Bluegrass odes to Buddhist sages who were born inside Lotus Flowers are probably few and far between, but here’s one anyway. The Peter Rowan Bluegrass Band’s “Across the Rolling Hills (Padmasambhava)” is a foot-tapping celebration of Padmasambhava, a.k.a. Guru Rinpoche, a seminal figure in Tibetan Buddhism.
As the man sings Om Ah Hum Vajra Guru Padma Siddhi Hum
I’m always on the lookout for good, short passages of Alan Watts that I can share with people to act as hooks into his work. I know soundbites may seem superficial, and people tend to groan a bit at the guru-ish quotes people fire out on Twitter and the likes, but I am interested in getting more people into Watts’ work. Truth be told, I have found it hard to find short quippy 140-character nuggets of Watts that help convey his ideas in a way that would make people want to explore more. The other thing I am always on the look out for is short clips of his work on YouTube. There is a kind of sub-culture of Alan Watts videos, clips, remixes etc, culled from the extensive collections of recordings he left behind. Watts’ son Mark actually encourages this kind of thing, as long as the author makes some kind of effort to add his or her own flavour to the clip.
Probably the best known of these are the short animations done by South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker. These excellent animations help illustrate some very well chosen/edited Watts talks. Nearly every day someone on Twitter shares “Music and Life“, probably the best of the bunch. I like to think that some of the people who retweet this on see it as more than a little self-help/spiritual pick-me-up and as a gateway into the thoughts of a fascinating philosophy. Inspired by these I am always listening to recordings of Watts with an ear to finding a good, short piece that has its own, self-contained thought, but also leads the way to more. In reality, the best way to get into Watts however is too dive right in to one of his 50-60 minute audio lectures, or one of his books. The more I read/listen I think he’s finest achievements were his hour-long lectures, which balanced showmanship, humour, reality and some intriguing and very deep thoughts in a way which was accessible and fun. Still, as I say, I do like to find smaller, shorter clips for sharing to try and hook more people!
The other day I came across my first encounter with an Alan Watts Autotune video. Autotuning (that little piece of techo-trickery that turns average singers into average robotic singers) has taken on its own alternative life on YouTube. Of course, the masters are Auto-tuning The News, but there’s also the equally inspiring/entertaining Carl Sagan numbers, which pit his monologues to strange, uplifting dance music. I suppose it was only time, then, that someone did the same to Watts. The clip I found is taken from “Conversation With Myself” a programme Watts did in the 1970s. (The original is available online, and I highly recommend you watch it all). I’m not sure how I feel about it. It certainly encapsulates some central Watts ideas, but I always think of the Autotune thing as more of a goof on something. I don’t think it trivialises Sagan, but for some reason it felt a bit jarring here. Still on the whole, its a well put together clip, and I hope it will intrigue enough people to explore the ideas in more detail.
This particular Symphony of Science “We Are All Connected” echoes nicely the same thoughts Watts promotes in “The Real You”, but here being espoused from a different angle by some of the greatest scientific minds of our era. Food for thought.