The Wisdom of Insecurity: A Message For An Age of Anxiety

Alan Watts

“There is a contradiction in wanting to be perfectly secure in a universe whose very nature is momentariness and fluidity. But the contradiction lies a little deeper than the mere conflict between the desire for security and the fact of change. If I want to be secure, that is, protected from the flux of life, I am wanting to be separate from life. Yet it is this very sense of separateness which makes me feel insecure. To be secure means to isolate and fortify the “I,” but it is just the feeling of being an isolated “I” which makes me feel lonely and afraid. In other words, the more security I can get, the more I shall want.

To put it still more plainly: the desire for security and the feeling of insecurity are the same thing. To hold your breath is to lose your breath. A society based on the quest for security is nothing but a breath-retention contest in which everyone is as taut as a drum and as purple as a beet.”


“We shall then have a war between consciousness and nature, between the desire for permanence and the fact of flux. The war must be utterly futile and frustrating–a vicious circle–because it is a conflict between two parts of the same thing. It must lead thought and action into circles which go nowhere faster and faster. For when we fail to see that life is change, we set ourselves against ourselves and become like Ourobouros, the misguided snake, who tries to eat his own tail.”


"This weight is likewise a function of the mind, and appears in the much-misunderstood pehnomenon of laziness. Significantly enough, nervous and frustrated people are always busy, even in being idle, such idleness being the “laziness” of fear, not of rest. But the mind-body is a system which conserves and accumulates energy. While doing this it is properly lazy. When the energy is stored, it is just as happy to move, and yet to move skillfully–along the line of least resistance. Thus it is not only necessity, but also laziness, which is the mother of invention.”


“For the poets have seen the truth that life, change, movement, and insecurity are so many names for the same thing.”

Further Reading

Alan Watts - This Is It

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