Give me a moment. Just a moment. I'll only be a moment. This is the big moment! Live for the moment! In the heat of the moment. On the spur of the moment. (music notes) It only takes a moment to be loved a whole life long! music notes
We sure reference moments a lot in our culture. But why? What do we mean by it? I'd like to try to unpack some of that. Let's start with the dictionary, I suppose. "An indefinitely short period of time; an instant." That's often how it's used, but not always, I think. Some moments are fleeting, short, instantaneous. They last as long as it takes to make eye contact with someone and flash them a smile. As long as it takes to realize that the object that was in your hand is now traveling towards the ground, though it hasn't hit yet. As long as it takes to catch your breath before jumping back in again. As long as it takes for your heart to skip a beat when you catch a glimpse of that special someone. But other moments tend to last much longer. The length of that one particular song. The amount of time that you sat in the ER lounge, waiting for news of your loved one. The length of time you spent sharing a candlelit dinner with your partner. Some moments are instantaneous, some last hours. Some moments pass before you even realize they're there, and some last all night, all weekend long. Moments can be nested, too. Maybe you're having a lovely date night - a moment that lasts for hours. As you sit at the restaurant, your song comes on the radio, ze takes your hand, and you gaze into hir eyes - a moment that lasts the length of the song, a few minutes. But during the song, all of a sudden, you release a tremendous sneeze and ze busts up laughing - a brief moment, but distinct nonetheless! Ultimately, while in this body, I will experience one moment, overall. All other moments are contained within that moment, which lasts exactly the length of one lifetime.
So it seems that moments are often, but not always, short in duration, and localized in Time. But do moments exist in Space? As Time and Space are two sides of the same coin, I have to say yes, they do. There's a particular phenomenon, often thought of as a type of ghost, where observers see a form or spirit repeatedly performing the same activity, repeatedly walking the same path, etc. It seems, in these cases, that a particular moment of Time has been locked to a particular Space. The energies surrounding that particular happening were enough to cement that particular span of Time into that relative Space. But this isn't the only thing I mean when I talk about moments in Space. If we go back to date night at the restaurant, the couple at the next table over doesn't have the same connection to that song, or to each other, as you and ze have, so that couple is experiencing a different moment than you and ze are. So it seems that moments are localized in Space as well as Time. But, you might be thinking, I've shared plenty of tender moments with people hundreds of miles away, through the magic of technology! We've got phones and IMs and text messages and Skype and FaceTime. These are like wormholes from my brain to yours. Our technologies allow the rapid, nearly instantaneous, transfer of information from one physical Space to another, an arbitrary distance away. Thus, in a sense, these long-distance moments are still localized in Space.
Turns out, if we're careful and talented, we can also create long-Time-distance moments, that are still localized in Time. If I write you an email, or a physical note, I can craft my words and phrases in such a way as to inspire certain thoughts and feelings in you, and if I've done a good job, you'll feel that when you read it, even if it's been hours or days since I sent it. The medium of communication can be a wormhole through Time just as easily as through Space. If I've done my job here, this very post will inspire certain thoughts and feelings in you, and create a long-Time-distance moment between you and I. :)
So far, this has all been fairly objective, as objective as a discussion of something experiential can reasonably be. But what about the subjective side? How do we experience moments? Moments are enshrouded in paradox. They are most often thought of as short-lasting; this is precisely what we mean when we say something is "momentary". However, whether a moment objectively lasts a fraction of a second, or several minutes, or hours, they all subjectively seem to last for the same length of time, Eternity. When you are "lost in the moment", all of Space shrinks down to your immediate surroundings, and all of Time collapses into that instant, that Now. The instantaneously brief instant paradoxically becomes all of Eternity, and vice versa; all of Eternity becomes that instant. That finite, limited moment of time and space has an infinite instance.
This leads to another paradox, that of infinite instants. Any given instant of Spacetime comprises all of Spacetime, which means that every single unique instant of Spacetime is a fully-fledged eternal moment in and of itself. Within a single instant, a single moment, the moment that corresponds with the entire lifetime of this Universe, reside infinite instants.
One of the key features of a moment is that, even though in the moment, they feel infinite, really, in our limited, linear perception, they pass. The moment that is now in the Now was once in the Future and will soon be in the Past. But now that it's in the Past, there's another moment going on now. And another now. Moments are fleeting. But paradoxically, they're always present. Any time we open our eyes and look around, it's a moment. Even those that you don't consciously recognize. They're still moments.
I've touched on the idea that moments are fractal, that all moments are contained within any one moment. This means that all moments have an effect on all other moments. Some of these effects are immediately obvious, some we can speculate about, and some we'll never even conceive of. The easiest effects to see are effects "past" moments have on "future" moments. The instant a soldier steps on a landmine has a very dramatic effect on all future moments of hir lifestream, not to mention those of hir friends, family, and fellow soldiers. These are the easiest types of effects for us to notice, but future moments can (and do) effect past moments, and simultaneous (relative to the observer) moments separated in space effect each other. This violates our everyday understanding of causality, but scientists are striving to understand it when they study quantum principles such as nonlocality and uncertainty.
The human mind is, by its very nature, limited in its understanding of Spacetime. We experience it locally. The farther we are separated from something in Space and/or Time, the less we directly experience it in the moment. But here's a secret. If all moments effect all other moments, if all moments contain all other moments, then all moments are accessible from all other moments. I'm sure it takes years of practice, but with focus, discipline, and determination, one can eventually train one's mind to transcend the everyday boundaries of Spacetime and have the whole of the Universe at hir fingertips.
The ancient Greeks understood these concepts and personified and codified them in their understanding of the god Kairos. Kairos is a Time god, but not of linear Time. He is god of the Moment, god of the New Now. He is the perfection and beauty of all moments. He is fleeting. The Greeks often depicted Him bald, other than a tuft of hair in front, because if you saw Him coming, you only had a moment to catch Him, or He'd pass, leaving you with nothing to grab on to. But the trick here is that, even as He passes you by, He is already approaching you anew, giving you another opportunity to grab onto Him, for He is in all moments. Some moments offer the observer a clearer image of Him and His momentary perfection than do other moments, but whether or not it's easy to see, He and His momentary perfection are in all moments, from all viewpoints, if one can look carefully enough.
I feel I ought to mention, for the record, that this post was written entirely on my mobile handset, in "stolen" moments, most often in transit from one location to another. That wasn't necessarily my intention going into it, but I started writing it while waiting for the BART one day, and it just seemed thematically appropriate to continue writing it under such circumstances. ;) moments, most often in transit from one location to another. That wasn't necessarily my intention going into it, but I started writing it while waiting for the BART one day, and it just seemed thematically appropriate to continue writing it under such circumstances. ;)