Remember sitting in third grade watching the minute hand move so slowly that dismissal time seemed weeks away? Remember how your ninth birthday took almost forever to arrive? Yeah, that was childhood. Now months zip by with such speed that it’s becoming clear our elders hang on to handrails because time is practically knocking them down as it whips past.
This concept is brilliantly depicted at Wait But Why.
See how our perspective of time changes as the years go by?
Researcher Robert Lemlich studied the way we perceive this. According to him, 80 year olds have gone through 71 percent of their subjective experience of time by the age of 40, making the years between ages 60 and 80 seem like 13 percent of their lives. By his calculations, when we’re 20 years old we’re halfway through the felt experience of our lives, meaning that 60 additional years will seem to pass as quickly as the first 20. That’s a nasty blow.
It makes me wonder how the youngest among us sense time. If a baby cries when a parent leaves, does it feel like an eternity of sorrow to him? If a toddler’s plaything is grabbed by another toddler, does that frustration seem to stretch out forever? Maybe that’s not far from the truth.
It illustrates why our experience of time isn’t entirely explained by the proportional theory. If we think about it, we realize our perception of time has a great deal to do with what we’re experiencing. Time actually warps. Notice that it moves grindingly slow when we’re in physical or emotional pain. Time also elongates (far more wonderfully) when we’re fully present, making even the most ordinary moments—a child’s squeal of laughter or a sip of cool water—into something larger. It stretches even further when we’re immersed in a wholly new experience—say first love or scuba diving or public speaking.
Far too often, our personal time warp goes the other way. It gathers speed because we’re busy, we’re multitasking, we’re in a rut, and thus less mindful of the passing moments that make up our days, weeks, and years.
We can get all quantum-y about it. There’s an experiment that seems to explain why time moves slower and faster according to our perception. But we don’t really need to study entangled photons to figure it out. We want to fully live the time we’re allotted on this planet.
I’m working on making my time more warpable. How do you stretch your sense of time?
“The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once.” ~Albert Einstein