Alan Watts was a very influential British intellectual, philosopher, writer and speaker of the twentieth-century. Watts spent much of his adult life living and teaching in the United States. He wrote much on Eastern philosophy and worked to put it into terms that his Western audience could understand. Watts interpreted Eastern philosophy through a Japanese lens as he trained in Zen Buddhism early in his adult life. He was well versed in many religions including Zen Buddhism, Hinduism, Pantheism, Christianity, Religious Naturalism, and Taoism. Watts appreciated the respect for nature expressed in Taoism, and how its natural flowing ways were incorporated into Chinese Ch’an Buddhism, which later became known as Zen after its arrival in Japan. As Watts often acknowledged, much Eastern philosophy focuses on motivation and therefore emphasize that the act cannot be pure if the motivation is impure. Watts and Eastern philosophy in general also stress the importance of the “path” versus the “goal” which helps explain the following Eastern thought, satisfaction lies in the effort, not the attainment.
When one synthesizes these core aspects of Eastern philosophy it is easy to understand why Watts produced the talk “What if Money Was No Object?” I’ve learned a great deal from Watts but always keep in mind that his view of Eastern thought is through a Japanese lens, which at times is quite helpful, and yet at other times carries too many purely Japanese cultural elements with it, and hence, misinterprets the thinking of earlier Eastern philosophers. Fortunately, in this talk, which has since been made into a digital story, Watts accurately expresses several key concepts of early Eastern thought. He applies these concepts to education and how to live one’s life. These are concepts that I value and hold to be truths. And the important question he asks that permits one their path; what do I desire? Not what have I been taught to desire, but what path do “I” desire?
This digital story sets the audio excerpt from one of his talks to flowing digital images. Watts sharing his important philosophical views set to lively images with engaging background music. Philosophy as a digital story intrigues me and is a genre of digital storytelling which I hope to produce. I find this very creative as well as invaluable, as we are taught vocational skills in our educational system but little about how to live. The producer of this digital story did indeed do their research and have a firm grasp of Watts’ philosophy. The flow and pacing of the images and music support Watts’ message and are well chosen. The images indicate that the producer understood their audience and the 7,800 YouTube up-votes and comments affirm this. I’m not certain if the producer had the proper permissions, but they do credit alanwatts.org. Nicely done and a worthy copyright risk.