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The pending Government shutdown reminds me of a quote from Alan Watts about the Great Depression...

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drokhole Donating Member (759 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-07-11 02:26 PM
Original message
The pending Government shutdown reminds me of a quote from Alan Watts about the Great Depression...
Edited on Thu Apr-07-11 02:26 PM by drokhole
This probably applies more to the recent "Great Recession" (which hasn't really ended for most), but I think it correlates to the promised fallout presented by shutdown all the same (and, really, to life in general). I understand this presents no physical solution to the current problem, and that "philosophizing" on it will do little to alleviate any of the monetary fears, concerns and consequences of an actual shutdown.

I also do a great disservice to Alan Watts with this out-of-context quote (which is an excerpt from his seminar "From Time to Eternity," included in a collection of his talks in the book Eastern Wisdom, Modern Life), and encourage anyone who finds it interesting to check some of his stuff out for themselves (his topics are wide-ranging). Anyway, I just thought this was a particularly acute insight to share:


"Civilization is a very complex system in which we use symbols - words, numbers, figures, and concepts - to represent the real world of nature. We use money to represent wealth. We use the clock to represent time. We use yards and inches to represent space. These are very useful measures. But you can always have too much of a good thing. You can easily confuse the measurement with what you are measuring, such as confusing money with wealth. It is like confusing the menu with dinner. You can become so enchanted with the symbols that you entirely confuse them with reality. This is the disease from which almost all civilized people are suffering. We are, therefore, in the position of eating the menu instead of the dinner, of living in a world of words and symbols. This causes us to relate badly to our material surroundings.

...

Think about the Great Depression. One day everything was going along fine - everybody was pretty wealthy and had plenty to eat - and the next day, suddenly, everybody was in poverty. What happened? Had the farms disappeared? Had the cows vanished into thin air? Had the fish of the sea ceased to exist? Had human beings lost their energy, their skills, and their brains? No. This is what happened: On the morning after the beginning of the Depression, a carpenter came to work, and the foreman said to him, 'Sorry, chum, you can't work today. There ain't no inches.'

The carpenter said, 'What do you mean, there ain't no inches?'

'Yeah,' the foreman said. 'We got lumber, we got metal, but we ain't got no inches.'

'You're crazy,' the carpenter said.

And the foreman replied, 'The trouble with you is you don't understand business.'

What happened in the Great Depression was that human beings confused money with wealth. And they didn't realize that money is a measure of wealth, in exactly the same way that inches are a measure of length. They think it is something that is valuable in and of itself. And as a result of that they get into unbelievable trouble."
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rrneck Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-07-11 02:33 PM
Response to Original message
1. Sounds like he's been hanging out with a French philosopher. nt
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drokhole Donating Member (759 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-07-11 05:35 PM
Response to Original message
2. kick for the evening crowd
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Octafish Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-07-11 05:51 PM
Response to Original message
3. Kick for Alan Watts!
Kick for Truth!

(Sorry it's all one huge paragraph, but it's almost better than nothingmess.

Thank you, drokhole. A hearty welcome to DU!
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drokhole Donating Member (759 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-07-11 06:42 PM
Response to Reply #3
4. Great find, thanks for the link!!!
His talks have just as much relevance today as they did when he gave them almost half a century ago. I love the fact that they're finding their way online in this day and age, especially on YouTube. Like these short and sweet gems:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y7YIBW0xItQ
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KjSwsww5SfQ


And thanks for the warm welcome! :toast:
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Snoutport Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-07-11 06:51 PM
Response to Original message
5. good post. thanks you and welcome to DU!
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Raksha Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-07-11 07:04 PM
Response to Original message
6. I knew it, as soon as I saw the words "Alan Watts" and "Great Depression"
Edited on Thu Apr-07-11 07:05 PM by Raksha
in the subject line. "Out of inches" is one of my favorite Alan Watts metaphors EVER!
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RagAss Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-07-11 07:07 PM
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7. Alan Watts was a gifted visionary.
Bottom line....he saw through the bullshit! Man, we could use him today.
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True Earthling Donating Member (373 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-07-11 07:30 PM
Response to Original message
8. Although I love Alan Watts... his explanation is too simplistic IMO
Edited on Thu Apr-07-11 07:38 PM by True Earthling
Great find - I read my first Alan Watts book (The Wisdom of Insecurity) 40 years ago.

Watts is my favorite philosopher..read most of his books. I remember reading this quote and it made an impression. I've thought of it from time to time but couldn't remember the exact quote or what book it came from. His main point about how we get hung up on symbols and how we confuse symbols with the thing it represents... I agree. However his explanation of the Great Depression is too simplistic.

Although money is a symbol it fluctuates as a measurement. Inches are constant. There's a multitude of factors that effect the value of money. If only it was that simple.
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JBoy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-07-11 07:35 PM
Response to Original message
9. Great post! Thanks drokhole!
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