Decisive Moment

Yesterday I wrote a sombre blog about death and hospitalisation.

Please don’t misinterpret my message – admission to hospital, when necessary, is, in the UK, an almost universally positive experience; and, note, I choose my words carefully – necessary is perhaps key, as, not all admissions are necessary and once admitted the duration of the stay is frequently longer than necessary.

Moving a little away from admission to the event itself, the moment. The trigger that precipitates the pathway.

The best example I can provide in relation to this is an older person falling.

The split-second of distraction, over-balance or disorientation and then the trauma, the fall, collapse, drop.

This magical moment which, like a spell cast-over an individual’s existence can determine the trajectory for the rest of their life.

This is the Decisive Moment – a term popularised by my favourite 20th century photojournalist, Henri Cartier-Bresson, originally from the 17th French century writer Jean Francois Paul de Gondi.


The moment at which all that follows is secondary, determined by the evanescent split-second determinants of fate.

The fall, and all is changed.

The fall and fracture, cracked head, broken arm, confidence lost, and, the ebbing-away of autonomy, surety and immortality – for, as described yesterday, don’t we all imagine we will live forever, that the moment will always be?

And that fall triggers a cascade of events that can lead without warning, to an irretrievable change. Suddenly from being Jo or George or Sadie, they become patient X, in hospital gown, escorted to x-ray or theatre, their individuality hacked-away by the system that endeavours to allocate a place in the process.

There is little we can do about the decisive moment, and likely, there are just as many moments of positive happenstance in our lives – recall the 1990’s movie Sliding Doors.

There is no knowing whether we will end-up happy or sad, wealthy or poor.

The decisive moment as described by Cartier-Bresson was the immediate, unrecoverable instant when elements coincide, when light, shadow, texture all combine to produce an image that conveys deep meaning, that describes something more than came before or after; a coming together of bits and pieces, which, like life spells wonder.

We cannot change these moments; we can open our eyes and perceive their passing, for, without the mindful moment, we are likely too busy, wrapped-up in the chaos of getting-on to appreciate the beauty.

Sunday-on-the-Banks-of-the seine.jpg

And, to me this is the importance of the decisive moment – it is our obligation to slow-down and look around; appreciate the gift, the richness of our times.

Sometimes I want to cry at the sacred encounters to which I am privy – the last moments of life, the cup held in delicate hand, smile, laugh, look of suspicion.

Slow down, slow.

The race to the finish-line doesn’t get you anywhere in particular.

Moment by moment, let us distil to the best of our ability the richness around us.

Madrid 1933

Published by rodkersh1948

Trying to understand the world, one emotion at a time.

One thought on “Decisive Moment

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