Why is time moving faster?

I have this idea I’m trying to flesh out, about how we experience the passage of time. Being a kid lasted a forever. Days, summers, and years crawled by, and it took a lifetime to become a teenager. Even then, with the busyness of high school life, I marked off the days to graduation in my planner like an inmate serving a long-term sentence. Time in my twenties moved more slowly than time does now, and it doesn’t seem dependent on how packed my days are, because I’ve become less and less busy through my life (so far). So my idea is that we experience time differently based upon how much time we’ve experienced. Like, time travels exponentially faster as time travels. Katelyn suggested we gather experience like a snowball gathers snow as it rolls down a hill, although that of course implies a slowing. Maybe more like an avalanche picks up speed and mass as it crashes down a mountain.

I definitely don’t think we get smarter, as in quicker or wittier, as we get older, but it does seem like we get wiser. How do we define wisdom? I think it’s a recognition of repeated patterns. I also think it’s the knowledge that we aren’t witness to any objective reality, but are interpreters of a messy, contradictory world, full of compromise and grey areas. So, what if as we get older it just takes us less time to process everything? Not just because we’ve seen it before, but because we’ve learned to live with uncertainties and indeterminacies. Now, that’s the kind of thing we’re supposed to be wary of, as in the story of the three pots. We’re supposed to stay open-minded, leaving room for new ideas and experiences. But does that actually happen? Is that even possible, or desirable? I think rather than the idea of leaving “room” in our minds for more stuff to come in, we actually exercise flexibility. As more and more experience piles up, we don’t really throw out any old foundations (unless they were built on a sinkhole to begin with, in which case we have mid-life crises, born-again episodes, and nervous breakdowns). Instead, we stretch a bit, fine-tune and bend, growing new webs only as needed.

The earth spins once a day, and orbits the sun once a year, but I think the subjective way we experience time is just as real. But why? Can faster, more efficient pattern recognition, with the ability to accept the unknown and unknowable, be the answer? We also thought maybe time just travels more slowly when you’re miserable. And, “time flies when you’re having fun.” This could be more valid. Being a kid and an adolescent and a young adult were all a lot more miserable than being an adult is, unless you’ve had a very unfortunate adulthood. But let’s think about lonely old people, as in the Magnetic Fields song, “When You’re Old and Lonely.” The lyric goes:

when you’re old and lonely
and the rush of life is past
days go by too slowly
and the years go by too fast

Does that make any sense? That days can creep by, but the years still fly? I dunno. Humor me and discuss.

Calvin and Hobbes again with the opposite argument.

Calvin and Hobbes again with the opposite argument.


8 responses to “Why is time moving faster?”

  1. philipp68 says :

    Having days go by slowly is like having a hole in the pot. It’s waiting for something to happen, not being in touch with all the beauty and ugliness around us. Then, one day we look back, like waking up from a dream and realize: “So much time gone by…”
    Beautiful post! Namaste.

  2. Chris Rish says :

    As your life goes on, each day, month and year becomes a smaller and smaller fraction of your experience. When you were 8, a year was 1/8th of your experience and that was probably a whole lot to you. As we age, each day becomes one part of the sum of our total experience. For me, a year is now 1/40th of my experience. But next year it will only be 1/41th of my life experience.

    So time marches on at the same pace, but each week feels faster and faster, because compared to that sum of experience, that single measure of time, whatever it is, is less and less of your life.

    I think the real trick is finding the now that can make even that smallest fraction significant. A long kiss, being in a siiick tube inside a beautiful wave, the manatee that rolls over and gives you its belly, a beam reach in a sailboat on a sunny day when it’s warm and blowing 15 knots. Everyone has their own special moments. The trick is being completely there when it’s happening. It’s one of the reasons I surf. In a very za-zen way you can only be right there in that moment doing exactly that thing on that wave or you flail completely. You might anyway.

    For another example, I was at an amazing show with Marta last week. Galactic with Cory Glover played the State Theater laying down some New Orleans dumpster-funk for real. It was one of those times you can’t help but shake your butt because once the funk grabs hold of you…I think you know what I mean.

    But there were quite a few people there at the show who were more interested in taping/filming the performance with their phones. The phone mediates the experience in a way and makes it derivative. Sure, you can watch it later, but were you really there when it happened, or were you hiding behind your phone?

    We’re seeing more and more of this in modern life. Watch the people around you hide behind their devices at the first sign of a social situation. We’re living lives mediated instead of actually lived. That’s one reason I love the mat.

    For that time we’re together in class. I can be sure, I’m really there with you and I can’t tell you how much I appreciate that hour. Even if it’s a smaller and smaller fraction of my life each time I see you.

    Love this post, btw…

    peace and aloha,


    • beerasana says :

      chris, i agree on all counts! i thought of the fraction thing too, on my way to the store last night, but couldn’t think of how to fit it in. i’m going to repost this as its own entry.

  3. UB says :

    Kitty Carlisle said “Once you are 75, it’s like you are having breakfast every 15 minutes.”

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