The keen spirit
Seizes the prompt occasion —
Makes the thought
Start into instant action, and at once
Plans and performs, resolves and executes.
INSTANCY IS URGENCY OR IMMEDIACY IN OUR ACTIONS. It is, as Hannah Moore tells us, the thing that “makes the thought start into instant action.” It’s not only planning but performing, not only resolving but executing. And what a powerful virtue instancy is! It takes dreams, kind intentions, and loving impulses off the drawing board and injects them into real life, where they can do some good.
Not everything should be done instantly, of course. Some things should not be done at all, and we need to guard against the rashness that would do right now what, on later reflection, would clearly be seen as foolish. But even when something needs to be done, wisdom often indicates that now is not the best time to do it. So there is a time to be instant and a time to wait. We can’t let our lives be tyrannized by the pressure of all those things that are only superficially urgent.
Nevertheless, when we know full well that the time to do a certain thing is now, instancy needs to be the quality that our character demonstrates. It’s an exceedingly dangerous thing to ignore our conscience when it’s urging us to act. Every time we say “no” to our conscience, we make it that much harder to say “yes” to it in the future.
But instancy, or the lack of it, not only has consequences for us; it also affects those around us, especially our loved ones. We probably have no idea how many difficulties we create for others when we put off doing things that should be done instantly. Instancy, then, is a great gift we can give to those who have to live and work with us.
There is a beauty possessed by instancy that delay can never hope to attain. Our lives are made up of moments, or “instants,” and when we use these well, we honor them. Acting with integrity in each moment of choice, we express appreciation for the gift of life — and we show by the use of our freedom that there are things worth pursuing.
But with unhurrying chase,
And unperturbèd pace,
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy . . .