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Human mind boggled by mysteries of time
VITAL TRIFLE, BY LAURI GROSS
Human mind boggled by mysteries of time
Time marches on. But as anyone who has seen the Best Damn Band in the Land create its complicated script formations knows, marching is not always done in a straight line. Time, it seems, sometimes curves round and round, as if trying to dot the "I," rather than progress in an orderly forward manner.
Ancient Greeks, Mayans, Hindus and Native Americans are among those who describe time much differently than most of the rest of us. Some scientists theorize that time travel is possible based on a curving of this and a bending of that. Also, I think it has something to do with a DeLorean and a flux capacitor.
Even if I don't bother with all that science and philosophy, I see plenty of real-life examples of time's elusive nature all around me.
Perhaps the most common examples are, "Time flies when you are having fun," and, "A watched pot never boils." These are both, often maddeningly, true. We tell ourselves it has to do with watching the clock vs. paying attention to something else instead, but maybe time is actually s-t-r-e-t-c-h-i-n-g itself out in some cases and compressing itself in others. It sure seems that way.
The Jodie Foster movie "Contact" illustrates this point. In it, she plays Dr. Ellie Arroway, a scientist for the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) program. When she ventures into space to meet the creatures that sent her instructions for building a spacecraft to get there, an international scientific community watches as she, apparently, goes nowhere and does nothing. As far as she can tell, however, she has an unforgettable trip through wormhole after wormhole and eventually meets a space dweller, who appears as her long-dead father -- but that's beside the point.
Wired for audio recording and narrating her every move, she is anxious to hear the tapes of her space travel when she returns to Earth. Instead, the devices have recorded only static, leaving her wondering if she imagined her whole trip. Later we learn that the audio devices have recorded nearly 20 hours of static, indicating that, although on Earth, to Earthling eyes, Dr. Arroway has gone nowhere and that the "trip" took no time at all, we may in fact have noticed that she was gone for many hours, if we could just overcome our pesky limitations of existing in only three dimensions.
Clearly, this issue of time has presented humans with plenty to think about through the ages. Ancient humans noted the passing of time according to the stars and other celestial bodies long before they became slaves to the beeping of Blackberries.
But when these early humans went on vacation, did they notice what we do today: That, when you try to accomplish two weeks' of work in the one week preceding your vacation, time goes way too fast for you to finish everything. Then, if you're lucky, time slows down while you're actually on vacation, as you sleep later and don't find yourself in a hurry like you do at home. Then, when you return home to a week's worth of mail and laundry, not to mention all your actual work that piled up, time flies again as 24 just doesn't seem like enough hours for a day anymore.
What about the whole "looking forward vs. looking back" thing? While we await the delivery of a fabulous thing we bought online or we await the opening day of our child's stage debut or the first day of summer vacation, it seems as if the thing will never arrive. The very moment it does, however, the wait instantly evaporates from our memory, and it seems as if each past occurrence took exactly the right amount of time to arrive. Now, if we could say the same for the ones still to come.
And it does seem like a cruel joke that, when we lie awake, wishing we could sleep, we watch every minute creep by in a tortuously slow progression of time, but when we are awakened by that most cruel sound, the alarm clock, it seems as if we only just fell asleep.
How is it that, the older one gets, the faster the years speed by? A friend once shared a prevailing theory on this phenomenon: To a youngster, say 5 or 10 years old, a year represents a significant portion of that person's whole life, so it does indeed seem to travel significantly slowly. For an adult of 40 of 50, a year is just another blink of our eye and, not counting various days that seem to drag on forever, each year does seem to pass as if someone's finger is on the fast-forward button. If you don't like whatever season we are in, blink, and the next one will be here.
If I could control the marching band that spells out my time in intricate formations on the football field of life (dopey cliche intended), I think I would have it spell: What's the hurry?
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