It’s not about the great person – but what ignited the greatness in that person.
Who is Alan Watts for you? I must start off with by saying that the first times I heard his audio lectures they really did good for me. In a way he’s responsible for opening up to further references and knowledge, as in hearing a talented man articulating himself and igniting inspiration and some deep realizations. All which strengthened me in all aspects of life. Only years later did I look up more into his biography and found out bits of pieces of who he was. But does that really matter? Even though there’s a passion in us to see if something that inspired us, actually was that “pure” or “perfect”, according to our own subjective ego-biased belief system, or if it wasn’t. The man himself is always detached and separate from the pure wisdom that touches him. It’s not about the great person – but what ignited the greatness in that person.
There are facts about Alan Watts being an alcoholic, a cheater on his wives and generally that he talked good and inspiring about ideas – but didn’t walk the talk or let his own talk make him better. He even said in one of his lectures, that he was an entertainer of ideas and it pays well off. But what’s wrong with that? Now, we could take U.G. Krishnamurti as an example of someone who walks the talk and who never took money for opening his mouth, yet people swarmed to him. In both men, as with yourself, you can find faults and aspects of faulty character attributes that aren’t living up to some image, that once again, is based upon our eventual ego-biased belief system.
If we focus on what ignites the greatness in a person, the messenger becomes irrelevant. It’s hard in our culture, that has an inherent way of adoring and focusing on the persona and not the message.
I looked up some discussion about this dualism people find out about Alan Watts – I see that some people reevaluate their position on whether or not to continue to like Alan Watts (meaning feeling cheated while listening to the recordings). That is silly if you ask me. First of all, being an alcoholic is bad but it’s not the worst of crimes. Second, having many marriages and cheating on your beloved one is stupid, disgusting, a lack of maturity, self awareness and respect. But, the women in his life knew what they were into and what kind of man he was, the choice was theirs. The fact he drank a lot later in his life means he probably felt much of the past coming back to him – or more simply put, that’s his own business. Es ist was es ist.
One cannot think he didn’t regret it all somehow and the “life as a play” talk he gave was interesting and inspiring for us, but for him perhaps a way to distance himself from his own immature behavior. To justify or re-rationalize his life choices. There are many wo/men that we can analyze like this. But to what point? Do you know there are saints who actually were mass murderers? Still people pray over them. If we focus on what ignites the greatness in a person, the messenger becomes irrelevant. It’s hard in our culture, that has an inherent addiction of adoring and focusing on the persona and not the message. As if knowing more about the messenger will make us understand and embody the message more…
Alan Watts was some kind of messenger, he pointed to some aspects that can (if you pursue them for real) change your life for the better. Remember that today and for all future, it’s only the recordings that are left, besides the books and some video footage. These are of great benefit and will get many of us interested and searching for more, looking deeper.
A candle light cannot represent the sun.
For a real teacher (can be anyone or anything), for a real school of thought and for a real path; you have to find purity. In the end it has to be that way. Especially in this realm of practical personal development, as in habits or behaviour we like to improve. It takes humbleness to accept that someone else is better at something than you are. It takes even more humbleness to learn from that source. A candle light cannot represent the sun. Likewise bad behavior can never be justified, it can be understood, forgiven, forgotten but never justified. Life is about mistakes, but also about learning from them. If we don’t learn or improve from our mistakes something is wrong.
Alan Watts is one example, Carlos Castaneda is another and a more dirtier one. I remember asking a huge fan of Castaneda’s book about how he felt on the hoax, the whole blatant and tragic hoax of Castaneda’s lifestyle. He answered that he didn’t want to think about it, somewhat evasive. Yet, if you read the first three books, you’ll get heavily inspired, and that will stick with you for the rest of your life. (The other books and the whole Castaneda thing after that is a waste of time). That’s my take on Castaneda and they did inspire me.
If you’re really into freedom then you must learn how to feel free taking the best of things – even from the worst of sources whoever or whatever those might be. Thich Nhat Hanh said something like – you need manure to grow a beautiful garden. Which is a wonderful way to look at things, embracing it all and seeing the potential from every outcome. Even the problematic sides of yourself and others.
Sometimes just trying something passionately and hard is worth a lot, and even if failure looms around the corner. The effort and actions can bless other people. Here is Alan’s daughter Anne Watts in an interview about her father and her own work. She kind of demystifies her father, really worth watching. Also, check out this discussion from another blog – Alan Watts Revealed and Reconsidered.