Still Waiting, Waiting Still, Stilling Wait, Still Waiting… Distilling Waiting! Henri Bergson as a Product of His Time

**Alternate Title: still waiting, still waiting, still waiting: Bergson Unstirred by his Sugar Cube Self-fulfilling Prophecy**

As gleaned from a lecture on the subject, Henri Bergson uses the approachable everyday example of sitting and waiting for a cube of sugar to dissolve in water, and springboards his reader to drastic conclusions about the ontology of temporality. The suppositions he believes are entailed by the experience of waiting in agony for the cube of sugar to dissolve are the following: that time is ontologically independent (i.e. it is going to continue to move forward whether we like it or not) and thus oppressive, subduing any sense of will we thought we had over time’s pace; and that time contains durations, i.e. extensions and extensionabilities, which Bergson believes are inextricably bound to what life is and how the whole universe moves forward. Perhaps Bergson would balk at this summary of his cube of sugar example, calling it erroneous to what he was really driving at, but it is no matter and bears no effect either way; this commentary is going to offer an alternative viewpoint as to what the experience of waiting really is. Sorry if this preluding has made you feel impatient, disparaged, helpless… though you may have skipped ahead already.

The experience of waiting lends evidence to our lack of control over a particular space, not some inevitable dull march of time. It is that we feel we have no or little control to fast forward (as in quickly move) spatial configurations that are displeasing to us that time may seem to lengthen to uncomfortable and oppressive dimensions. If we are stuck in a boring lecture hall, we tell ourselves that we just have to endure it and there is nothing else for it, and that time will heal the externally wounding space, but on this time we are dependent, begging mercifully to; we tell ourselves time will dissolve the sugar cube. Such colloquial thinking lends evidence that an austere and severe oppression exists in our contemporary worlds and worldviews that has our imaginations chained when our bodies themselves have the answer. We forget that we have legs to jump up on to the professor’s table, to make the time more worthwhile—legs to walk right out the door and enjoy the outside eco-system where we have a real role to spatially interact; we forget that we have hands to grab and shake the water and sugar, to stir a spoon around to speed up the unfriendly space. When we create the motion in space, there is less of a need to intellectually search for other causative or background forces such as ontologically extended time. Perhaps during Bergson’s time the populace was used to waiting for things to happen (such as the “inevitable” Great War) rather than making other things happen in lieu of inevitability. Such a society indeed would induce a great deal of passivity so that one’s lack of contributive motion would be viewed as proof that contribution was impossible (or limited outside of space, for Bergson has tried to carve out such a freedom ontology). Bergson’s ontology is in a sense very politically correct; it is far less a product of a large time, and more a product of his own particular time.

Bergson’s view that space is dead (sans time), and thus requires a temporally backwards extended vitality to explain free life, is problematic to the view that space itself already contains everything it needs. The science that was blitzing forward in Bergson’s time—largely similar to the science we have now—had as a general trait the tendency to approach both space and time as dividable units that can then be measured. Upon seeing this method of conquest, it is my estimation that Bergson decided to bail out on space which he pessimistically severed as the place for scientific exploitation, and decided to capitalize on the space that “little t” (i.e. time) afforded him to endow with the power of his beloved vital force—time was for him the defensible refuge for life and creativity. To the point, some scientific thinking of our time has even considered getting rid of the t variable as unnecessary, something perhaps Bergson anticipated. Bergson asserted that unity was not a spatial entity, but something that comes from a deeper holistic individuality that is made in temporality; duration over time is essentially what it is to be unifed, and that unity in time is brought to bear on any particular spatial milieu (Bergson would say that as we look deeper backward in time up our cones and up all converging cones, we would see more and more unity and overlapping). However, an essential feature of space is overlooked when reality is parceled in to the separate entities of space and time, namely that space already has both divisibility and unity within it. Bergson saw space being scrutinized, analyzed down to crude matter, and jumped to the conclusion that space was truly such; he didn’t factor in that there had to first be a high degree of unity pre-existing the divisive scientific methods that had to be then chiseled down. He failed to see how barbaric his time was, and how vitality was being lost as the unity in space was being destroyed. He tried to transcend his specific time and this, just like Kant, left him in part to be a product of it; he was a great thinker that unnecessarily went and hid his ideas in the metaphysical. He was too busy defending against science that he forgot to be a Kuhn-before-Kuhn and rightly offend it!

Such a refuge for freedom in a false sense of extended time leads to immanent paradoxes such as the day happens to us (deterministic), rather than our happening to the day. Ironically (or oxymoronically), one of our most used idioms, “hold on [for some time]” seems like a request to do something commanding when really it is a command to do nothing that holds on to, or holds the tongue of, the person being told. Surely there are countless other perversions of a language distorted by misappreciations of spatiality, some that will only occur to me in some future time, but trust that these will continue to be used so long as humans are herded forward by their imaginary chains and fences of convention.

Time needn’t be invoked as the deep unifier—spatiality has space enough for this task so long as we fully confront its divisions with an appreciation of its harmonics, and we cease to metaphysically escape. When we alienate ourselves from the external spatial environment, we are by our own definition out of harmony with that space, which explains the fascist impulse to try to (falsely) unify with the whole through subservience to the oppressive whole—we destroy ourselves for the sake of not being dissonant! We ought not to mute ourselves in such a way, nor to isolate ourselves to a milieu of space that isn’t availing itself to us, but rather to replenish the external spatiality so that it connects to us in the original ecological way, sans scientifically informed violence damaged it so.

Tangential Daydreams and Remembering

It’s during those times of enduring boredom that we turn fully to our inner world and usually daydream of being somewhere where we are more connected with the space, or that we imagine ourselves having more control over that uninteractive space. Enduring dead space, space that is so vibrationally bereft, so in to itself…

“Memory” and “history” are spatial entities stored inside and outside a human, respectively, that are mere ligaments left over (not yet decomposed) from the past that haven’t been destroyed. They are very manipulable just as all of space is open to manipulation; history is a very shallow form of an external (to a human body) and encoded residue of the past, but is just as manipulable as the highly dynamic human brain/body where memories do shift, have gaps that widen or bend with each subsequent accessing. The act of remembering something is quite idiotic, in the old sense of the word, because of the way in which a person most isolate themselves from all present and active space to go to retrieve a deep memory. They are becoming “deadened” space in a large way, becoming all about themselves, reminiscing, so that they may have to say to others in a very anti-social way: “Shut up! I’m trying to remember something…” Though the focus is usually on not interrupting another’s remembering, in truth their act of remembering is terribly interrupting to the social harmony that might have been existing. Often the person has to remove themselves and go in to isolation (a quieted space) to entertain fragments of their previous life instead of engaging in their current life. Thinking of time is a waste of space! Remembering is also, in a very real sense, quite materialistic and against a creative impetus. They turn into an explorer, searching for some possession, some object, a supposed treasure that has been eroding and that is misplaced in their mind. Misplaced for good reason—it is about the past and it would erode and block the present. The more active present is negated for some ossified two dimensionality that possibly only exists at all because they didn’t fully live through it the first time, didn’t squeeze the pulp of the present fully enough, so there’s some dripping rotting juice festering for the attention to be squeezed a bit more.

Memories are very piecemeal instead of the whole all-at-once-ness of the present. As memories return to us, there’s usually “… and _____, oh, and ______, and, and, oh, and _____ …”. These are all additional little factoids, ossified dimensional memories adding on to the original one. That these pieces have to be added on in a mismanaged sequentialism weakens any merit that memories are somehow comparable to actually being fully engaged in the present.


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