Alan Watts Meets Sons of Anarchy

I’m about to wrap up season 3 of my current Sons of Anarchy binge, and when I’m not Netflix’ing, I’m generally Mom’ing, which includes hours and hours of cleaning, cooking, and -ing ing.  Anyway, when I’m not doing the whole parenting part of Mom’ing, I typically have Alan Watts going.  There’s something beautiful about washing dishes and contemplating philosophy.  At least, that’s how I feel.  As I was listening to Alan Watts today, I started thinking about SOA.  

My largest criticism of the show has been the clusterfuck of SAMCRO.  (oh, by the way, don’t read this if you want to watch the show…I accidentally spoilered myself reading about the upcoming prequel, so I would hate to do that to someone else, even though it’s 9 years old and it’s my own damn fault…).  I feel like it requires a lot of suspension of disbelief on the part of the viewer because there is no time period where SAMCRO provides the positives they say – protecting Charming by keeping drugs, etc. out.  In the 3 seasons I’ve watched, everybody seems to be fucking everybody literally and metaphorically.  It felt like every episode was everything getting fucked as they’re trying to unfuck the prior fuck ups.  

When I started watching, I was into it because of motorcycles, hot lead actor, and lots of crazy stuff.  I started getting turned off by the nonstop bull-shittery, but then I realized I am hooked on the show because it’s a genius way of showing the problems we all have. Last night, I realized if you lose the illegal side of things and motorcycles, there’s not that much difference from SAMCRO and anyone’s life.  If you replace gun running with credit card debt, we’d all have a story to share (unless you are smart and stay away from the damn plastic…I am not). Fortunately, we don’t get gunned down for high debt to income ratios, but the point is that we’re all constantly trying to unfuck ourselves while getting fucked – to varying degrees.  

The progression of events has a very karmic feel to them.  At this point in the series, it seems to me every action SAMCRO has taken has resulted in retaliation from some outside force like the Mayans or ATF.  It is negative action, negative result, which explains the seeming nonstop bull-shittery.  My initial understanding of karma was good and bad, but it’s not quite that cut and dry. It is cause and effect, in the sense what you do is what you will receive.  However, the Buddha himself did not like ascribing good or bad to Karma.  Alan Watts and other Zen masters describe karma as the fruit of intention or the result of the action.  It’s not a celestial scorekeeper of + and – or a form of punishment.  Shows like SOA always push the boundaries of the notions of good and bad as we understand it.  Drugs, murder, etc. are all “bad” in the sense they are illegal, yet we all seem to resonate with the characters and sympathize with their struggles.  

Jack told me the inspiration for SOA was Hamlet on motorcycles (which kind of spoilered me prior to me spoilering myself, because I love Shakespeare and Jax is a total Hamlet…) I find Jax’s perpetual guilt fascinating, and so true to life.  Alan Watts said “We all have such great anxiety about making decisions, and we go through these great motions of making a decision.  Then, more often than not, when it comes time to make the decision, we make a snap judgment.” Every time I have heard him say that, I laugh hysterically, because that’s my life.  With Jax, it’s the same (at least what I’ve seen thus far).  He bears this whole cross of the club, his conscience, the life he wants vs. the life he has, etc.  

Last night, watching the scenes where Jax was tortured with letting Abel go to the adoptive family or getting him, had me weeping in my honey roasted pecans.  It hit home for me because I actually gave a child up for adoption, and the torment depicted is one I know too well.  The blame, though, is what kills me about Jax.  He blames himself for everything, and I get that.  I do too.  I blame me, I mean.  I blame Clay for everything on the show.  It was, again, Alan Watts that opened my eyes to the futility of blame. Not just that pointing fingers is a wasted endeavor, but the very notion of polarity.  Jax struggles so much because he is completely torn and confused by what is good and what is bad.  You see the beauty and dichotomy of it as his world bleeds into Tara’s.  Tara is a surgeon, a professional, with a “straight” life, and Jax is a criminal.  He disagrees with the gun running, but he still does it.  His torment over killing people actually reminds me of Louis in Interview with a Vampire.  (Also played by a very hot dude…)

