Ordinary life is the spiritual path and it becomes a delight to consider this viewpoint as a genuine prospect and truly as a way of living one’s life. The reasoning behind it is quite complex. Most certainly it rests upon the Buddhist perspective of impermanence and the transitory nature of phenomena, but also upon our distant loss of the power and beauty of childhood and the rather boring and unstimulating nature of adulthood we seem to have acquired by comparison. It also ties in with the fact that we all want happiness and bliss, which we mostly felt, in some measure, as children and also with the idea that drugs of all kinds can never safely or permanently recreate those vivid feelings and perceptions we had as a child. Yet that is in essence what we crave. Even our unhappinesses taken together, all in a sweep, also reflect the transitory and unsatisfying nature of existence; fundamentally so, and thus if we cannot change the world then we can at least begin to change our response to it, our perception of it and the way we view it and feel it inside, as compared to the mundane view of sensory perception, material substance and the dictates of physical science. We can project upon the world the same blissful vision that we had as a child and then it becomes again a delight to be alive. We must also sweep into this picture the fact of our own personal death and the grievous sense of loss we feel for those we love who will die, and those who have already passed away.
Part of this story must be personal as it regards my own discovery of these ideas for myself earlier in my life. I feel I hardly knew my father, when he died and I was only 15. My respect for him is mainly genetic I suppose, but I feel that he was more important to me [and that we were much closer] than he was in reality. I suppose what I mean is that my childhood was intensely beautiful and a hard act to follow as it means I find adult life pretty dull and uninspiring, in general, compared with those times. As long as I focus on here and now I feel fine but at times I yearn for the glory which has passed away. I always have. And all that has slipped away forsure. That is why I find comfort in Buddhism with its emphasis on loss and decay and our trying to accept change and the transitory. But deep down I do honestly feel the loss of all those wonderful characters from my early life. I wish I could meet them all again. I suppose it is that which inspires my artistic efforts more than anything. So I try to keep my awareness of such matters superficial. I have done much work on my attitude towards my father as I feel he was much more important to me than I used to think. Father-son relationships are probably fraught with difficulties because men are so emotionally inept and so ungiving [hard and ungenerous with affection] in many ways compared with women.
But later, when I also lost my mother and several aunts and uncles, and other people who were dear to me, I began to see the staggering universality of my situation. I began to see that this is precisely what Buddhism is talking about: the transience of the world and all its contents. The loss of those we love and hold dear, the ceaseless racing forwards of life; it can never be held or stopped in one place; it just keeps racing along against our will. For example, we seem powerless to change the flow of events or to bring back our departed loved ones. In this sense, most certainly, 'samsara' [embodied existence] seems like a nightmare into which we are plunged against our will, as Buddhists contend. The realisation of the universality of my predicament made me conceive the possibility that life could again become engaging and artistic and beautiful as well as meaningful, rather than being the random chaos of molecules and the extinction at death [the view of science] or the nihilism of emptiness.
'…the movement of the higher thought, as far as we can trace it, has on the whole been from magic through religion to science. In magic man depends upon his own strength to meet the difficulties and dangers that beset him on every side. He believes in a certain established order of nature...in the acuter minds magic is [then] superseded by religion, which explains the succession of natural phenomena as regulated by the will, the passion, or the caprice of spiritual beings like man in kind, though vastly superior to him in power…religion is then later displaced by science...here at last man has hit upon a clue to the labyrinth, a golden key that opens many locks in the treasury of nature…' [Frazer, 1922, The Golden Bough A Study in Magic and Religion, pp.711-12]
In his monumental tome, Frazer clearly depicts the transition in human beliefs from the magical to the religious and then to the scientific, but he signally ignores the fact that children delight in magic and then he fails to even consider what serious, great and vital function the magical might actually have in our lives, as compared to the bland and unpalatable diet dished up by scientists! If folks want to believe in elves and fairies, magic and deities, then so be it. If it enables them to make more sense of their sad little lives, if it helps them to be happier, to walk so much taller, and to smile and laugh more often, then what possible damage can it cause? And in the last analysis, on some deep, elemental plane, it might even be found to be truer than Newton's laws of motion or Schroedinger's equations.