Saturday, August 27, 2011

Motion in a present moment

Can motion be experienced in a present moment? On the one hand we clearly observe motion the moment we cast our eyes on a skateboarder whizzing by. Yet, since motion can be divided into parts: the skater begins at one's right, shifts slightly to the left, and then slightly further to the left, it consists of a past, present, and future. Surely this would place it at odds with a present moment.

One resolution of this paradox lies in understanding a difference between Chochmah and Binah, two of the primary modes of cognition discussed in Kabbalah. Chochmah is a raw experience of reality, while Binah is the analysis of experience. The name 'Chochmah' consists of the words 'Koach - Mah' (lit. the power of what). It is the power to sense what something is in its essence, as a whole, without interpretation. It is the ability to mentally identify, reflect, or sympathise with the external world to the point of engrossment. A state readily observed in the manner young children become mesmerised by and unwittingly mimick their environment.

'Binah', however, is cognate with the word 'bein' meaning 'between'. This reflects the nature of analysis in a few ways:

a) when analysing, one tends to feel space between himself and the subject being analysed. This is in contrast to Chochmah where one loses oneself in the object of experience.

b) Analysis breaks experience into parts, creating space between components which are otherwise unified at the chochmah level of experience. For instance, whereas a tree is seen as a whole at the Chochmah level, Binah divides it into parts: roots, trunk, branches, leaves, flowers, fruits, seeds, colours, cells, etc.

c) Analysis discerns the nature of an object by drawing comparisons between it and other objects. For example, how big a chair is depends on what you compare it to. Relative to a larger chair it appears small, and relative to a smaller chair it appears large.                   

Binah characteristically divides motion into segments - a beginning, middle, and end - and thus views motion as incompatible with a present moment. Chochmah, however, experiences motion as a whole and indivisible 'flow'. Therefore, from the Chochmah vantage point, motion can indeed be experienced in one moment...       

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