My earliest memory is when I was about four years old. As I remember it, there was a snowy winter that seemed to go on for ages. The snow was deep and didn’t melt for weeks – a rare thing in England. I remember making snowmen, and throwing snowballs at/ with my brother and cousin.
I don’t really know whether the snow lasted for weeks – it certainly seemed like it, but I hadn’t started at school, so time wasn’t yet divided into weekends and weekdays. It was a continuous, unstructured Present. And my memory of it now is a distorted, reconstructed version of what actually happened, fifty years ago. All of this is taking place in my head, it’s the only place I can locate my Past.
But time is obviously a thing, you say. We have clocks. We divide those years into months, weeks, days, femtoseconds. It must be a thing if we can manipulate it and measure it like that. I can see the distinction between yesterday, which has already happened, and tomorrow, which hasn’t yet.
Here’s what Einstein said:
“….the distinction between the past, the present and the future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion”
Have a think about your last holiday. What kind of time did you have? Compare the quality of that time with queueing at the post office. I’m willing to bet that they feel different, even though they both had a duration that could be measured.
When you procrastinate, you’re doing some mental gymnastics to keep you from completing a task. It’s not that you don’t physically have enough time. You put off doing something important to you by choosing to do something less important. Maybe you don’t know why, but it’s definitely a mental operation.
But so what? What if time is an illusion. How does that change things back in the real world?
If it’s an illusion, we’re not all seeing the same thing. That means we’re not all having the same experience at the same time. It’s different for all of us. And that’s important at work, at home, with colleagues, friends, kids, lovers, neighbours – whoever. In the present, we’re not having a digitally perfect “experience” being played to us, and when we remember the past, we’re not replaying the same DVD. It gets filtered, distorted and remade at all stages, like a photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopy.
And then we have to take into account how different cultures view time.
It’s no wonder that guy in sales never gets his monthly report in on time. If your boss is always late for a meeting, is it poor-timekeeping or disrespect? When you’re told that the meeting next Friday (8th Nov) has been moved back to Tuesday, what date is it now on? Feel free to use a calendar to work it out.
Answers on a postcard, or better still, leave a comment.