Life in a blur
Ask anyone older than 50 how rapidly they believe the days, weeks, months and years are passing, and I believe most will tell you faster than they can keep up with.
It’s become reality in so many lives to feel there aren’t enough hours in the day anymore. Monday now seems to me to be followed by Thursday. Aren’t weekends just three days apart today?
I’m still thinking summer’s about to begin but it’s already August. Fall begins next month, then another holiday season, and we’re back to anticipating the buds of spring. But wait, wasn’t it spring last week?
I’ve asked friends if they share this experience. They all agree. No one can explain the seemingly shared drag race along what asphalt remains. At the same time, this phenomenon of speeding time also is too obvious day after day not to recognize the phenomenon.
Do you feel your age? I don’t. I often feel as if I’ve never left my mid30s, which were 35 years ago. Why is that?
Even those who fall ill can find it difficult to believe they are facing such age-related problems when only yesterday they were
21 with life spread before them grander than Cherokee Casino’s buffet.
But today, many of us with diabetes, replaced hips and other health concerns can’t even enjoy one of their decadent sugary desserts.
Perhaps time is indeed an illusion bestowed by the divine creator in order to make sense of consciousness over our brief lifetimes. While the tick-tock appears real enough when we’re in the thick of living in this world together, Albert Einstein said he believed everything actually is happening all at once, and time is both flexible and relative: “The distinction between past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.”
Another scientist on social media compared time to a DVR we’re watching and the movie it’s playing is our life. Change unfolds in the movie, but the DVR, as with time, is static and unchanging.
The inexplicable magic we call consciousness is contained within the machine of time that makes sense of the electrons we (who are comprised of atoms) translate into our story.
Such rationales prompt me to reflect on how we measure time passing by the memories of our unique experiences. Without memories stored in our brains, we are left with only this very moment of awareness, right?
On that point, I appreciate scientist Abhijit Naskar’s explanation: “Time is basically an illusion created by the mind to aid in our sense of temporal presence in the vast ocean of space. Without the neurons to create a virtual perception of the past and the future based on all our experiences, there is no actual existence of the past and the future. All that there is, is the present.”
Author Ken Poirot agrees: “Time is but an illusion acted by beings with limited perception.”
Literary Nobel winner Thomas Mann tried explaining why things seem to be happening more quickly in this way: “Time has no divisions to mark its passage. There is never a thunderstorm or blare of trumpets to announce the beginning of a new month or year. Even when a new century begins, it is only we mortals who ring bells and fire off pistols.”
Writing in Psychology Today, James Stone in March 2016 shared his views in an article titled, “Why is time passing so quickly these days?”
The psychologist and author cites reasons for our perceptions, the first being what he calls “ratios.”
He refers to French philosopher and psychologist Pierre Janet’s explanation back in 1877 in which Janet said time speeds up for us as we age because in youth each new experience comprised a smaller fraction of a natural measuring stick—our lives.
“When you are 5,” Stone writes, “a year represents 20 percent of your life. When you’re 50, it’s a measly two percent of your life.”
The intellectual explanations are, I believe, either on target or very close to the way we perceive time to be passing. But I want to know how to get off this speeding train if that’s even possible.
The second reason, as I mentioned above, lies with our memories. We tend to measure time in terms of vivid memories, he writes, and we just happen to store more vivid memories when were younger. He also believes that unlike our hormonally driven youths where emotions and experiences were fresh, powerful and detailed, we tend to see life in the older years in larger chunks rather than in vivid detail.
Stone cited a study showing that the various pressures we experience later in life (some self-imposed) also contribute to the sensations, causing subjective time to accelerate in our minds. He uses the example of a basketball team down by 20 in the fourth quarter that sees the clock as moving “unmercifully quickly.”
The bottom line is neither Stone, Einstein and certainly not me, can fully explain why it’s already Tuesday when yesterday was Friday.
The antidote? Slow everything down. Release every needless, self-imposed pressure and intentionally return, whenever possible, to that childlike sense of wonder with all the beauty and magnificence that surrounds us.