“When we compare human with animal desire,” writes philosopher Alan Watts in The Wisdom of Insecurity: A Message for an Age of Anxiety, “we find many extraordinary differences.” Watts offers an interesting perspective on an age-old argument — that our society has its priorities messed up, that we need to live in the moment.
The root of this frustration is that we live for the future. Yet the future is never, as we move forward it becomes the present.
Watts argues that one of the ills of modern society is that we believe sleep to be a waste of time, that life is short. Interestingly, we’d rather watch TV and chase our fantasies than rest.
Our quest for never-ending stimulation comes with a high cost. We become “incapable of real pleasure, insensitive to the most acute and subtle joys of life.” The more common the pleasure the less it interests us. We’d rather watch TV.
Watts tears into our wants and makes us question our desires.
Based on this we cannot, says Watts, call ourselves materialistic. We are in love with not things, but “measures, not solids but surfaces.”
The Wisdom of Insecurity: A Message for an Age of Anxiety is one of those books that makes you question not only yourself but the fabric of civilization.
This piece originally appeared on Farnam Street.
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