“Man suffers only because he takes seriously what the gods made for fun” ~ Alan Watts
I’ve been reading/listening to Alan Watts’ teachings and, while I don’t agree with everything he says, I find most of what I’ve read so far interesting.
Like the coexistence of ‘good’ and ‘bad’. I know I’ve said before that a situation isn’t, in itself, ‘good’ or ‘bad’; it’s how we react that makes it one or the other. For me, the idea of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ coexisting expands on that.
I readily admit that, once upon a time, I railed against that sort of thinking. When ‘bad’ things happened, I used to think it was some kind of punishment. But now I know better. Because, basically, you cannot have one without the other.
The bulk of the explanation is using Alan Watts’ own words.
Having drawn a square, he went on to explain – “I can’t have a square that doesn’t have both, inside and outside. They go together. In Buddhism, this ‘going together’ is called ‘sunya’, although this is often translated as ‘void’. It means the inside of the square cannot exist – is void – without the outside…”
He used the Chinese symbol of yin-yang to further his explanation.
Just to clarify – yin is the black side with the white dot, and yang is the white with the black dot.
Yin represents the feminine and is associated with water, the earth and moon, and night-time. It is seen as soft, yielding, slow, cold, wet and passive.
Yang represents the masculine and is associated with fire, sky and the sun, and daytime. It is hard, solid, fast, hot, dry and active.
I like this explanation of yin-yang, which describes it in terms of sunlight moving over a mountain. Yin, which can be translated to mean ‘shady’, is the dark area in the mountain’s shadow; yang, which can mean ‘sun’, is the brightly lit portion. As the sun moves across the sky, as the light and shadow move, yin and yang gradually trade places. In this way, what was hidden is revealed, while what was in the open is now hidden.
Watts likens the symbol to two fishes; they’re “constantly circulating, going around and around in the alternations of life. The question is… is the white one eating up the black one, and the black one trying to eat the white one? If that is the situation then, of course, life is fundamentally nothing but a grim contest; if one is order and one is chaos, then the fight goes on between them…
“But what happens if the white fish succeeds in eating up the dark fish? The white fish disappears as well as the dark one. Because the white one is only there in relation to the dark. So, if these two fishes, as it were, wake up – which is called ‘awakening’ in Buddhism – they realise they’re one; they go together, they’re inseparable from each other…
“... sudden dawning on our consciousness that life is not really a contest to make ‘yes’ triumph over ‘no’; to make the positive triumph over the negative. The two sides go together and then one sees, in this strange way, that underlying all that is negative in the world, all that is in a way painful and evil, there is a kind of necessity to it. It goes with the good; it is necessary for the good. Disorder is necessary for the manifestation of order, just as you must have a black background to show up a light figure.
“When one sees that, a profound transformation takes place in one’s attitude to the world… instead of looking upon life as a contest, it becomes a dance, it becomes a game. One doesn’t withdraw from it; one doesn’t stop living it but one goes into the game so that these revolving fishes are no longer trying to eat each other but are just going around, dancing, having the biggest fun in the world.”
So, instead of seeing life as a contest, why not see it as a dance? Instead of taking it all so seriously, instead of waking up one day to realise that we “missed the whole point”, let’s wake up now and see that “it was a musical thing and you were supposed to sing or to dance whilst the music was being played”.