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