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Everybody knows that, in spite of the finest Swiss chronometers, time is relative: it scrunches up and stretches out. That's why we have metaphors like "time flies when you're having fun." It doesn't fly, mind you, it scrunches up. (probably the first times I used the word "scrunch" in a blog post). We're in the flow, concentrating on something that we enjoy, and the next thing you know, it's 2:00 a.m.

The fact that one year can have different time values can be demonstrated with simple mathematics. I'm 47, so one year of my life has a value of one over 47 (.021). But my students might be 19, so one year of their life has a much higher value (.053).

I love to play basketball, but I'm 47. I sometimes play with 19 year-olds, and they seem to me to be very quick. That's because a split second for them lasts longer than a split second does for me. It's strange, because when I was 19, 19 year-olds didn't seem so quick. But I bet you a week for them is a lot longer than a week is for me.

Paradoxically, as you age, time passes both faster and slower. If you have insomnia, an hour goes by in an eon. But if you're a kid, you don't have insomnia, and your life is carefree, so the hours "fly" by. Unless of course you're in class, and the teacher is boring. In which case time comes to a screeching halt, and each second inflates and then pops, like a Rice Crispy, and it takes about five seconds for a second to go by. But finally the bell rings, and time resumes its usual breakneck speed.

For a kid, a week seems like a long time. But once you grow up, it's Sunday afternoon, and you're listening to the Glen Jones Radio Programme, and the next thing you know, it's Sunday afternoon, and you're listening to the Glen Jones Radio Programme, except that it's seven days later.

19 year-old students have a (perhaps) bad habit of starting their papers with "Webster's defines X as ...." Yet in my insomnia, as time ticked by, I was thinking about how difficult a definition of time would be: "the system of those sequential relations that any event has to any other, as past, present, or future; indefinite and continuous duration regarded as that in which events succeed one another." Thanks, Dictionary.com, but does that really get at what time feels like to us?




February 2019



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