To understand what happens in the moment

To understand what happens in the moment … When you think about it you understand that everything is in the moment. A bullet hits in a moment… A heart stops in a moment. Death comes in a moment. An accident happens in a moment. And what about thoughts… How skilled are they in following the moment? Actually not very skilled at all! They are even inefficient in perceiving the moment. Only when we see the blood on our chest do we realize we have been shot… and that, if there is enough time left!

The human is more inclined to understand continuity rather than cross-sectional thought. Even when he gets shot it seems to him as if life will continue. If only it would! The wife of a close friend of ours was taken to her room after an operation for a myoma. She is alone in the room. When her husband comes in he notices how pale she is. He lifts the bed cover. The bed is full of blood. The woman is taken into intensive care. She is only 40 years old. She has many plans for her future. When I went to the intensive care unit and asked the doctor I was told that it was “disseminated intravascular coagulation”. Due to the blood loss her veins were filled with clots. Her blood acidity had completely deteriorated. Death was inevitable. But I, totally inadequate to understand the moment was thinking of joint action that could be taken and was unable to comprehend the death of our dear friend… My question: “Why should she die?” was met with a look on the young doctor’s face that was saying “How can you not understand?” Then he gave the simple answer: “This pH is not compatible with life!”…

Another incident; I was sitting in a wrong posture watching a television program that interested me very much, when a muscle in my right shoulder blade momentarily lost its power. For many months I was unable to lift my arm. The incident happened in a moment but for many months I had difficulties comprehending the situation. Some may call it denial; I call it the inadequacy of the brain to comprehend the moment. The speed with which the organ functions is slower than the speed in which natural events occur, and it falls behind these. A clear proof of this is evoked potential. Depending on the properties the brain finds the response long after the stimulation and this state can be recorded on an EEG. The delay can sometimes reach several minutes. In fact in my opinion sometimes days… What would happen if we understood the moment instantaneously? I must admit I had to ponder over this question quite some time. We would probably be a mechanism that constantly processes its own physiological reactions. Under these conditions there remains only one solution: to predict the moment in advance and to take precautions. This must be what it means to be a human. The alternative is to constantly fall behind events, and this would not be a state to be proud of.

It seems to me that many psychological and philosophical issues are only an exaggeration of this simple physiological fact…

Prof. Dr. Kemal Arıkan