Alan Watts was born in Kent in 1915 and from a young age became fascinated with the Far East.
He spent his early years travelling the world, learning the ways of Eastern philosophies and religions, before settling in California in 1950.
Alan Watts published many books during his lifetime, which include The Spirit of Zen: A Way of Life, Work and Art in the Far East, The Meaning of Happiness and The Wisdom of Insecurity: A Message for an Age of Anxiety, and his work was a huge influence on the rising Beat generation and the counter culture literature of the ’50s.
“Zen does not confuse spirituality with thinking about God while one is peeling potatoes. Zen spirituality is just to peel the potatoes.” – Alan Watts
His teachings and writing has long served as an inspiration for philosophers, writers and students, but his work contains a universal appeal which serves as a perfect antithesis for 21st century angst.
“Advice? I don’t have advice. Stop aspiring and start writing. If you’re writing, you’re a writer. Write like you’re a goddamn death row inmate and the governor is out of the country and there’s no chance for a pardon. Write like you’re clinging to the edge of a cliff, white knuckles, on your last breath, and you’ve got just one last thing to say, like you’re a bird flying over us and you can see everything, and please, for God’s sake, tell us something that will save us from ourselves. Take a deep breath and tell us your deepest, darkest secret, so we can wipe our brow and know that we’re not alone. Write like you have a message from the king. Or don’t. Who knows, maybe you’re one of the lucky ones who doesn’t have to.” – Alan Watts
In the following short films and animations, a range of creative talents take the words of Alan Watts to create a range of visual tableau which emphasise and enhance his wisdom.
In this first clip, Eddie Rosas, an animator on The Simpsons, takes a short fable from one of Watts’ lectures to illustrate a very valid point.
Another animator, After Skool, tackled some of Watts’ material with a very different, but equally powerful, style. “Alan Watts has an incredible way of putting life into perspective” they explain on their YouTube page, “The second I heard this speech, I knew it had to be an animation. My goal was to enhance his message with art. I tried a slightly different style for this one.”
In our final example, South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker present a range of Alan Watts’ snippets accompanied by their inimitable animation style.