Beautiful moments are seen not in hurrying, but in slowing down, in wandering.
Circular thinking happens all too easily, while the fragments of thought that are open to the immeasurable form incredible patterns. Generalizing, making circular thoughts out of thought fragments, is a normal, popular and boring process. At the same time, in life, only moments are beautiful: scraps of time and thought. I used to think about this line sung by Ryszard Riedel [of popular Polish blues rock band Dżem – trans. note] by way of circular thoughts – thinking that only some moments in life are beautiful. I thought there were more ugly or neutral moments in life than beautiful ones – as if, in the ocean of moments, only now and then would you come across nuggets of amber or other precious stones. I thought there were only a few such moments to be found in life. For a long time, this was how I interpreted the line about beautiful moments, while to me, the words “that’s why it’s worth living sometimes” meant that it’s only worth living for those times when a beautiful moment comes along. It’s a quarter of a century since I first heard Dżem’s song. In the meantime, I disregarded its message as a rock ‘n’ roll cliché and locked it away in the deepest corner of my memory, from where it recently emerged with renewed strength. Yesterday, out of the blue, I told a moment that in life, only moments are beautiful.
Funny how Eros refreshes our memory, makes us revisit clichés and discover their deeper meaning. Oh dear, I’m generalizing again. In actual fact, I don’t know if love always refreshes our memory, or always makes us revisit clichés, and so on. Such generalizations are an expression of a strange disposition of the mind. For as long as I can remember, I’ve had this tendency to generalize, which went hand in hand with the tendency to analyse my own thought process, which is why I took to studying philosophy so well – I moved imperceptibly from specific issues to generalizations, which put my lecturers in a good mood, so they gave me good grades, which in turn put me in a good mood and convinced me that generalization was the right thing to do. If I were now to generalize my tendency to generalize, I would say that it is expressed in philosophy, because it’s completely different with literature. Writers observe individual moments, allowing themselves to experience them freely, to drift through what’s happening.
Eros breaks long-forgotten circular thoughts, refreshes the mind, and unlocks the long-unopened hiding places where, until recently, the chorus of “Naiwne pytania” [Naive Questions] from the album Zemsta nietoperzy [Revenge of the Bats] had been buried. Beno Otręba wrote the music, and the famous ‘moments’ phrase from the chorus was later engraved on the tombstone of Riedel, who wrote the words. When I told my moment that in life, only moments are beautiful, I wasn’t thinking of special moments, but of all moments. The conversation was short and it went like this:
“To see the moments that make up time, you have to slow down,” I said.
“So many people are in a hurry for who knows what…” replied the moment.
So pace is key. Beautiful moments are seen not in hurrying, but in slowing down, in wandering. So the problem is our pace, our perceptual abilities, and at stake is the momentary happiness that hurrying denies us. Life consists not only of moments that are beautiful, but also of looking ahead, planning more extensive periods of time where beauty is blurred until it is no longer discernible. People who live in haste – organizers and planners, but also generalizers, flying over moments like over the Alps – perceive living in the moment as unnecessary, an extravagance of little value, a symptom of laziness, and so on. They strive to capture and master all, or at least the vast majority, of their coming time. Truly, these people experience little beauty in life.
The difficulty of living in the moment is that you have to organize your own peace and slowness to some extent – you can only do this to some extent because the mind seeing beauty cannot be purchased or forced. What can be purchased, however, are favourable conditions: your own room, breaks from work, holidays, a warm spring, a wonderful summer, and so on – anything that allows you to savour the moment. In this respect, it is a privilege to live in a state of slowness. From the perspective of the daily grind, slowness, thick with exotic scents, turns out to be a luxury that few can afford. Nonetheless, radicals of slowness do exist who, despite unfavourable conditions, hunger, cold and risk of death, never miss out on the moment.
Translated from the Polish by Kate Webster
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