I read an interesting book about time recently and I want to share the coolest insights with you in this post.
The hourglass: an apt analogy to why time speeds up as you get older
“[Ernst] Jünger watches as a funnel-shaped hole appears in the upper bulb while a cone grows in the lower bulb under the velvet stream of soundlessly falling sand.
It is not a comforting though, he reflects, that though times slips by it does not stop. For what vanishes from above piles up a new supply below.
Every time the glass is turned upside down the reservoir of available time is restored- you have only to stretch out your arm. But no matter how often you can tap the new supply, time passes more and more quickly.
In hourglasses the grains of sand increasingly rub one another smooth until finally they flow almost without friction from one bulb into the other, polishing the neck wider all the time.
The older an hourglass the more quickly it runs. Unnoticed, the hourglass measure out ever shorter hours. This chronometric imperfection hides a metaphor: ‘For man, too, the recurring years fly past more and more quickly, until finally the measure is full. Man, too, is increasingly permeated by impressions.”
So why does time pass quicker when we’re older?
To answer that we need to know:
Why Time Passes Slower When We’re Young
William James is the man for this one:
“In youth we may have an absolutely new experience, subjective or objective, every hour of the day.
Apprehension is vivid, the retentiveness strong, and our recollections of that time, like those of a time spent in rapid and interesting travel, are of something intricate, multitudinous and long-drawn out.
But as each passing year converts some of this experience into automatic routine which we hardly note at all, the days and the weeks smooth themselves out in recollection to contentless units, and the years grow hollow and collapse.”
“The intensity of emotions, their number, the keenness of memories and expectations, the effect of routine or of its opposite – all that lends psychological time its own rhythm and duration.”
Why Time Flows Faster When We’re Old
Enter Jean-Marie Guyau:
“Old age, by contrast, is more like the unchanging scenery of the classical theatre, a simple place, sometimes a true unity of time, place and action that concentrates everything round one dominant activity and expunges the rest; at other times the absence of time, place and action. The weeks resemble one another, the months resemble one another, the monotony of life drags on. All these images fuse into a single image. In the imagination, time is abridged. Desire does the same: as we approach the end of life we say every year, ‘Another year gone! What did I do with it? What did I feel, see, achieve? How it it possible for the three hundred and sixty-five days that have passed to seem no more than a couple of months?”
Basically, as we get older things don’t shock us anymore. In our youth, our memory uses time markers to denote the special memories that are worth remembering; these time markers are references points for our memory.
“A period that brings up many memories will expand when seen in retrospect and seems to have lasted longer than an equally long period comprising few memories. Conversely, time markers will become less numerous at about middle age and later, and in the void thus created time will speed up subjectively. That is an explanation that, at first sight, has much in common with William James’ view of the vivid and exciting memories of youth and the uniformity and routine of later years, but what Shum added to that view was that the crucial factor might well be the temporal organisation of memories: together with variety the network of time markers disappears, and with it an important access to memories from that period.”
What You Can Do to Make Time Fly Slower
Here’s Jean-Marie Guyau:
“If you want to lengthen the perspective of time, then fill it, if you have the chance, with a thousand new things. Go on an exciting journey, rejuvenate yourself by breathing new life into the world around you. When you look back you will notice that the incidents along the way and the distance you have travelled have heaped up in your imagination, all these fragments of the visible world will forum up in a long row, and that, as people say so fittingly, presents you with a long stretch of time.”