For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move. ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON

Friday, 20 September 2013

Growing In Stillness


Like Henry Miller, I'm convinced that the meaning of life lies in this world, not in the next world or in other worlds. Other worlds can take care of themselves. However, this kind of spiritual secularism, this faith in the saving grace of the here and now, is both wonderful and terrible. Wonderful because one can learn to relax and trust in the present moment; terrible because it entails an existential responsibility not to screw up. No stored karma; karma is being used right now. No deathbed conversion; the only conversion is a continual conversion of perception: to see a better world in the actual world, to find the miraculous in the day-to-day, the eternal in the temporal, the infinite in the finite.

For me, life has been a search, a quest, a becoming rather than a being, and perhaps it will ever remain so. The next person I meet, the next book I read, the next piece of music I hear, the next bend in the road, the next brow of the hill — always hold out such promise. This promise is rarely completely fulfilled. But there's always a new minute, a new day, a new landscape, a new philosophy, a new dream, a new sonata. This makes life exciting, fascinating, compelling; the prospect of the novel and the unexpected gets one up in the morning. Yet there's always a lurking feeling of disappointment, a suspicion that there must be something more, something better, something different; something deeper, more multi-layered and more satisfying.

How to reconcile acceptance of the now-as-all-there-is with the very human desire for betterment, for increased knowledge, for change? Can there, paradoxically, be a state of permanence in change, of stasis in motion, of stability in flux, of harmony in disharmony, of being in becoming? The nearest I've approached an answer to this is in Buddhism, Taoism and other related Eastern philosophies and religions.

Things grow and grow,
But each goes back to its root.
Going back to the root is stillness.
This means returning to what is.
Returning to what is
Means going back to the ordinary.

LAO-TZU Tao Te Ching

Translated by STEPHEN ADDISS and STANLEY LOMBARDO

9 comments:

Ruth said...

Hear, hear (said quietly, but with enthusiasm).

The tension between the now and desire is delicious.

George said...

Such is the human condition, I think. Instinctively, we know are pulled forward, perhaps by some evolutionary magnet, into the future. The heart seeks a peaceful home, however, so we naturally resist the magnet. Therein lies the tension of life, not fully trusting the future, but also skeptical of the present. If there is any answer, it may be in trusting what is (the present) to deliver us safely to what will be (the future). As your title asserts, there can be both movement in stillness and stillness in movement.

Hildred said...

Thank you for this. A search, a quest - beautifully put.

Dominic Rivron said...

"How to reconcile acceptance ... with the ... desire for betterment?" Good question. One has to - if one is to live in the Now with a full belly, antibiotics and a centrally-heated house.

Things are constantly changing so if there is no state of permanence in change, then there is no state of permanence. Could it be that, as humans, all we can mean by "a state of permanence" is an emotional state - one of security, of being without fear? And also, if things are constantly changing, how do we know what a state of permanence would be like? It's something we tend to yearn for and, if we can get away with it, we delude ourselves into imagining one can exist.

Gerry Snape said...

...in the ordinary is the exceptional...

jan said...

Thank you for that quote, it brings some peace and "comfort". We often feel alone(I often feel alone) with this "always becoming" - and somewhat frustrated with myself....when will I get there? When will I arrive? It is good to know I(we) are not so unusual. Maybe the difference between us all is not so great, others are more familiar/comfortable with their root?
I love the new header and the quotes you have chosen there.

The Solitary Walker said...

Now and desire, present and future, dukkha and nirvana. The heart seeks a peaceful home, yet there is no peace in this world. Hope and evolution draw us forward; memory and regret pull us back. Perhaps a simple trust is the answer. As St John said, trust in the darkness.

Thanks so much for all your interesting comments on this post.

dritanje said...

This is brilliant solitary walker, just the kind of thing I so enjoy reading. Particularly like 'conversion of perception'. Actually, that says it all really. But still, I enjoy reading the rest! You are so articulate when it comes to expressing such thoughts and feelings, the kind I feel hungry to read, because so real and truly felt. So, thank you!

The Solitary Walker said...

Glad you enjoyed the piece, Dritanje!