THE MOMENT


"Suffering is one very long moment."
(Oscar Wilde)

A process unfolds in time. Its product occupies space. A moment is a coordination of time and space. When Virginia Woolf said that she needed "money and a room of her own" to write she meant that she needed a moment for herself. (A room is a space. Time is money.) Henri Bergson said that "time is that which keeps everything from happening all at once". Space, I add, is that which keeps everything from piling up in the same place. As a "process philosopher", Bergson also believed that everything is always happening, that nothing simply "is", that every being is forever also becoming, that the ostensible "product" is merely a stage in a longer process. Even a mountain does not simply exist. It endures.

In a moment, a "here and now", space and time find their finitude, a volume and a duration, in imagination, which is infinite. A process may be very long or very brief, but it is never unimaginably long or brief; a product may be very big or very small but never unimaginably so. While imagination is infinite, we might say, an image is not; an image suggests a finite space, a finite time, though it is itself nothing and nowhere. In a moment, we form an image of something by associating a product with its process, or a process with its product. We see the drawing, for example, and imagine making it with our hands. Or we make the drawing as we imagine how it will look when finished. In that moment we experience the thing definitely; we imagine how we make it look on the page. To imagine a moment is to appreciate one's finitude.



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