Moment or duration, for the meaning of life?

Whether or not to linger on the moment

Is wisdom about making the moment the essential meaning of life, because it is the only reality, that everything else is only thought? Or is it madness, because precisely what exists only for a moment is not worth dwelling on?

Look closely at the question: is it really a choice? Making a choice requires the same investigator to formulate both terms. But this is not the case here. What sees the moment as the only reality is precisely the instantiation of the person in an elementary duration. While what does not linger is the destiny of the person, a life goal, an extension of duration. Two very different personas inside the same mind.

Different and yet not foreign. What connects them? They do not belong to the same level of reality, any more than the cloud of quarks and electrons belongs to the same level of reality as the atom. The electronic moment is a tiny part of atomic eternity. Existences with profoundly different and yet indissoluble dimensions.

Don’t shrink

There is no choice in the indissoluble. The importance of the moment vs the duration is not a problem posed from the outside. What answers, in the mind, is its instantiation or duration. Neither agrees to reduce itself to the other. To force them to do so would be a spiritual mutilation. But does this imply that they are equivalent?

Not. Your impression is probably similar to mine: I cannot put my destiny on an equal footing with my moments of life. The first, surimposed on the second, is superior to them. But does not exist without them. Does not replace them. The relationship of destiny with moments is that of the driver with his vehicle; he will hardly advance if he pays no attention to the good condition of the cogs, to the quality of the moments. There are prophets so transfigured by their mission that they resolutely neglect their bodily health, to the point of making every moment of life a suffering that they simply ignore. The two levels of reality become the magnificence of the ideal and the crucifixion of the flesh. Why split so much something unique: oneself? Are contrasts so hard to find around you? If you think so, read Sobriety to taste all the scents of the world.

A wandering mind

It is difficult to locate in us the self and its desires. Because it walks on different levels of our mind. The self fluctuates with irregular contents, depending on the environment and our physical state. The physical takes precedence. The mind can escape when it is well, its vital necessities satisfied. This observation applies to every mental level, from the crude to the elaborate: first organize our raw needs and a world often reluctant to do so. When the solution seems sustainable, our attention is focused on more sophisticated and distant desires. The self takes on a temporal scope, because ‘distant’ concerns both the past and the future, connects them. The rewards also take on another dimension. Which do not make disappear the small satisfactions of the moment. Which thicken them.

When the work succeeds and magnifies the small daily steps, the pleasure becomes timeless rather than attached to the moment. All our spiritual levels enjoy together instead of wondering who it is today’s turn to.

Protect the meaning of life from the ravages of time? It is either to shrink it at the moment, even before time has been able to intervene. Or to free it radically, by extending our identity to make it encompass time, by a timeless work.

In both cases life does without its opposite. Death no longer has meaning, neither within the moment nor for a timeless identity. Welcome to the eternal.

The weight of the immeasurable

Between these radical postures, however, death continues to eat away at the thoughts of most of us. Who are we? Too old to convince us that only the moment counts, we have worked to expand our temporal identity. We are a story and not just one of its instantiations. But this story has not (yet) managed to get out of the passing of time. Unfinished work or not sufficiently magnified. Maybe because we have been too fond of the eyes of others? But also because the universe is overwhelming. Which work stands up to its incommensurability?

Death is that, in the end: the weight of the immeasurable. The difficulty of being fetu, when existing is whole. Life is a conflict. Those who, at the moment of death, think they have solved it… have actually finished their living.


Leave a Comment