The slow arc of your life, sustained by a continual return to the lifegiving moment, which holds you in your course and shows you the breadth and depth and height of time. I call it a return, but isn’t it more like a repetition? A repetition of the same that makes the same new and lets you face the newness of the future – that lets you function in the world.
The Danish word for repetition, gentagelse, literally means ‘taking back’, but for Kierkegaard it means more than wresting the past into the present. True repetition for Kierkegaard points both backwards and forwards in time, it renews the past while opening it up to the unknown. It has a mysterious relation to the moment, and in a sense is the moment: a kind of suspension of time that gives you back the past as the new for no good reason, just as Job was given back his life and more for no good reason. Repetition happens: it’s experienced as a gift, not taken.
What was the ‘planetary’ time, the time of the day you tried to understand when you first came out to the countryside, when you started this journal? Didn’t you see it in the indifferent sea, the fields, the slow drifts of clouds, the way Rookie sat on the windowsill for hours with his eyes closed? Didn’t time seem monstrously long? A time of changing seasons, stars, the orbits of moons. Nothing to do with you, yet hanging over you like a cloud at dusk. The dreaded boredom of the day… strange inversion of time. And alongside it the depthless dispersals of everyday life under the cloud of capital: assaults on time you were happy to sign up to, as if you could escape so easily… And now the hard-to-reach moment, still here now always, waiting at the heart of time to hint at eternity.
Sudden in a shaft of sunlight
Even while the dust moves
There rises the hidden laughter
Of children in the foliage
Quick now, here, now, always—
Ridiculous the waste sad time
Stretching before and after.
— T.S. Eliot
Only through time is time conquered, Eliot also wrote. The moment as the world’s opening to God.
‘A person cannot live without a steady faith in something indestructible within him.’ Das Unzerstörbare… Isn’t that what you felt, that day in the chapel? An overwhelming power, gathering you up, making everything you are both meaningless and meaningful. The impersonal light through the stained-glass window. Your smallness and the greatness of God. Room to breathe. A sense of dignity.
Indestructible, that’s as good a word as any. Always already here, inside and outside you, before and after you. Not by works and not imputed. You feel it sometimes, like today. You can come to it or not, fall away from it and return, it will renew you. Unzerstörbar: there’s hope in that word, which sounds so harsh in German.
Existence is never neutral. No moment is insignificant or lacking in tonality. Each one can shine with a singular light, vibrate intensely, and suddenly can seem to unveil the ultimate depth of things. Leaden grey is, after all, a colour of the sky just as much as turquoise – and yet, how many monotonous, atonal moments, their singularity flown, are reduced to nothing! How many moments become colourless, their music silent! Has the call of Being deserted us then? From what sphere does this uncanny indifference descend upon us with all its weight? Where does this uncanniness itself come from?
– Michel Haar (tr. Brick)
The moment that holds time open for you: that gathers up your past and lets you face the future, slowly letting your life take shape. The slow steady arc of your life, held in its course and renewed in the moment – not just by the things you do from day to day, which pull you here and there only to fade back into the day…
Wouldn’t it be a kind of torment otherwise, this slow life? But you know what that’s like. Empty time. As if you’d lived the same life many times over and drained it of meaning. A ghostly life, as in Kafka’s story about Gracchus, the long-dead hunter whose barge was meant to take him to the beyond before it was blown off course, and who now floats aimlessly on the earth’s seas, unable to live or die.
This slow life, stretching time beyond all proportion. A flat horizon. Boredom. Whatever you do, you’ll be just as bored as before. How you resent it. It reaches such a pitch that it seems like time itself is boring, time is boredom and boredom is time, life is nothing but boredom. Boredom fills you so completely that now it’s only a small step to – what? You can almost see it, time itself, which you’ll only ever know as pure boredom… but you can almost see it, a time in which your boredom lifts like a fog, no, in which the hell of boredom has never existed, can’t exist, a time that knows nothing of boredom. You can almost see it: a kind of grace.