Time. Ticks on our wall clocks, moving shadows on the sundials, sand particles in an hour glass, tidal waves in the oceans, animated faces on apple watches. We as humans, over the years, have measured time, or tried to measure the essence of passage of time through innovative ways.
The underlying principle however, has always been the same. That there are equal units of passages of time, what we usually call seconds (or nano seconds, depending on which side of the running track you are), and a cumulation of these passages make up a day, week, year, decade and millennium. All of this, on most days, makes perfect sense to me, until it doesn’t.
It is a classic case of being fooled by our own devices. This concept of time works wonders in keeping things organised and working in an order that is convenient for everyone. It is also a very important signal to communicate the quality of a person or a service. A person who respects their time and that of others is someone to be looked upto. A service which gets completed within the promised ETA, usually gets the most customers. Calendars can be synced across time zones, birthdays and anniversaries can be celebrated, gives us a routine and a lot of other cool optimisations are possible just by the methodical way we have built to measure time.
But the relationship of humans with time is not via the scale with which they measure it, but via the perception of it in their brain.– Sid
Time doesn’t progress evenly. Never. The statements
- “Is it 5 years already, didn’t feel like it”
- “This 1 hour doesn’t seem like it will ever end”
- “It seems like yesterday when we first met”
- “The last 1.5 years feel like 15 years to me, living in quarantine like environment”
Give some credence to this hypothesis. Time is more psychological and biological than physical. As soon as we start focussing on the physicality of time, it starts becoming longer and unbearable. On the other hand, doesn’t matter what you do, if you focus on the experience at hand, passage of time is never linear. Time is fluid, like a water in a pipe. In some situations, the pipe is constricted and so fluid travels exponentially faster, and in some when the orifice of the pipe is very wide, it feels stagnant.
So what is real? The time that we measure or the time that we perceive?
It has been reported, that meditation, mindfulness and certain drugs can change the way we perceive time. And if you are not into these things, a simple deep sleep is enough to throw you off the physical clock in the room. How many times, dozing off in a class, while travelling or in the afternoon has led us to the point where either
- We have underestimated short periods of time – Thinking that less time has passed than the clock tells us.
- We have overestimated long periods of time – Thinking that more time has passed than the clock tell us.
In both the situations what happens is that our brain is estimating the physical time that is to be reported. The estimation is based on its past experiences of events and the time correlation. If it’s a happy sleep, my brain will estimate longer time has passed than it has in the physical world. This is (I think) because happy experiences tend to feel short in real life. Example:
- If you spend 5 hours by the clock with friends, it feels it has been just 3 hours in the brain. So in a happy sleep or happy oblivion, where there is no actual physical time tracking, if you spend 3 hours, the brain will estimate that it has been 5 because that’s the bummer which happened last time.
- In a crowded street driving for 15 minutes, might feel like an hour. Hence in a complicated sleep, or in a daydreaming event, where you deal with multiple complex ideas, brain would estimate that you have taken a 1 hour long break while it would just have been 15 minutes. (15 minutes of a badly written piece like this one might feel like an hour though :D)
Time = seconds + hours + days
Time = memory + attention + evolution
These are the two equations that help us comprehend time here on earth. It will be interesting to know how other beings out there, in the universe, consume time.
I am writing this just to appreciate time. We feel it is a very basic unit of our lives and almost comes very intuitively to us. It doesn’t. Our brain is always calibrating itself to understand this physical concept of time which doesn’t make sense to it. Hence we are often fooled by our experiences.
Time is very slow for those who wait,– Shakespeare
Very fast for those who are scared,
Very long for those who lament,
Very short for those who celebrate,
But for those who love, time is eternal.
Let me know some interesting stories about time you GUYZZ.
A graduate from BITS Pilani, class of 2019, I am currently working as a Product Manager at Flipkart. I like to write about things that get stuck in my head. By writing I make sure everyone knows what absurd thoughts I have :P Thanks for visiting.