapped in I (but love the few moments when the division has melted away).
Everyone takes from each great piece of writing differently, for me personally, I read this book as my mother was passing away from a terminal illness. I picked out quotes that help me come to terms with accepting my loss and re-read them to help me find (a non-religious type of) peace.
Watts states that we fall in love with people and things only to obsess over loosing them, and that time is both a builder and destroyer. So I don't obsess over my loose, and know that time will heal me :) I mean, these are just some of the few gem's that I found in this book. I would recommend, but I didn't really like the beginning or end of the book so I gave it 4 stars.
The wisdom is near unbridled, though I found myself a bit lost and struggling to digest some of his ideas in the second half. There is also a lot of repetition, as I feel this book could have been told to the same effectiveness at about half to three quarters its size.
Regardless, the bulk of this book makes for a truly profound read, and his writing style is incredibly enjoyable. Absolutely recommended.