(film still from “Poetry is Revolution,” a work in progress)
When is now?
We are taught to live in the moment, not in the past (which is gone) or the future (which is yet to be), and this makes good sense to me, until I start to break it down and ask when the moment begins and ends. Maybe there are different kinds of moments, depending. The moment it takes to brew a cup of coffee. The moment it takes to bake a loaf of bread. The here and now. When is now? Where is here?
I think my own moment has a beginning—May 7, 1945—which will last until, well, that remains to be seen. So by this logic, if I am to live in a moment, I’ve got at hand a nearly seventy-three year moment to work with. And it keeps getting longer.
In a practical sense, what does this mean? When I shuffle through the piles of images and sounds that clutter my mental attic, what happened fifty years ago is still with me, it is not gone, it has not passed yet, not for me. Okay, so yes, I’m talking about what gets called nostalgia, but I think nostalgia is a longing for a by-gone something, a fond (or maybe despised) event, some shadow of a significant tree on the shore as I float down my stream of consciousness. But I don’t think what I’m getting at is nostalgia, which has such a bad reputation, doesn’t it, smelling of pressed roses and sand?
To get a perspective on this, I might try zooming out so that my timeline of seventy-three years is clearly seen as a tiny flicker on the screen of cosmic time. My moment is quite a minute thing, when seen this way. Looked at from a distance, my moment coincides with various tides in the stream of consciousness, many of which predate mine and will obviously continue after mine is over.
What I’m trying to say is that I live in a shared moment that began years ago and is still in motion. Take any of a number of evolving moments and see where you fit. Has the moment of evolving consciousness, from narrowly narcissistic to broadly compassionate run its course yet? Is the American Civil Rights Movement over? Is the moment of the struggle for fair and equal social relations over?
When is now? When I look at images and read testimony from fifty years ago, I feel as if now is still happening. The moment is still alive and needs to be lived in. The moment has not ended.
Intercut motion pictures of 1968 with those of today, of social disorder, war, demands for justice, etc. and see how similar they are, how the issues of the moment I am living through are still essentially the same. “The battle outside is still raging,” but in my head the moment is a wonderful sight to behold, fearful but also hopeful.