John Stokvis

September 28, 2022

Telling the truth like a standup comedian

DALL·E 2022-09-27 12.38.28 - alan watts, one-line drawing.png
Alan Watts was a translator of Eastern philosophy to Western audiences. There were many who did the same, but what took him to another level was that we talked philosophy like a standup comedian. He described deep truths the way a Jerry Seinfeld crafts jokes. Masterfully using tension.

For example:

He starts with a riff on being present. 
Just be aware of what's going on in your head like it was clouds in the sky or the crackling of fire. There's no problem to this. All you have to do really is look and listen without naming...and if you are naming never mind. Just listen to that.

He transitions to a classic touchpoint of his: the "you" that is thinking is itself a thought. 
Now you can't force anything here. That you can't willfully stop thinking and stop naming is only telling you that the separate you doesn't exist.

Understanding that this might rattle people, he takes a moment to reassure the listener. 
It isn't a mark of defeat. It isn't a sign of lack of practice in meditation. That it runs on all by itself simply means that the individual separate you is a figment of your imagination.

And then he starts the set up.
So you are aware at this point of a happening. Remember you don't know anything about the difference between you and it. You haven't been told that. You've no words for the difference between inside and outside, between here and there.

And then he drops the punchline leaving the audience with the most exquisite unresolved tension
We'll just call it 'this.' And if you feel what's going on, which includes absolutely everything you feel.... 

How does the audience resolve this tension?