A great man once said "Time is the fire in which we burn". Well, actually it was Malcolm McDowell as Dr. Tolian Soran in Star Trek Generations, but, hey, why split hairs? It's still a cool quote.
Well, it's been nearly five months since my voluntary departure from my last traditional paying gig and I can scarcely believe it. Like with any new, exciting and terrifying venture, for the first few weeks after my liberation time crept by like a chameleon on downers.
But inexorably, it began to pick up steam again. Despite my best efforts to the contrary, the summer is melting away like quicksilver through my fingers. Whatupwitdat?
Do you remember how the days lasted forever when you were a kid? Do you remember how time would drag by sometimes and you couldn't wait for a certain major event to roll around? Do you remember checking days off an Advent Calendar waiting for Christmas like a crazed little Dwight Frye in Dracula?
Cripes, it seemed like a month would have to transpire before you could earn the privilege of spinning that little dial, marking an "X" or doing a cardboard "B&E" to retrieve the chocolaty treasure inside.
Summer vacations were epic long before the word epic was overused. Of course, "Back in My Day" (best read in your finest Grampa Simpson voice) we weren't over-saturated in entertainment value. There was no internet, no home video and our game consoles all sucked considerable amounts of ass. All we had were Star Wars action figures, G.I. Joe (the gigantism version that would be much more likely to nail Barbie versus that pastel-clad closet case Ken), crappy hand-held electronic baseball games, and drawing paper. Mardi Friggin' Gras, huh?
I've said this before but it bears repeating: the intervening years between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi were the longest years of my life. I look back on it now and consider those thirty-six months to be like the dream that Leonardo DiCaprio and Marion Cotillard shared in Inception. It was like a separate, insular other lifetime.
So why is it that time seems to accelerate the older we get? Frankly I gotta know because I'm looking at the calendar and feeling a bit whip-lashed here.
I did some research on the interwebs and found a lot of theories. Here are just a few:
(1) "We had more leisure time and less responsibilities as a child so when you add in deadlines, chores and tasks, the time flies by quicker."
Frankly, I don't buy this one. Class attendance and homework certainly ate up more lot time for me as a High Schooler than I have now. So why are my weeks as an adult flying by quicker again even though I'm theoretically doing less now?
EEEEEENNNNTTTT!!! "Ooooooo, sorry, good guess but I'm afraid that is incorrect! Now would you like to try for the bonus round where the scores can really change?"
Ummmm, okay. So why do you perceive time spent at your current boring adult job (especially an entire work week) still melts away quicker then, say, when you were locked up in a classroom as a kid? In the immortal works of Ricky Ricardo: "'Splain, Lucy, 'splain."
Let's face it folks: Lucy never did.
(3) "Because time spent as a child is a larger proportion of your life. Three years between the ages of three and six is half of your existence. Two years between the ages of 47 and 50 is only about 4% of your life."
Ri-i-i-i-i-i-ght. Even the original author thinks this is horseshit when he admits: "Well, it sounds good when you say it fast." Frankly a year is a year is a year. A kid has no perception that a year of his life represents a certain percentage of his time spent on earth. Nuts to this one as well.
(4) "Your brain is similar to a camera shutter. The higher the setting on the shutter speed, the slower objects appear to be moving when you see them on film. As you age, your brain starts to slow down like the shutter on a camera. If you take a video at a high frame rate of a fast-moving humming bird its wings will appear to freeze in flight. When you're a kid your senses are operating a lot quicker."
Okay, all I gotta say here is: "Ground Control to Major Tom! Ground Control to Major Tom!" Who the f#@$ wrote this, Doug Henning?
Actually I'm being a bit facetious here. Of everything I've read so far at least this is an interesting theory. This guy also tries to tie it into your diminishing reaction time as an adult and why your reflexes are sharper as a kid. Frankly I think that's more related to the physiological disconnect that characterizes advanced aging and is certainly too variable amongst individuals to be the rule of law.
Besides as an adult I'm a helluva lot more likely to grab something tumbling out of the cupboards before it brains me versus when I was a kid. I was a clumsy, gangly little shit.
(5) "As a man in his Sixties I believe that it's an attempt for the brain to guard itself. The more recollections we store up the more challenging it is for our minds to catalog it all. The less intensely we feel things, the less the minor aches and pains will bother us. The more health issues we experience ( hearing loss, fading eyesight, stiff joints, poor balance, lack of recall...etc ), the more we'll welcome death as an old friend."
Jesus, morbid much? This might address perception a bit and it's an interesting take, but there's not a shred of evidence to back it up. Okay, let's see...next wacko.
(6) "It's a physical process. Dopamine levels alter the perception of time. Experiments have shown that people with high dopamine production guessed much higher than those with average levels when asked to approximate how much time had passed. Subjects with low dopamine levels guessed considerably lower."
Alright, now we're cooking with gas! This is the most sensible thing I've read so far. But having said that, there are still no clinical studies available that have looked at the passage of really large chunks of time like an entire year. But it certainly speaks to the old adage: "time flies when your having fun."
But if it was purely based on dopamine, why does your perception of time start crawling again when we suddenly find ourselves in unusual or different circumstances? Typically during times in which our our usual routines are shaken up?
Why is time flying by quicker for me now versus my first two months away from work? I've been uniformly busy the whole time and I'm pretty sure my Dopamine level hasn't dropped off a cliff in the past eight weeks. Nope, something still isn't right here...
So, ladies and gents, I present to you, the real answer IMHO presented verbatim as written by the original author:
"Most people fall into a daily routine where nothing unusual ever happens. Our culture develops systems for smoothing our deaths, financial hardship, births, and so on, so that no one ever need be overly concerned.
"People's lives are planned by the State from the moment they're born to the moment they die so as to cause minimal fuss and disruption. The way the human brain (and other brains in general) work(s) is extraneous data is discarded to ensure that critical data is always able to get through.
"A frog's brain is so simple that it edits out anything which doesn't move erratically; large erratic objects are predators to be avoided and small erratic objects are prey to be eaten. Snakes are efficient predators of frogs because their smooth, sinuous movement makes them literally invisible to frogs. Human brains, while more complex, work much the same way. As time passes, the uninteresting daily routine gets edited out of your experience.
"Sadly, for most people, this means they blink at age 9 and suddenly they're 65, on their death beds.
"The best way to avoid having time whiz past at breakneck speed, rushing you to your death, is to make sure you never fall into routine. Take up new skills constantly. Challenge yourself always, and take on slightly more than you can handle. Throw yourself into crisis willingly, and tantalize yourself by the occasional brush with lethal danger.
"I'm 39 years old, never had a wife, no kids, no car, no career, no insurance, and my income hasn't exceeded $10k per year in a decade. I'm an anarchist activist, a street organizer, I've done time in jail, and fighting with riot cops is a pleasant and relaxing hobby. When at last I go to my final rest -- with any luck, still wearing my combat boots -- I'll have sucked every drop of experience from my life and be well ready to throw the husk away."
Turn off the crappy reality television! Liberate yourself from that time-sucking MMORPG! Stop virtual farming and plant a real friggin' garden! Look for a new job! Sign up for a course! Go out and see a good movie! Take a walk without a destination! Read a book at a coffee shop! Embark on a trip! Go camping! Volunteer! Er, write a blog!
EPIC: "Magic is illusion and illusion is magic, except on Wednesdays..."
100% bonus in the EPIC department: "GET IN DA CHOPPAH!!!"
If this was a link it would be CAPTAIN EPICPANTS: The best song I know on the subject.
FAIL: More half-baked answers to the time quandary right here.