I once read that the concept of time is defined in its simplest form as continuous events following one another. That it is the distance between events, just as space is the distance between places. We all just keep moving on a continuum from one “event” to the next, while the seconds tick the time out, minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day, and year by year – ad nauseam. We have the notion that we are moving forward in time because the mechanisms we invented to monitor the passage of time (ie: clocks, calendars), take us in a forward direction. We also know through the study of physics that every cause is followed by an effect, again solidifying the perception of forward motion. However, there is in fact no real scientific basis for the belief that the arrow of time moves in a forward direction, or any direction at all for that matter. We humans simply perceive it that way. What we do seem to know, at least in theory, is that things that have come apart – have become disorganized from their original composition – cannot be returned to that original state; at least not in any measurable amount of time. Who knows, maybe in a billion years a broken cup might eventually find its way back to what it was, but we don`t know and can never know for certain. For now, the one solid fact we have about time is that we can change the future but it seems we cannot change the past. What happens in the time before the present, stays there forever; we have no access to it.
Issac Newton and Albert Einstein spent years submerged in the deep, dark and murky world of time theory. It`s fascinating stuff if you don`t mind the headache that inevitably follows any attempt to understand black holes in the universe. But I`m not here to ponder the mind-bending theories of the Big Bang, and quantum physics.
My question is much simpler… What I really want to know is why time seems to go by so much faster the older we get. It`s a perception that everyone notices. We know that time doesn`t actually change it`s speed of course, but it feels that way. And I can`t help but wonder why.
Why is it that every time I step into my kettlebells class on Saturday, I could swear I was just there two days ago? And how can it be that Christmas was already three months ago? Yet here it is Spring already. How unfair is it that it seems I just had a birthday, yet another looms in the not-so-distant future. And why are there suddenly so many huge, mature trees in my backyard? Where the heck did those come from? And it can`t be that my car accident happened three years ago. Can it? I can still feel the constriction of the halo brace; the pain in my neck; the screws in my skull. Yet it`s been over three years..
I don`t like this. Not one bit. I want to put the brakes on time; just slow it down a bit. But how?
Psychologists say that the perception of time changes as we age and there is apparently a reason for this. It seems that we mark time by experiencing new things and making memories. New memories take time to process, thus slowing the perception of time so that when we are young, the days loom ahead forever, passing ever so slowly. The reason of course is that when we are young we are just begining to live life and for many years as we are growing, pretty much everything we experience is new. In addition to forcing the brain to process new memories, when things are new, they have more of an impact on us and as a result, they create an acute awareness of time. Simply put, living in the moment of new experiences keeps you conscious of time, and when you pay more attention to it, you are less surprised by its passing.
So, what`s the solution to slowing down our perception of the passage of time? Change your routine; learn something new; play like a child; try something different.
In other words, create new memories and give your brain something to chew on. That should do the trick in slowing things down a bit, at least for a while 🙂
- The Science of Why the Past is Different from the Future, Animated (brainpickings.org)
- A Conversation with Einstein, Father Time and Me (idefynormal.wordpress.com)