The time at our disposal each day is elastic; the passions we feel dilate it, those that inspire us shrink it, and habit fills it.
Everything or mostly, is relative and subjective. Time too is relative. Time has a tension to it, it can be elastic, stretched and shrunk.
“But, time is set ” I hear you say, a minute is a minute, a second is a second everywhere .
It is relative, culturally so and on a personal level.
We all know that time stretches or shrinks depending on perception, circumstances, and focus. There are cultures where I meet you in an hour means in 60 minutes sharp, and other where its roughly 60 sec but it can be 120, 180…
We all have been to a speech that took forever, a queue at the post office that felt like centuries, or a 5h hike that went by like an hour.
We all remember a class that went by fast and others where we kept looking at the time, an exam that had a very suspiciously shrinked hour, friends that we knew for a year and it felt like a lifetime. A meditation and mindfulness hour can feel like a whole travel journey. When you have a full life and move all the time, something happens too between being on the move and sense of time.
I found that in the past nomadic suitcase living years, a month was often felt like 5. Does speed and movement interfere with our perception of time?
On a very pragmatic level : the brain keeps track of time like a clock by sending pulses to the memory. However this internal clock can be sped up or slowed down via a number of factors, including attention and focus, stress, fear, caffeine and other drug intake. Drinking a cup of coffee or focusing on a project increases the number of pulses-per-minute your brain sends your memory, slowing down time-perception and enhancing memory retention. But what seems like five minutes to the brain in a espresso-juiced deadline rush, can actually be more like 25 minutes. Paying attention to something can make time seem to speed up, too. Focused attention is like a drug. It speeds the internal clock up, giving a distorted sense of the time passed.
I found that the first time I travel somewhere, or find my way to an address always feels much longer than the second time I do it.
Concentration can stretch or speed time.
Walking, cycling or driving gives also a totally different sense of time in relation to the landscape.
When I was driving through Latitude 34, i was extremely frustrated at the inability to feel the space, tame the space and time physically, which led me to take a bike wherever I could.
The car is a bubble, proprioception is removed, we are anesthetized, but we can go faster further.
Walking has its peaceful pace, the time and space relationship is a lot slower
Cycling to me is the best way to tame the landscape as I seem to feel the miles physically. I do like the ration time/distance/feeling with cycling. I don’t run but I can imagine those who do feeling a similar way.
Timing and taming the landscape are therefore intrinsically linked and contribute to our appreciation of the landscape, the space, our being and relationship to this world.
Why am i going there and pondering about this?
Honestly I have no idea.
Perhaps its only about feeling alive, and feeling at one with this world and body and mind we live in. Or maybe its just one of those weird thoughts that serve an obscure purpose yet to be defined.
The Artist Giuseppe Penone who speaks of the space of an identity, and how space, in an architectural sense is identity. This identity that is not only perceptible through a visual observation, in my opinion, it has to interacted with, seen, sensed. The world around us isnt to be appreciated as if through a TV screen, the one of our eyes. We have a lot of other tools to complement that .
Our bodies do take up space in the world, they are space in the space of this world, they are surface and containers, from the moment of conception to the moment of decay. And there is the space of our minds, a very expansive one, yet non tangible. One that outlives our bodies in the memories in other peoples mind.
“In and out of focus, time turns elastic
time turn” Phish
Fear and suspense can stretch time to a great degree too.
I recall my first cutaway ( canopy malfunction and emergecy procedure during a skydive jump). It only lasted a few seconds, yet in my mind it was a good 15 minutes.
I had a hunch and opened my canopy higher than I normally do, the toggles had not been stowed properly by the last person packing the chute, one was already unstowed and the other stuck. My canopy spun fast and I didn’t manage to detach the stuck toggle. In what seemed for ever, I managed to have a whole conversation with myself, yet it only lasted 3 fast spins according to the person on the ground who watched it all, about whether I cut away or no , come on I wont waste a canopy if it is unnecessary and I can manage to sort this out. I cutaway and here, my RSL was unhooked, meaning my reserve chute didnt open automatically after the release of the main
I went back into free fall in a weird position, I had real trouble pulling the emergency handle. During that one sec or a bit more, same thing, I saw my life, saw the ground come fast, in a pattern I had already seen in a dream a few days before…..and of course, first thought: mum! you were right this is insane, and deep inside a rebel child woke in, No way, absolutely not, not at all, and there I pulled it and found myself hung at about 300 m over ground and found a nice field to land on safely.
Jean Douchet : «le suspense est la dilatation d’un présent pris entre deux possibilités contraires d’un futur imminent”.
“Suspense is the expansion of a present caught between two opposite possibilities of an immediate future”
Promenade at 200 km
Skydiving takes this idea of time stretch and taming of the landscape to another level.
Strangely we are at a very high speed , 200 km/h minimum, and in 40 sec we go about 3km down.
40 sec freefall feels like a long time, a whole TV episode at a time.
There is a paradox, speed = time slowed down.
Is it because of a vertical linearity versus the usual horizontal one we are used or programmed to?
Is there a difference between our perception with feet on the ground, as a terrestrial being and when we are in the air?
It may be interesting to compare sports and states in the air and those on the ground.
We also get to see the circumference of the earth, something truly special that somehow stops time.
Time stretches and time shrinks. Fact.
After all we live through our perception. Ultimate reality? does it matter ever since we all have and live in our perception, our map? Once we understand that everyone has its own map, it becomes much easier to deal with conflicting opinions, and the eternal battle about who knows best becomes obsolete. the question lay elsewhere.
Being aware of this , we can decide sometimes to skew our perception, fine tune them, hone them to our advantage, and try not to be slave to some ancient taught or inherited ways.
This is the beauty of our elastic mind, for the good and unfortunately the bad too, providing we exercise it enough to stretch to far ends, consciously.
So here we have it: time and our mind ( and memory) are elastic.