During my shower, Alan Watts talked about taking away duality – good vs bad, and being a polar thinker.  It is the deep understanding that you cannot have this without that.  You cannot have good without bad, or you will have no idea what it is.  You only know yourself because you know what you are not.  You can only have a picture if you have blank space to offset.  Duality is so entrenched in our culture, we are so left brained logic driven, that everything is categorized and analyzed.  You must be good, you must not be bad.  To come away from duality, you must see that everything is a reflection of another. Yet, he goes on to say, there is the risk of madness.  Once you have come to realize the illusion of our reality, you become a menace to society because you know there are no true rules, there is no God in the sense of one above, but one within.  Therein lies the risk that you think you can do whatever you want, or overwhelmed with the burden of the responsibility, you lose your mind.  I’m SEVERELY summarizing this because I’m more hopeful people will go listen to him.  It seems this very concept – the madness – that when there are no rules, no right from wrong, you have the chaos you watch with SOA or the madness of Jax who seems to be perpetually stuck in motion.  He makes a decision or snap judgment and blames himself.  Gemma says how Jax’s guilt will get him killed and compares him to his father, and Jax seems to really struggle with who he is – Clay or JT.  Substitute God for the names, and it’s pretty much everyone.  I’m curious to see how this all develops, because Jax has bounced between wanting to do what his dad wanted vs. the club.    

It feels very much like SOA is a metaphor not just for day to day life, but the very struggle of (in Buddhist terms) samsara and duality.  Clay and Gemma do not struggle with the good vs. bad as Jax does because they see it as necessary.  It’s not that the actions are different, but the perception entirely, their polar view versus Jax’s dualistic.  Jax’s suffering is most people’s suffering – I want to be a good person because I don’t want to be a bad person.  In truth, neither truly exist.  I love, too, how religion is getting sprinkled in the show, as the question is constantly raised: is it okay to kill for this reason? how about this?

What I find in watching is another example of Alan Watts’ teaching.  Watts views religion as a raft to get you to the other side – in this case, enlightenment, one-ness, holiness (not in the pious sense but whole), and once you’ve crossed, you leave the raft behind. Alternatively, he describes religion as a finger pointing you to the moon, and most confuse the finger for the moon.  It seems like Gemma and the Irish priest raises questions about the role religion plays in our lives.  You connect emotionally with these characters who are sinners, likely going to hell, etc. by most views, yet you don’t think they’re awful people.  Everyone roots against Stahl and for the murderers and outlaws.  

That’s why I love this show.  It’s Alan Watts on a motorcycle, in the sense, it shows you all the things Alan Watts tried to help us not do.  Now, clearly, I’m on season 3 so everything could change, and I have yet to know how fully Hamlet this goes, except that I know my sexy Jax will not stay amongst the living.  I love how the show easily maneuvers you through huge existential and philosophical quandaries that ultimately make you ask questions of yourself.  If I’ve learned nothing else from my obsession with Alan Watts, it is the power of questioning everything, most especially yourself.   

I’ll definitely be updating this as I progress through the show….I’m only slightly behind on the times./sarcasm

11 thoughts on “Alan Watts Meets Sons of Anarchy

Add yours

  1. My wife and I binged SOA 2 1/2 years ago. We started the day after Christmas 2014 and blew through that first season in two days. There were some seasons better than others and some storylines that should’ve ended sooner than they did, but overall it was a hell of a show. Jax and Clay were so well written, and that line of villain and antihero was blurred so much on that show. They were murderers, drug dealers, crooks, and generally horrible people, yet you still felt for them. Like you said, what was happening on screen could be pulled out and laid into your own life. Very Shakespeare-ian indeed.

    I’ll let you continue on your SOA journey. I’ll be interested to know your thoughts on that last season(the biggest disappointment, imo.) And I need to look up Alan Watts.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I am definitely curious how Jax’s character develops, because even in the most recent episode I watched, Jax went from wanting to follow his father’s intent to “I’m not listening to dead men anymore” dude has more mood swings than me 😉

      I cannot recommend Alan Watts enough to every human on this planet hahaha. He’s incredible. His whole philosophy was essentially being the bridge between Eastern and Western philosophy. You actually may enjoy – on YouTube, there are Chillstep mixes done to Alan Watts’ speeches. The combo of his beautiful british voice (he sounds like this amazing grandfather sitting you down round the fire and explaining life), the simple yet profound wisdom he shares, with the triphop/chill music, dude it melts me. I’m happy to send along more links to him, like I said, I listen to him pretty much every day. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Then I’m in. I’ll check Mr. Watts out immediately. And triphop/chill music is always a plus. I love new ways of seeing the world and dealing with all the psychic bull shit that comes with living.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, I am really glad I am bingeing this, because I would be losing my shit waiting for some of these cliff hangers. I also binged Breaking Bad, and that’s another one I am glad I did. The only show I watch in real time now is GOT. I guess I’ve gotten too spoiled by Netflix and I can’t deal with commercials or waiting hahahahaha Have you watched bloodline? That’s a great show on Netflix.


  2. I also binged Breaking Bad, also Bloodline, even did all of The Sopranos! Happy binge watching! 🙂 ps: Just recently Amazon’s “Blood and Water,” I don’t do commercials either.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: