Monday, 28 June 2010
Bergson and the Stream of Existence
I had occasion to think recently about the philosophy of Henri Bergson, about the need to bridge the gap between life as is lived and live as it is thought. So much of what we do, so much of what I do, is caught up in rational calculations of one kind or another. So much of our existence is defined by artificial and self-imposed limits, locks on the doors of perception.
But rationality, intellect itself, is only one dimension of experience, and by no means the most important. Life itself, no matter how we approach it, is essentially irrational. It is, rather, beyond rationality; feelings, emotions, perceptions, dreams and intuitions are all beyond rationality. That’s why there is literature, that’s why there is art. Above all, that’s why there is poetry.
Bergson understood this. Try to imagine life as a stream, a constant mobility, the realm of the unforeseen, the unpredictable. It’s from this constant flux, this process, that creativity and freedom emerge. Intellect only allows a partial understanding. The whole can only be grasped by intuition. I don’t think therefore I am; I exist therefore I think; I feel therefore I am. There is no determinism; there is the pure mobility of free will. A moment comes; a moment is gone. We are carried along in a great evolutionary tide, the élan vital, as Bergson terms it, with echoes here of Schopenhauer’s will-to-live.
The vital impetus, the will to live, the will to struggle, the will to power, the will to love – it’s all the same to me.
To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly.