When I was little (under 12), and I was in a rush to get somewhere, I would just look at my watch while I walked. I would stare at it. Counting every second. Feeling every moment fade away while I continued to not be at my destination. Until suddenly I was there.
Of course this is not “time travel”. And yet it sort of is in its own unique way. It’s all about the perception of time while moving in space. Before you blaze through that last sentence, let me break it down because it’s the key: perception while moving. Time is passing, and so is space. And to get from A to B the fastest, the obvious approach is to move faster, but my backwards brain figured “what if I just slow down time instead?”
Time is a valuable thing, watch it fly by as the pendulum swings
Admittedly, I have no idea if this made me move faster at all or not. I just moved. I moved as fast as I could of course, but in the meantime I saw the stupid clock merrily tick life away as if it were singing Linkin Park. Yet at some point two things happened: 1) My Hispanic genes took over and said “fuck it, I’ll get there when I get there”, 2) I could have sworn the damn thing began ticking more slowly. We’re not here to talk about point 1 («not today anyway»), but have you ever experienced point 2?
Seriously, if you haven’t, try it.
Many people will just blankly stare at their watch for a while. Desperately waiting for this slowing-down to happen. Keyword: desperately. You see, as I’m writing this, I just tried it myself, and it was like **tick… tick… tick… tick**«WTF! It’s not working!». It becomes stressful «I’m wasting my f*ckng time!». It’s like you want it to happen so badly that it just… doesn’t.
So I focused on the tiniest part. The tip of the seconds hand.
*tick… tick… tick…. tick*
“woah, wait, what was that?!”
«What? I don’t see it»
*tick… tick… tick….. tick*
“Ah, wtf! I see it again!”
«Wtf? You’re nuts! Everything is the same as the first time we tried it up there»
“No! It was the tiniest moment! Literally like an extra dot between the lasts two ticks!”
And this takes us towards Space and what I call Macro vs Micro perspective.
Space (Here & There)
“I tried so hard, and got so far”
Focus. Don’t start singing Linkin Park just cause you get the reference («Ok, fine, go sing, but then come back please, we’re trying to understand something serious here»).
In the same way that you can focus on the clock itself or stare at the movement of the tip of the hand, you can probably always focus on a macro or a micro scale. There’s micro and macroeconomics. There’s nations and individuals. And you can look at the relativity of planets within galaxies, or you can focus on the quantum world. While I was writing that last sentence I had to step out for a bit to look up something called Planck units. In a nutshell, it’s apparently the smallest possible unit that cannot be divided further and will always have a value of 1. But to that I say “Doch!” (Essentially no and yes at the same time lol ?)
Not too long ago (lol), I had this crazy thought/question that I started sharing with some family and friends, so I want to share it with you.
“How do you perceive time?
would you say it’s like “thoughts per moment”?”
For the math kids, please do NOT try to put that into an equation. It will almost certainly be wrong. It’s not thoughts x moment, or moments/thought, or thought/moment. That is exactly what I am trying to fix with this entire operation. It doesn’t have to be one, or the other, or a third, it’s all three. Let me explain.
For shits and giggles we are going to say thought = moment and that’s how we perceive time. Great. There’s the short version that people always ask me for. Everyone’s on the same page now. Woohoo, we’re done!
Thought = moment.
It’s going to take me another lifetime or 10 to explain exactly how much is packed in the smallest part of that equation (the “=” symbol). So for the sake of time (lol), just pretend that our perception of time = thoughts per moment and that “thought = moment”. This means that if you have a thought right freaking now, that’s how you are perceiving time. The thought you had back up there↖️ was one point in time, the thoughts you will have down there↘️ will be another, and that’s how time works.
Notice the arrows too. I am writing in English, where we read left to right, top to bottom. So my arrows even pointed at top-left and bottom-right rather than just up-down. This means that already at this point in time, there is an element of space.
“Ed, you are saying nothing! Get to the point!”
The point is always there and it’s making itself as we speak!
Ugh, let me try something else.
If I am here. Right now. Experiencing this. Writing about this. This. It is like a constant flow. I can’t say that I am here, here, or here before the moment is gone. In the same way that focusing on time makes it go faster or slower, focusing on space makes it bigger or smaller, and it puts things here, there, or everywhere. Just look at this [shitty] drawing coming up.
That’s the entire thing I’ve been trying to say this whole time. I just can’t be everywhere at once and no matter how much I simplify the point, the only way for us to both be here/now on the same page is by writing/reading together. («lol, on the “same page”»???♂️?♀️).
In the end, it doesn’t even matter
Maybe it’s just me, but I swear to, uh, physics, that if you stare at a clock for long enough, it eventually starts ticking more slowly. Or rather, I’m pretty sure we start experiencing time more slowly. And I am not even going to claim that I came up with this, I am pretty sure I learned it from one of my favorite books.
Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind is about Zen («no shit»), but it was written long before that was ‘cool’ to talk about the topic. So it’s actually a proper manual on how to meditate. I tells you how to sit. How to breathe. And pretty much how to do all the most boring stuff that you probably ‘already know’ how to do. And it’s fascinating. I’m not even going to quote from it because I wouldn’t even know where to start.
Paradoxically everything there is so fascinating that if you come back to this article after reading that book, you will probably find this whole piece boringly obvious. Among other things, Zen teaches you to be aware of every thought as it passes by, and to let them all go. So looking at time can be very much like that whole “staring into the abyss until the abyss stares back at you” sort of thing. So that’s exactly what I mean when I say you can slow down time by diving into every thought/moment until everything slows down. The point in time between the ticks gets wider or conversely there seems to be space for more points.
**tick.. tick ..tick**
**tick .. tick .. tick**
** tick . . tick . . tick **
D o y o u s e e i t n o w ?
The problem for me was that it became a little bit like a curse that only gets worse. It’s like turning on a switch that doesn’t turn off. You notice a thought, then another, then another… and even if you try to let them all go, at some point another “you” comes in and says to you “man, how many of these fuckers are there?”. Of course I have eventually learned to let them go and not pay attention [to an extent], but this also made me extremely sensitive to one of these thought guys showing up when I’m in the middle of something else. I might be in the thick of writing this very article when sudd… «hey! That’s a good one!». Sorry, where was I? Ah yes, I was here, not there. But good news, now the good thought I had is here too. So I’m here, you’re there, this first thought was here, that other thought was there, but then it came here and I went there and we came back here and now we are all here.
Ok wait, when /where exactly did this all happen again?
Here and Now?