In this next series of writings I am revisiting last year’s research into Nietzsche’s doctrine of Eternal Recurrence, exploring what it might feel like to experience a moment. On a linear view of time, a view ingrained in the Western world and deriving from a Christian worldview, our perspective toward time is viewed as sequential moments leading to some kind of destination or ending. Each one building consequences upon another. Nietzsche rebelled against this world view to propose another - the possibility of time occurring in cycles, and the present moment, the only active moment of significance, repeating itself eternally. While this view does not provide a cosmologically accurate picture of time, the perspective of eternal recurrence could allow us to embrace present experience with the potency, ambiguity, and expansiveness of life at feels in an instance.
What constitutes a moment? Is it the situation we are in? Is it a kind of event happening in this instance that signifies it? We may often hear that we should “live in the moment.” I wonder exactly what living in a moment would feel like, as each moment seems to be slipping from grasp, and on a linear view of time, each moment at once is a vehicle to move forward to a future goal and also a result of past actions. And so I wonder, what constitutes a moment to be lived within if it should not in this sense be both a result of the past and means for the future, but to be something in itself. And what could it be in itself as it is always passing? To live in something often entails a kind of inhabitancy or an enclosure, and living within an interval suggests to be within a part of a temporal sequence. For this essay I would like to uproot a notion of a moment on a linear structure of time and explore how, if we could shift our perspective on time, we may make realizable that a moment can not be defined nor enclosed, and that to be present, as we are often encouraged to be, actually involves a kind of being outside ourselves and outside of temporality, rather than a living within it. Our experience actually happens most fundamentally from the many outside places at once - from both past and future as well as the now, from ancient histories and into far off memories. And it is this multiplicity of being that may collapse into a kind of eternal momentum that Nietzsche talks about.
A moment exists for us in a situation and yet it may also feel to be everything that ourselves and the situation is not, as our imagination may conceive of that which is everything other than what we perceive. A moment for myself as a twenty-five year old is as much as a moment in which I was once twelve years old. A moment I am walking on the street is as much a dream of desert. A moment is rarely one in which I am within myself and right here, but usually a moment of the other I am with or somewhere I am thinking of, the person I am missing, of an internal or external image, of a longing for what I do not know of yet, of images I watch on a screen in the cinema, or as a close my eyes and am swept away by music. A moment is many things at once - it is both everything that may be conceived of and also none of this, as to think that this moment is just what I perceive and claim to know would be limiting. Because a moment is also of what all others may conceive, it is the vastness of the world without me. We may recognize our presence to be as much of ourselves in this situation as it is of the absence of ourselves as we know ourselves to be. It is a collapse of what I may perceive, know, remember, dream of, and be without into what I may call ‘now.’
For the existentialists, ecstasy translates to “outside of oneself” and is Heidegger’s term for temporizing experience. We do not live in but rather outside of self-consciousness, and in this way when we experience time from the outside. The past (‘having-been’) and also the future (the not-yet) and the present (the ‘making present’) fall outside of our present consciousness in a current situation and into one another. The present situation is then an active point of everything that has already been and that is not yet and that could be. Sometimes we may feel burdened by our situation and the limitations or the facts that are of right now that cannot be changed, or we may feel at times just unsatisfied with the moment and are often feeling helpless in our inability to currently be what we would rather be. And yet, if we shift our perspective, we could understand that it is not just what we are that we are right now, that we also are the hopes and dreams that we have in this instance, the projections we send to the future are of right now as much as the situation I currently experience, that I am as much my dreams and memories as I am my current self. And instead of focussing on one way of seeing a temporal structure, we could see that a situation could be informed by many possible and not yet known structures at once, and that to embrace this expansiveness could be a way to open up to a more vibrant swarm of possibilities. A general understanding in society, a system for time, a scientific or philosophical doctrine, may all enhance different ways to structure life, but they cannot define or reduce in any way the expansive multiplicity of personal experience that makes life fundamentally unknown.