Moments Out Of Time


A man and a woman performing a modern dance.

Recently I’ve been thinking a great deal about time and moments in time.

It started with T.S. Eliot as I have been reading and studying The Wasteland which meant I was also reading a lot of other Eliot poems including his Four Quartets where he writes a lot about time and moments in time. By the way, I heartily recommend the Norton Critical Edition of The Wasteland, I’ve found it incredibly useful to my further understanding of the poem.

I also found an old essay I wrote in second year English back when I was studying at the University of Sydney that was about Eliot and D.H. Lawrence and “unattended moments”. I’ve now typed it out and put it up under “Writing”.

The final thing was a prompt on Plinky, a web site that provides a new prompt every day. This one was “What activity, task, or game do you love most in the world? Why?” and it made me think about enjoyable ways of spending time and how some of them are Eliot’s unattended moments.

What do I mean by that? Well to start, what is an unattended moment? Eliot would say they are “A moment not out of time, but in time … a moment in time but not like a moment in time”. He also refers to them as “The still point of the turning world”.

That last phrase is the one that really got me thinking. I love those still points, those moments when time and the world seem to have no meaning and you are entirely in the moment and in the place. If you’re not sure what I mean then go and give my essay a read, that will help.

I had a partner who talked about her “happy place”. When we were next to each other she would tuck her shoulder into my armpit and put her head on my chest and her arm would be across me while mine was around her, holding her close. I suspect that for her this was an unattended moment, a still point, I know it was for me.

Sometimes the same thing would happen to me when I was walking along holding a woman’s hand and it would seem that the whole world was those two hands intertwined.

So when I think about favourite activities or tasks I don’t quickly think of a particular activity, I think of those moments.

When I was studying psychodrama my teacher used to talk about the balance between thought, feeling and action. Perhaps because I have always spent a lot of time reading and working in jobs that were about thinking I always have a problem being “stuck in my head”, over thinking everything and losing touch with my emotions and slow to take action.

One of the reasons I am attracted to the time out of time is that almost inevitably they are moments when you are not “in your head”, they are without thought or at least there is no thought outside the moment.

Where else have I seen (or perhaps ‘felt’ is a better word) these moments?

One place is on the dance floor. Sometimes when I’m dancing the music and the rhythm and my movement gain a hold on me and I am without thought and it is as if I am the music and the dancing.

The other that comes to mind is harder to explain. As a man I often find that holding and cuddling and kissing are a prelude, a moving towards sex. However when I’m in a sustained, long term relationship where sex is frequent then the desire for sex changes. In the moment, sometimes it isn’t there so that those moments of intimacy are no longer needfully moving towards it. Just like the intimate moment I mentioned above then holding, cuddling and kissing my lover becomes about the moment and the sensations of the moment. The moment has no past and is not moving towards a future but just is. In that moment you are nothing but the senses of touch without a sense of passing time. As Eliot puts it “Except for the point, the still point, \ There would be no dance, and there is only dance.”

Can you think of moments where you were outside time, when you were in the moment and you were nothing but the moment?

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