Daily Archives: June 14, 2010

Some thoughts on the dissolution of time even as it accelerates and accumulates

My kids are like timepieces. I can convince myself that time is not moving,
or moving very slowly and I can be convinced of that until I think about
my two kids. They are like Dorian Grey’s painting: constantly showing the
acceleration of time even if nothing else is.

I thought of this when I checked on my son sleeping the other night.
Already he has gotten so big. I can recall just how a few short years ago
he was just a small thing sleeping. Now he is so big I can barely carry him
up the stairs. Yet looking at him, I could skip around in my mind and see
all of the times when he was lying there sleeping. It was like time was
dissolving and I was moving back and forth in time, and he was the time
traveller’s son.

The other day I was in the powder room washing up and he was calling my
name from the other side. For a moment I imagined I was in the future and I
was in the powder room and I was recalling what it was like to hear his
voice on the other side of the door but in the future he would not be there
and I would open the door and he would not be there. He would be grown up.
Gone. So I slid back to the present and there he was and I gave him a hug
and we went out and played.

In Awakenings, by Oliver Sacks, his patients go into a vegetative state
that allows them to perceive time as hardly moving to them, even though it
is changing rapidly for the rest of us. Decades could pass by, but it would
be perceived as no time at all for them.

I was reading last week that memories are not something like words on
paper. They are more dynamic than that, and we are constantly writing them
and rewriting them all the time.

I wonder how much of our perception of time and how it passes has less to
do with the world in itslef and more to do with the limits of our current

If time is relative, then maybe we can learn to have future memories and
alternative memories?

Memories are just a form of thinking.

I can imagine how tomorrow will be, and though I can control a lot abot how
my perceptions will match the outcome, the outcome will be determined to a
large degree on the predictability of others. In effect, I can remember the
future only to the degree that others are predictable. Others dissolve the

If everyone in the world thought like the patients in Awakenings and I did
not, I could predict the future, for I could see what was coming well
before it happened. In effect my ability to perceive time at an accelerated
rate would allow me to respond better to events and have more time to
prevent others from dissolving the future.

In Borges story The Secret Miracle, a man about to be executed is allowed
to live his whole life in the few minutes he supposedly has before he is
executed. This ability to live a long life in the time span of a few
minutes is the miraculous part. When the time comes for them man to die, he
is …happy?…because he has lived a full life, despite what others have

The passage of time is as much a matter of perception as it is anything
else. If we were not to physically change in a way as to show our age and
if we lived in a way that spent less energy on tracking time, then how
would we perceive time then?

We have only begun to play with time.

Time for me to sleep. Thanks for taking the time to read this.
Sent from my BlackBerry Handheld.