Posted On 31 Aug 2011
What is, or could be, the value of each moment? It’s a question worth taking seriously.
Whatever value a whole life has must relate to the value of its parts (or at least some of its parts). Presumably, the valuable parts of a life yield a valuable whole life.
We often think of our lives as lifetimes, decades connected consecutively. Decades are divisible into years, months, weeks, days, hours, moments (experiences of short duration).
What is a meaningful or well-lived experience? Does each experience have a value? Could each be valuable? If not, wouldn’t a whole sequence of them lack value?
Each moment is now. We can only work with one at a time. What is, or could be, the value of now?
Does now have any purpose? Might now have some purpose? Is there some function each moment could be fulfilling?
I invite you to consider the value of your moments.
Does only the time we are conscious count? When we are in a dreamless sleep, does (or could) each moment have a value anyway? Or, if there is any valuation, does it relate somehow to awareness?
There are anthologies of collected papers that have been written on the meaning of life. There have been lots of books, too, written on what we ought to be doing in order to have meaningful lives. Philosophers have had a lot to say on this subject. There are many different opinions, including the opinion that our lives have, and can have, no value.
If you have ever had an identity crisis, you have, though perhaps in a different way, asked yourself these questions. Who am I? How did I get here? What am I doing here? What should I be doing here? What is the purpose of my being here? What will happen to me?
Questions like these are often called “existential” questions. The existential questions are sometimes like a kind of backdrop for our lives, always there but always in the background.
Until, at least, an identity crisis forces us to confront them.
There are no more important questions than these existential questions. Camus: “There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide.”
Suppose it were the case that each moment could be valuable.
What could its value be?
What we may call the “content” of our moments is frequently different. At one moment you may be walking down a hallway. At another moment you may be eating. At another moment you may be doing laundry. And so on.
If so, either moments with a certain kind of content are valuable or value is not relative to the content of experiences at all.
If it were the former, what kind of content might count? Perhaps when creating a work of art or otherwise being creative. Perhaps when loving someone. Perhaps when worshipping God. There are lots of options.
Such moments are important. Are they, though, of ultimate importance?
Notice that any such option would render each moment of the “wrong” type valueless, meaningless, purposeless. The idea of a meaningful life would be that the moments of the “right” type outweigh the moments of the “wrong” type.
What if some people lacked the requisite ability (though no fault of their own)? They would be condemned to suffer meaningless lives.
Furthermore, how would it be possible to know what to do to ensure the right content? It seems impossible to avoid mistake, which is the criterion for knowledge.
Perhaps this option is correct, but perhaps not. Try this option:
What if each moment has a value but that that value is not relative to the content of different moments? What if, for example, we took our focus off the content of each moment and focused on something else that all (waking) moments have in common?
What would that be?
We might focus on the “how” instead of on the “what.” We could say something like this: it would be whether or not full attention is involved, whether or not we were fully focused on the experience, whether or not we were fully present in each moment.
There’s no standard terminology here, so I’ll use my own.
Here’s the question whose answer I’d like you to examine:
What if each moment were valuable because it is an opportunity to bring Being into Becoming? [For the Becoming / Being distinction, click here.] This is a very ancient thought based on a very ancient distinction.
This would be to bring the eternal into the temporal. It would be an opening up of each moment of flux (or Becoming) into the fullness of Being.
Since everyone has the power of focus, the ability to pay attention, this option has the advantage that it is (at least theoretically) open to everyone.
Furthermore, it is available at every moment of awareness and not just at certain times.
Furthermore, it is possible to know that the “how” is right whereas it is impossible to know that the “what” is right.
If, as I believe, getting the “how” right requires letting go of egocentricity, selfishness would automatically decrease as more and more people learned how to get the “how” right. What a wonderful world that would be!
This option is certainly an interesting possibility worthy of serious consideration.