22 May 2009


A recent post reminded me of my favorite quote (from The Man himself) about the relative nature of time:

Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute. THAT'S relativity.

I think about time a lot. I'm a clock-watcher. I need to know what time it is, all the time. Every room has a clock, my watch is constantly on my wrist, and I'll check my watch against the atomic clock weekly to make sure I'm on time. And each day, upon its completion, I will collapse into bed declaring Whew! This day flew by! or Geez, could today have been any slower?. And as I get older, I notice the days moving by faster and faster and I understand that as I march closer to my end days, my time moves more and more quickly. But is it because I'm getting older or because my existence, in the grand scheme of the universe's, can be equated to the blink of a cosmic eye?

When I think about how long the sun has fused hydrogen into helium, when I think about how many times the Earth's core has spun, and when I think about how long ago the Big Bang occurred, my thus-far-all-too-brief-37-years-with-a-potential-for-80-plus-years-total is nothing. I wonder if we all lived as long as the stars, would we experience a slower, more peaceful time? Would we live more slowly and therefore savor every moment? Is it because we have such short lives that we do everything now, NOW, NOW! But then again,when I think about my life span relative to the existence of the planet Jupiter, or the Andromeda galaxy, or the universe as a whole, I'm frankly shocked that time isn't going by much, much faster.

When I think about cosmic time versus my time, I'm surprised my time isn't a bullet train, traveling from point A to point B, dragging me alongside, whisking me at breakneck speeds to my final destination while I simply try to hold on for dear life. Literally. As it is, I feel like I'm on an Amtrak, going pretty quickly with short delays (i.e. waiting in line at the grocery store) and fast stretches of track (i.e. watching my children play in the sun).

I'm sure the bullet train is soon to come.


Patois42 said...

What a very thoughtful post. I've got 11+ years on you -- yeah, I'm that old and can't deny that I'm way beyond the middle of my life -- and I think about time far too much. And, mostly, it's wanting to slow it to a crawl when the kids are here and make it pass in an instant when they're not. ('Tho I'll admit to reversing that when they're driving me batsh*t.) I wish my awareness of time passing could be at a heightened state more frequently.

Expat No. 3699 said...


It is why the next six hours of work will drag on and the three day weekend will fly by.

Faiqa said...

Have you read "Faster, The Acceleration of About Everything" by James Gleick? It came out a while ago, but I think you'd like it.

A Free Man said...

Nice post, CMGD. I know what you mean about time, it is slipping away faster and faster. And your perspective on the relative length of our time, it's awe inspiring isn't it?

Not Afraid to Use It said...

Of course, I have to go the juvenile route and start singing Bullet Train by Choo Choo Soul, With Genevieve. Somebody slap me out of my stupor.

Gypsy said...

I got a little lost. Science does that to me. ;)

Beautifully written.