Wiggles, Seriousness, and the Fear of Pleasure

In a society full of rigidity, there’s a better way to enjoy life—by learning to wiggle.

| February 2020

wiggle-shells
Photo by Getty Images/Valerii Evlakhov.

Excerpted from JUST SO: Money, Materialism, and the Ineffable, Intelligent Universe, by Alan Watts. Sounds True, February 2020. Reprinted with permission.


The box is our great symbol of classification. What box are you in? All words are boxes: animal, vegetable, mineral, solid, gas, liquid, Republican, Democrat, capitalist, communist, Christian, heathen, male, female, and so on. All boxes. And because we think in boxes, we live in boxes — poorly made, identical boxes. Instead, consider the types of fish who make homes in beautiful shells with glorious spirally wiggles on them and lovely colors. But we want everything straightened out, and that rigidity is always in contrast with the fluidity that surrounds us. We are landlubbers, as opposed to people of the waves, although we Brits have always made a great deal of associating freedom with the ocean.

{ The art of faith is not in taking a stand but in learning how to swim. }



We think of the sea as fluid and the land as solid, but nothing could be further from the truth. Where I live, in Sausalito, a lot of land was reclaimed along the waterfront, and they dredged out mud to make the marina, not realizing that land, too, is liquid. So the land adjoining the water is sinking because it’s filling up the hole made by the excavation. People don’t think of things like this, because they conceive of land as purely solid.

Even in religion we are seemingly looking for solids, for somewhere we can take our stand — a firm foundation, the rock of ages, even Paul Tillich’s “ground of being.” But that’s not the sort of universe we live in. Our universe is fluid, and so the art of faith is not in taking a stand but in learning how to swim. You don’t cling to water; you don’t try to stand on it. You breathe, relax, and learn to trust that the water will support you. This is also true for flying, gliding, and sailing — all of these arts have adapted to the fluid. And that’s what we must learn if we want to survive as a species and survive happily.




Facebook Instagram Twitter