In one of her Brunetti books, Death in a Strange Country, Donna Leon has her hero, Commissario Brunetti, think of the answer in a ‘hallucinogenic instant’. It is the “aha” moment, as Webster’s defines it: a moment of sudden realization, inspiration, insight, recognition, or comprehension. It can also be the instant, usually traumatic, when your life flashes before your eyes.
On a regular basis, nine times out of ten, we just think of what has to be done and we do it. The hallucinogenic instant comes at that tenth time, the time when we are desperate. When we’ve got to solve the problem, do or die.
It also comes when, as noted, our life flashes before our eyes. This has happened to me. Once, on an excruciating January day after a night of constant snow followed by freezing rain, I was dumb enough to try to get to work on the Long Island Expressway. Wrong decision! It wasn’t essential that I get there. Cresting a hill, the wind took my car and sent it sailing into another car that had had the same experience. Crash! But between the time the wind took the car and the time I crashed, time itself slowed down for me. I even had time to think about what I was thinking. I never thought I was going to die, but I did get a quick review of things past. Eerie, to say the least. I was right near the exit I would have taken, so I left the car and trudged through the ice and knee-deep snow to get to work and start the recovery process. As I walked, I thought more about the experience. It was nasty to be in the accident, but in a way I was delighted to then be among those whose life had flashed before their eyes and lived to tell the tale.