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Chasing Time

September 22, 2009

It’s been a couple years since I flew through time zones. I forgot what a surreal experience it is to fly from west to east, watching as the hours slip away from you. The most impressive experience of this, of course, is when you are flying in to or away from a sunset or sunrise, which I’m currently doing. It’s like you’re literally cheating time – in your favor to the west, against to the east.

Years ago, a friend related to me what her father told her upon our college graduation: from here on out, time accelerates. I think about this especially at the beginnings of months – I never quite know how we got here. I know it’s a cliche to say, “I don’t know what happened to [insert recently completed month here] but I genuinely feel it. Though particular events in the moment may seem to be arduous and long, I can’t remember the last time I looked back in retrospect on a period of my life and thought, “well that dragged on.”

I like that this dad said specifically time “accelerates,” and not just “speeds up.” If you recall back to your days of high school physics, we can’t feel speed or movement. What we actually feel when we say we’re “moving fast or slow” is differentials. We feel acceleration, because it is a change in speed – and direction. I think the same is true of life.

We don’t feel the passage of time per say, but rather how time’s passage has shifted relative to our experience. But it’s not just the shift in speed (“we were screwing for 2 hours, I don’t know where the time went…” or, “the 45 seconds of my rectal exam felt like a lifetime…”) I think we are also feeling the shift in direction our lives are taking.

I’m going through a lot of time acceleration in the year 2009. I think in the years in which major developmental markers occur, time feels more palpable: we remember dates of lasts (drinks, April 22), firsts (log scrambling, August 31), endings (yoga school, June 26), beginnings (next yoga school, September 15). Or maybe it’s just that I’m getting older, and with every passing year we gain new insight into the rapid – and rapidly changing – nature of time.

The remarkable thing I have to remember is that shifts in time’s speed and direction are created entirely within me. Time as a fixed entity doesn’t exist, as my buddy Albert proved: “Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute. THAT’S relativity.” The perfect example is the plane I’m currently on: thanks to the American Airlines mileage program, I’m in first class flying from Dallas/Fort Worth to LaGuardia. The 3 hours I spend in my seat, will move much faster than the 3 hours everyone sitting four rows behind me will experience. But tomorrow, when I return to work, I’m pretty sure my day will move slower than my friend currently vacationing in Argentina…

The question that amazes (terrifies) me is how fast will time be moving 28 years from now?? And in what direction…

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