Alan Watts & Nico

Open Culture sent me a nice little package today of videos from the Zen Beatnik 50s and the Warhol Pop 60s. The first set portrays the Zen consciousness of Alan Watts in four animation videos. Tagged on to that is a collection of videos of another favourite icon of mine: Nico, the famous-for-15-minutes German model from Andy Warhol’s Factory. The documentary included, Nico-Icon, portrays her as a train-wrecked middle-aged junkie. The cherry on top is a French couple singing a charming version of “Femme Fatale” by the Velvet Underground.

The Wisdom of Alan Watts in Four Thought-Provoking Animations

Link to Open Culture

The Wisdom of Alan Watts in Four Thought-Provoking AnimationsPosted: 24 Nov 2014 05:00 AM PST

Perhaps no single person did more to popularize Zen Buddhism in the West than Alan Watts. In a sense, Watts prepared U.S. culture for more traditionally Zen teachers like Soto priest Suzuki Roshi, whose lineage continues today, but Watts did not consider himself a Zen Buddhist. Or at least that’s what he tells us in the talk above, animated by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the creators of South Park. “I am not a Zen Buddhist,” he says, “I am not advocating Zen Buddhism, I am not trying to convert anyone to it. I have nothing to sell.” Instead, he calls himself “an entertainer.” Is he pulling our leg?

After all, Watts was the author of such books as The Spirit of Zen (1936—his first), The Way of Zen(1957), and ”This Is It” and Other Essays on Zen and Spiritual Experience (1960). Then again, he also wrote books on Christianity, on “Erotic Spirituality,” and on all manner of mysticism from nearly every major world religion. And he was ordained an Episcopal priest in 1945 and served as such until 1950. Watts was a tricky character—a strict anti-dogmatist who found all rigid doctrine irritating at best, deeply oppressive and dehumanizing at worst.

While Watts may not have been any sort of doctrinaire Zen priest, he learned—and taught—a great deal from Japanese Buddhist concepts, which he distills in the video at the top. He gleaned very similar insights—about the unity and interconnectedness of all things—from Daoism. Just above, see a very short animation created by Eddie Rosas, from The Simpsons, in which Watts uses a simple parable to illustrate “Daoism in perfection.”

The concepts Watts elucidates from various traditions are instantly applicable to ecological concerns and to our relationship to the natural world. “The whole process of nature,” he says above in a parable animated by Steve Agnos, “is an integrated process of immense complexity.” In this case, however, rather than offering a lesson in unity, he suggests that nature, and reality, is ultimately unknowable, that “it is really impossible to tell whether anything that happens in it is good or bad.” The most reasonable attitude then, it seems, is to refrain from making judgments either way.

It’s that tendency of the human mind to make hasty, erroneous judgments based on misapprehensions that comes in for critique in the Watts talk above, animated by Tim McCourt and Wesley Louis of Westminster Arts & Film London. Here, he reaches even deeper, investigating ideas of personal identity and the existence of the ego as an entity separate from the rest of reality. Returning to his grand theme of interconnectedness, Watts assures us it’s “impossible to cut ourselves off from the social environment, and also furthermore from the natural environment. We are that; there’s no clear way of drawing the boundary between this organism and everything that surrounds it.” But in order to discover this essential truth, says Watts, we must become “deep listeners” and let go of embarrassment, shyness, and anxiety.

If you enjoy these excerpts from Alan Watts’ lectures, you can find many hours of his talks online. The official Alan Watts site, managed by his son Mark, has extensive collections of his talks and courses, though these are offered at considerable cost. What Watts would have thought of this, I do not know, but I’m certain he’d be glad that so much of his work—hours of lectures, in fact—is available free of charge on Youtube. Just below, watch a film called Zen—The Best of Alan Watts, a compilation of the “best pieces of seven films Alan Watts made from the late 1960s until his death in 1973.”

Related Content:

The Zen Teachings of Alan Watts: A Free Audio Archive of His Enlightening Lectures

What If Money Was No Object?: Thoughts on the Art of Living from Eastern Philosopher Alan Watts

Zen Master Alan Watts Discovers the Secrets of Aldous Huxley and His Art of Dying

Alan Watts On Why Our Minds And Technology Can’t Grasp Reality

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

The Wisdom of Alan Watts in Four Thought-Provoking Animations is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on FacebookTwitter, and Google Plus, or get our Daily Email. And don’t miss our big collections of Free Online CoursesFree Online MoviesFree eBooksFree Audio BooksFree Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.The post The Wisdom of Alan Watts in Four Thought-Provoking Animations appeared first on Open Culture.

The Crazy, Iconic Life of Nico; Andy Warhol Muse, Velvet Underground Vocalist, Enigma in AmberPosted: 24 Nov 2014 01:00 AM PST

There’s no denying that train wrecks make great documentary subjects.

Not that Abraham Lincoln doesn’t, but watching someone come unglued is a whole ‘nother sort of compelling. Upsetting, even.

Docs in this genre usually require the subject to have left the building in order to reach a satisfying conclusion. The final word belongs to an assortment of friends, colleagues, admirers, enemies…some of whom may be harboring ulterior motives.

Surely German chanteuse Nico’s appearance factored into Andy Warhol’s decision to elevate her to Factory superstar status. (See his video of her immediately above.) She was a model after all, arresting enough to have appeared as herself in La Dolce Vita. She romanced rock gods, film directors, and movie stars, many of whom have their say in Susanne Ofteringer’s documentary Nico-Icon, viewable in its entirety up top.

It’s a fascinating, cautionary portrait, but as the backseat psychoanalysis mounted, I found myself wanting to hear from the subject more.  With apologies to Neil Diamond fans, we decided  it was only fitting to show you Nico having her own say.

Maybe she was a nightmare. Former keyboardist, James Young, wrote a book about his time on tour with her. He’s in the documentary, of course. Aspiring icons, you’ve been forewarned:

When I worked with her her looks were gone and she wasn’t this Chelsea Girl creature, this peroxide blonde Marlene Dietrich moon goddess vamp. She was a middle aged junkie.

Nice. You reckon he might have gone easier on her, had she been one of John Waters’ superstars, the late Edith Massey or the still-thriving Mink Stole?

Forget sticks and stones. It takes a lot more heroin and hard living to kill the looks of anyone with her bone structure.

Did Nico really have such little use for anyone’s approval but her own? The art she made after her iconic work with the Velvet Underground convinces me that her embrace of ugly–what Chelsea Girls director referred to as her “stupid German perversity”–was sincere.

She’s still an enigma trapped in amber. She’ll be your mirror.

Find 200 free documentaries in our collection, 700 Free Movies Online: Great Classics, Indies, Noir, Westerns, etc..

Related Content:

Andy Warhol Shoots “Screen Tests” of Nico, Bob Dylan & Salvador Dalí

Nico Sings “Chelsea Girls” in the Famous Chelsea Hotel

Lou Reed, John Cale & Nico Reunite, Play Acoustic Velvet Underground Songs on French TV, 1972

Ayun Halliday is an author, homeschooler, and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. Follow her @AyunHalliday

The Crazy, Iconic Life of Nico; Andy Warhol Muse, Velvet Underground Vocalist, Enigma in Amber is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on FacebookTwitter, and Google Plus, or get our Daily Email. And don’t miss our big collections of Free Online CoursesFree Online MoviesFree eBooksFree Audio BooksFree Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.The post The Crazy, Iconic Life of Nico; Andy Warhol Muse, Velvet Underground Vocalist, Enigma in Amber appeared first on Open Culture.

The post French Couple Sings an Achingly Charming Version of VU’s “Femme Fatale”appeared first on Open Culture.


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