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Self and Other

Self and Other

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Published by: eddytan72 on Nov 13, 2008
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 Self and Other 
 by Alan Watts
Now, the subject of this seminar is 'Self and Other,' and this is therefore to be anexploration into the subject that interests me most, which is the problem of personalidentity, man's relationship to the universe, and all the things that are connected withthat. It is, for our culture at this time in history an extremely urgent problem, because of our technological power. In known history, nobody has had such capacity for alteringthe universe than the people of the United States of America. And nobody has goneabout it in such an aggressive way.I think sometimes that the two symbols of our present kind of technological culture arethe rocket ship and the bulldozer. The rocket as a very, very phallic symbol of compensation for the sexually inadequate male. And the bulldozer, which ruthlessly pushes down hills and forests and alters the shape of the landscape. These are twosymbols of the negative aspect of our technology. I'm not going to take the position thattechnology is a mistake. I think that there could be a new kind of technology, using anew attitude. But the trouble is that a great deal of our power is wielded by men who I would call 'two o'clock types.'Maybe you saw an article I wrote in "Playboy" magazine called "The Circle of Sex," and itsuggested at least a dozen sexual types rather than two. And that the men who are twoo'clock on the dial, like a clock, are men who are ambisexterous, named after JuliusCeasar, because Julius Ceasar was an ambisexterous man, and he equally made love toall his friend's wives and to his good-looking officers. And he had no sense of guilt aboutthis at all. Now, that type of male in this culture has a terrible sense of guilt, that hemight be homosexual, and is scared to death of being one, and therefore he has toovercompensate for his masculinity. And so he comes on as a police officer, Marinesergeant, bouncer, bookie, general--tough, cigar-chewing, real masculine type who isnever able to form a relationship with a woman; they're just 'dames' as far as he'sconcerned. But he, just like an ace Air Force pilot puts a little mark on his plane eachtime he shoots down an enemy, so this kind of man, every time he makes a dame hechalks up one, because that reassures him that he is after all a male. And he's a terriblenuisance. The trouble is that the culture doesn't permit him to recognize and accept his
ambisexterity. And so he's a trouble spot.But that kind of spirit of knocking the world around is something that is causing seriousdanger here. It arises, you see, because this tremendous technological power has beenevolved in a culture which inherits a sense of personality which is frankly ahallucination. And we get this sense of personality from a long, long tradition of Jewishand Christian and Greek ideas which have caused man to feel that the universe of nature- the physical world, in other words - is not himself. You may think that that is a very odd thing to say, because one always assumes that oneself is one's own body, or at leastsomething inside one's body, like a soul. And that naturally, everything outside is notoneself. But this is, as I've said many, many times, a hallucination. Let's think, here weare in the middle of New York City. And you know what happens when New York City goes wrong. When there's a subway strike, or when the power fails, or when the sewers back up, your life is in danger. Because you are not only constituted by the bloodstreamof your veins and the communications network of your nervous system. An extension of  your bloodstream, and of your alimentary canal, and of your nervous system, is all thecommunication systems of this city.In other words, you know well every night streams of trucks pour into this city, carryingfood. I understand there is even a kind of big drain pipe which brings milk in. Youconsume three million pounds of fish a week. You then also have to have the exit end of this. The sewers are very complicated. The water system and all it's pipes, the telephonesystems, the electric light systems, the air conditioning things, the traffic streams. Allthese things going on are essential extensions of your own inner tubing. And therefore, you have to be aware, more and more, that the city is an extended body for every personliving in it. And not only of course the city, because the city depends on untold acres of fields where farm products are grown, cattle are raised, on lakes and underground watersources; on the constitution of the atmosphere, and finally on the location of the Earthon this propitious spot rather close to the sun, where we have our basic heating system working. And all that is not a world into which you arrived, from somewhere else altogether. It isa complex system of relationships, out of which you grew in exactly the same way thatfruit grows on a tree, or a flower on a stem. Just as these blossoms here are symptomaticof the plant, and you identify the plant by looking at the blossoms - here are these littleoranges, you see - we know that this is an orange tree. Now in exactly that way, you are
all growing in this world, and so we know that this world is a 'humaning' system - andtherefore it has a certain kind of innate intelligence, just as this tree, with its roots, hasthe innate intelligence which comes out in these oranges.So the cosmos in which we live is a network of communications. You don't need to think of it in an authoritarian pattern, namely there is God the father, who makes it all work, because that doesn't really answer anything. That's just applying to the world anexplanation derived from the political systems of the ancient Near East. You realizethat? The great political systems of the Egyptians and the Chaldeans, where there wasan enormous father figure in charge of everything, became the model for the idea of monotheism. And these great kings, like Hammurabi and Amenhotep IV, laid downlegal systems so man thought of a prince, a king of kings, a lord of lords, in the words of the Book of Common Prayer. It's a political idea. And I often wonder how citizens of arepublic, who have to curse and swear that they think that this is the best form of government, can put up with a monarchial conception of nature. Very funny. You know,a republic, and it says 'In God We Trust,' and most people by God mean a king of theuniverse. Very strange.But you don't have to think that way in order to have the faith that the universe issomething other than mere stupid, blind energy. What we are coming to see is that thetotal universe, consisting of all its galaxies, and not only this galaxy, is a living organism.How will we define that? What do we mean by a living organism? I mean a system of intercommunication of extreme complexity. Just like you are. You try to define what youare, and you go into it, you suddenly discover that as you take off the skin and look underneath, that we are an enormously complex system of tubes and fibers, beautifully patterned. When we look at it with a microscope, we say 'Oh my, look at that. Isn't thatgorgeous?' Have you seen those models of cells that the Upjohn Company has made?They're exquisite. And incidentally, you should all, if you've never done so, go to theCharles Darwin Hall in the New York Museum of Natural History and see the glassmodels of the tiniest microorganisms, called radiolaria. They are also such things as arerunning around in you, and they are incomparable jewelry.Now I suppose if we looked at ourselves from that microscopic point of view, all thesefunny creatures that are running around us that don't look like people, would if you gotused to them seem like people. And they would be having their problems. They've got allsorts of fights going on, and collaborations and conspiracies and so on. But if they 

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