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Intuition of the Instant

GASTON BACHELARD





          Time is a reality confined to the instant and suspended between two voids.

Although time will no doubt be reborn, it must first die. It cannot transport its being from one instant to another in order to forge a duration. The instant is already solitude… through a sort of creative violence, time limited to the instant isolates us not only from others but even from ourselves, since it breaks with our most cherished past.


Meditation on the instant thus convinces us that oblivion is most brutal the more recent the past it destroys, just as uncertainty is most poignant when placed along the axis of a thought to come, of a still fervent yet already broken dream.

If our heart were large enough to love life in all it’s details, we would see that every instant is at once a giver and a plunderer, and that a young or tragic novelty — always sudden — never ceases to illustrate the essential discontinuity of time.

For instance, physicists have developed a notion of uniform and lifeless time without limit or discontinuity. This entirely dehumanized time has then been handed over to mathematicians. Upon entering the domain of such prophets of the abstract, time is hence reduced to a simple algebraic variable — the variable par excellence — better suited to the analysis of the possible than to the examination of the real. Continuity is indeed a schema of pure possibility for mathematicians, rather than an essential character of reality.

But suppose past and future could be blended definitively… Having succeeded in proving the unreality of the instant, how then can we speak of the beginning of an act? What supernatural power lying beyond duration, will enjoy the privilege of assigning a decisive role to a fertile moment which, if it is to endure, must yet begin?
However, if we move into the domain of abrupt mutations, where the creative act takes place at one stroke, how could we fail to acknowledge that a new era always opens up through the interruption of an absolute? For every evolution — to the extent that it is decisive — is punctuated by creative instants.

To speak in more physical terms, the fact that a mechanical impulse presents itself always as a composition of two infinitesimally different orders leads us to reduce the decisive and shocking instant down to its punctual limit. A percussive blow, for instance, could be explained as an infinitely great force that develops within an infinitely short time.

Ultimately, the coherence of being is constituted neither by the inherence of qualities nor by its material becoming. It is purely harmonic and aerial. It is fragile and free like a symphony. A particular habit is a sustained rhythm, where all acts repeat themselves while equalizing their novelty value with enough accuracy, yet without ever losing that dominant characteristic of being novelty.


302-2085 WEST 5TH — VANCOUVER, BC