In every moment of experience, we are just arriving out of the past. This might be described as the newness of the moment. We arrive with expectations: looking, feeling, and listening for certain things. There is always a certain degree of surprise and the possibility of great surprise. We arrive feeling the force of contact with objects or resistances, sometimes fending them off, sometimes weighing on them, grasping and working them. Part of our energy is re-orienting, identifying, pushing and pulling against these immediate presences.
We arrive at particular localities and occasions partly as a result of work and effort. Some also come flowing upon us. We arrive in the act of leaving previous situations, with an expectation and attitude about what is here. An attitude manifests itself in what we find relevant and worthy of attention, in what we notice, and in our emotional bearing toward what we notice. Our attitude is the searching, vigilance, and direction of effort by which we are responding to imperfections and opportunities from before. It is a sort of memory which largely determines what is perceived. Incidents and occasions are streaking by, but something remains and accumulates in ourselves from them other than mental images, namely changes in attitude and bearing.
On one side we have the experience of arriving with an expectation of what will be here, searching for specific locations and resources. On the other side we have the experience of streaking through, streaking past this moment, going through it. The orientation of our effort is through or past what has already been identified, bearing down this corridor or street or into that room, lifting this bag of groceries, heading into the imaginary space of the future. We arrive working things toward a potential shape, pushing and pulling with the purpose of removing ourselves toward a future place. We are leaving whether we want to or not, whether we feel dissatisfied with the imperfection we sense here, or feel contented. This is the incompleteness of the moment which complements newness. The opening we sense as we look down the corridor is the future. This moment features a potential of going that way by the performance of certain work.
Taking both arriving and leaving together we still have nothing of the world but the instantaneous present. Although it has no duration, its newness and incompleteness point toward a world of context. The memory and attitude from which we reach down at the present, and the expectation we have of getting through and beyond it, are the context, and it is much richer and more extensive than the duration-less present ever can be. Questions, emotions, and dreams make up the rich context from which we reach down to the meagre wafer-presence of nature. The force of opening and vectoring into the future is exactly questions and dream-fulfillment, emotional responses to what was. Here are the ideal models by which we read the fleeting sensual impressions which are all we ever have of the world. Indeed we take up and grasp the present as we do because of that context. Nothing could have meaning and sense for us without memory and expectation, but in what way are they with us? How do we have them or sense them as part of the world? They are, by definition, things not being perceived and we do not have them in the same way as things perceived. They are not floating about separately either. They exist in a bearing or orientation built into perceptions of things, in the directionality and force of subjective intelligence.
For everything perceived there are two modes of presence intersecting: a part present by sensation, and a non-sensual context of questioning. That non-sensual context is the intelligence that is perceiving, the project or orientation within which the act of perception is performed. Memory and expectation are features of an instantaneous mental act of thinking sensations of the world. A subjective orientation or bearing is intersecting with something not originating from the self, something objectively resisting the self.
The experience of time is built into what is present instantaneously. Past and future are structural elements of the instant of experience. The past is only the newness of any instant and the place of memory in that newness, reference points receding into ever increasing remoteness from this moment’s bearing. The future is only the incompleteness of the instant and the involvement of mental projection, expectation, and self-declaration in that incompleteness. Both are features of an instantaneous mental act. It isn’t that intelligence endures but that it has, in an instant, experiences which are present in different ways. Our experience of time is the intersection of different modes of awareness. We experience time not by being temporally extended but by having binocular consciousness, consciousness of an elemental transcendence, an intersection of intelligence with object-world.
If there is to be time, there must be intelligence and its object. The object alone has no memory and no teleology, no past or future, and without duration there is nothing. The object-world, without a living intelligence intersecting it, is a wafer of duration with a smallness of infinity. Memory and purpose (predicament and orientation) give the object its appearance of duration. Kant agreed that time is a feature of intelligence, but perhaps we can say that the brute actuality of nature is an infinitesimal duration-less momentum. Past and future do not exist in the material universe. The science-fiction fantasy of time travel is absurd because past and future simply do not exist in the brute actuality of nature. Only intelligence brings time to the world, with a structure of tension stretching memory into an act to strike a self-declaring mark on the object-world, present entirely as an instantaneous bearing.
Since the present only makes sense in a sort of triad of past-present-future, maybe a visual aid could be used, a hieroglyph, an enlarged X. That figure is made up of four arrow-heads which point toward something at the centre with no size. The top arrow of the X would represent certain features of the present. Labels for that space might be: “There is nothing but the instant…The present has no duration…”
For the bottom arrow: “… always new and incomplete… Whatever there is must be features of this instant.”
The left arrow of the X would represent all the purpose, direction, knowledge, and force-against-resistance we already bear in arriving at the present. I might put these labels there: “… arriving, by specific efforting, with a purpose … searching for specific valuables … incidents and occasions went streaking by but something accumulated other than fading impressions or images: a bearing in response to them.”
The right arrow is an opening outward, potential, possibility, and probability surrounding the pointing, vectoring, or bearing of effort and orientation. Part of our energy is pushing past the grip of the present “ … leaving specific predicaments behind with an effort toward self-declaration and creation …”.
Copyright © 2012 Sandy MacDonald. The moral right of the author is asserted.