Moments Are Underrated

Just a moment,
One peculiar passing moment.
Must it all be either less or more,
Either plain or grand?
Is it always ‘or’?
Is it never ‘and’?
That’s what woods are for:
For those moments in the woods…
Oh, if life were made of moments,
—Even now and then a bad one!—
But if life were only moments,
Then you’d never know you had one.

This is a song the Baker’s Wife sings after having “a moment” in the woods with the Prince in Into the Woods by Stephen Sondheim & James Lapine. I’m not sure I agree with the sentiment anymore. In fact, I’m sure I don’t; these days, after beginning to emerge from the cocoon of work and stress, I find myself wistful of Moments.

The Moment is the most under-appreciated, most often abused unit of time in these times. They’re taken for granted—“I was just daydreaming”. They’re trivialized—“I was having a moment.” They’re even blamed—“it was just a moment, it didn’t mean anything!”

Effluent blame seeps from generation to generation accusing shorter attention spans, more of a willingness to be distracted, less depth (implying that time spent on a topic accumulates profundity) and lack of focus, among other things.

MTV’s innovative quick-edits, now a staple of modern visual entertainment, are criticized as causative agents instead of a reflection of status quo. Video games and their twitch mechanics are maligned for creating obsession and torpor instead of focus and coordination. Text-messaging as word-bursts which dismantle grammar instead of being praised for more frequent communication and the ability to juggle multiple tasks.

It’s moments we remember. Even if we remember our (well, your) wedding days, it’s the moments of “I do” and rice-throwing and cutting-the-cake that provide the true memories—the rest we just fill in so as not to offend our sense of continuity.

We have moments of beauty, our moments alone, “I have my moments!” Streams of consciousness are like streams of water. Streams of water aren’t really streams at all except from the third-party view. They’re made of of the complex interaction of discrete objects—H2O molecules! And such our lives are particulate, made up of moments, to follow the next.

For all the talk of ongoing things in life, perhaps the most often used and most secularly sacrosanct to us all is the learning process. Not necessarily book-learning, but the acquisition of a new ability or new point of view or new status or stature. Even so, how do we most magically describe learning? “A-ha!” moments!

And when remembering what we’ve learned, we (or rather, I) seem to first flash on the “A-ha!” moments of my past <insert “Take on Me” reference here to trump the clever commenters>, and move forward, connecting the further moments dots until it conflagrates into a confluence of Learning.

Take yesterday, for example. I had ordered a book called “Computational Cell Biology” (Springer) from Amazon, y’know, for fun (hey, you have your fun, and I have mine), and I just started reading it last night. It brought me a moment of joy to start it because I haven’t been able to do much of anything lately besides work, sleep and dart into shadows to avoid threatening headaches. This was new! Gooooo me.

Anyway, I got to this paragraph:

Membrane transporters allow cells to take up glucose from the blood plasma. Cells then use glycolytic enzymes to convert energy from carbon and oxygen bonds to phosphorylate adenosine diphosphate (ADP) and produce the triphosphate ATP. ATP, in turn, is utilized to pump Ca2+ and Na+ ions from the cell and K+ ions back in to the cell, in order to maintain the osmotic balance that helps give red cells the characteristic…[discoid shape]. ATP is also used to maintain the concentration of 2,3-diphosphoglycerate, an intermediary metabolite that regulates the oxygen binding conformation of hemoglobin. The final products of glucose metabolism in red cells are pyruvate and lactate, which move passively out of the cell down a concentration gradient through specific transporters in the plasma membrane.

You may not understand the details of this, but point of fact, I did remember! After so many years of not having these things come to the fore in my brain, there they were. I remember moments in classes like Physical Biochemistry, Cell Biology, Structural Biology, Molecular Genetics and the like where I had my moments of understanding protein synthesis and osmosis and protein conformation and self-assembling molecules and cell memebrane-borne transport channels and calcium pumps and Na+/K+ equilibrium.

A thousand moments assembled themselves into a new moment, a moment which had enough of an impact that I am noting it and commenting on it and understanding it here in these pages.

A moment like this fuels me for days, and allows me to gain some altitude, open my world a little, give me respite from the scowling, neckless siege mentality I have been living under for the past couple of months—months, I should point out, containing nearly no memorable moments.

Right now, having just got back from accomplishing a task I was quite nervous about doing, I am basking in a moment of relief and triumph—and surprise that the photographer’s bright lights did not trigger another headache. And right now, I’m off to FTP’s house for a BBQ (me and my TLAs!), instead of choosing to remain here at home with no chance of any more moments happening today.

And I know better than to do that.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , ,