Exploring modern culture as actually anti-materialistic, Alan tackles matters of sedentariness, sensuousness, isolation, work, play, God, and sexuality.
Host, Mark Watts, returns to introduce another thought-provoking talk from his father, Alan Watts. In this powerful lecture—one of his earlier field recordings, entitled ‘The Unpreachable Religion,’—Alan turns our common idea of modern materialism on its head.
This series is brought to you by the Alan Watts Organization and Ram Dass’ Love Serve Remember Foundation. Visit Alanwatts.org for full talks from Alan Watts.
Western Culture as Anti-Materialist
Alan begins this mind-bending lecture by flipping on its head our common idea of Western Culture as rampantly materialistic. Alan argues, in fact, that countries like the United States are actually anti-materialistic cultures, as they seem dedicated to the destruction of the material world.
“The United States is fundamentally an anti-materialistic civilization—not perhaps so much as by intent, as in the general effect of its action. It seems dedicated, almost I might say, to the annihilation and destruction of the material world, and to its conversion to a junk heap of unimaginable dimensions.” – Alan Watts
Listen to Alan in Part 1 of ‘Learning the Human Game,’ on Ep. 16 of Being in the Way
Screen to Sensuality // Crowd vs Community // Work & Play (5:55)
Contemplating the strange situation we find ourselves in where we bound home excitedly to sit sedentarily in front of a screen rather than experience the joys of embodied sensuality and celebration, Alan highlights how a walk through suburbia showcases the deep isolation rampant in our society. After this, he relays the difference between a crowd and a community—a community is a group in mutual communication with one another; a crowd is a group in communication with one person alone.
“For the vast majority of American families, what seems to be the real point of life—what you rush home to get to—is to watch an electronic reproduction of life. You can’t touch it, it doesn’t smell, and it has no taste. You might think that people getting home to the real point of life in a robust material culture would go home to a colossal banquet, an orgy of love making, or a riot of music and dancing. But nothing of the kind—it turns out to be this purely passive contemplation of a twittering screen.” – Alan Watts
Listen to Alan in Part 2 of ‘Learning the Human Game,’ on Ep. 17 of Being in the Way
Work, Play, Sex, & God (12:08)
Next, Alan discusses the difference between work (survival) and play (art), and how these connect with our modern concepts of God, religion, spirituality, seriousness, morality, levity, sexuality, and our continued human existence.
“To the extent that we feel the sexual urge, or the urge to eat, or any other so-called instinct, in so far as we feel that is an alien and animal thing that exercises a compelling power over us—and here the us is the cut-off dissociated little ego inside the body that is driven around by all of this—then naturally our fulfillment of these instincts is fundamentally lacking in zest.” – Alan Watts