Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Just a moment with Mary Ruefle . . .

Mary Ruefle
CavanKerry Press

A few days ago, I quoted Mary Ruefle on her sense of the "moment":
[W]e have only fragments -- but even this seems fitting, for what is the moment but a fragment of greater time? (Ruefle, Madness, Rack, and Honey, 13)
Now that I'm re-reading her book, I learn the size of that fragment:
Okay, three seconds -- as the approximate duration of the present moment has been defined -- not quite the speed of light, but about the time it takes to look at the moon. (Ruefle, Madness, Rack, and Honey, 17)
I'd never heard this fact before -- or maybe I heard in a moment of distraction and thus didn't hear -- so I looked it up and found a book by Peter Swirski, Literature, Analytically Speaking, that speaks of this established fact:
A good place to start may be with the research into the duration of the present moment originally conducted by Frederick Turner and Ernst Poppel. In a series of experiments, subjects were asked to reproduce the duration of a light signal or a sound or else to respond to the dilations of time intervals in the so-called metronome test (designed to measure the extent to which people subjectively group intervals). These early experiments have established what, since then, has been confirmed by a multitude of studies in developmental and adult psychobiology: the duration of the personal subjective "now."

It turns out that in most people the dimension of the present moment is about three seconds, although for some it can be about a half-second shorter or longer. (Swirski, Literature, 163-164)
Apparently, this fact holds for -- among other things -- poetic recitation, and Swirski informs us that Miroslav Horlub (whom we also met on this blog) inferred that the three-second line appears to be a "carrier wave" in poetry throughout various language systems (164-165).

What's the practical significance of this fact? I don't know. Maybe practice reciting poetry in units of the moment? Translate poetry that way as well?

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