I notice I’m frequently struck with agonizingly sentimental longings for the weekend past on Sunday evenings right about this time. It’s the tired old trite plea we repeat to ourselves and everyone who will listen: “The weekend flew by so quickly. Where did it all go?”
That’s how I feel most late Sunday afternoons just before the sun dips and it’s how I feel now. It’s not as if the weekend was particularly memorable. It was rather uneventful, unproductive, and not especially “fun.” Still, it was a weekend and I was not at work, which can be construed as fortunate as of late. It’s all about frame of reference and context. When work sucks, even the shittiest weekends are fleetingly fond memories which don’t seem to last long enough before I must sadly, bitterly and antagonistically trudge back to work and face the trainwreck that is a job and my most despised co-workers. In such a context, the weekend doesn’t last nearly as long as I’d like. The weekend just seems to “fly by” way too quickly.
Time flies by. Its pace does not appear consistent or laser steady. At least not from our human and fragmented perspective. Time fascinates me. Physics and the Law of Special Relativity tells us that time is one of several elemental ingredients in the fabric of our existence, that it is every bit as tangible and relevant as space and speed. However, time is intangible in the terms of our common human senses. It is invisible and undetectable but knowable and it influences our existence to its fullest. Similar to gravity, it is an unseen force which influences the full range of our reality without being directly substantive or quantifiable with the tools and senses at our disposal. We create arbitrary clocks in order to standardize the elusive architecture of time, but really, a clock, and even an atomic clock, only work by proxy. They specify a unit of time that has no constant, physical frame of reference solely other than the movements of celestial bodies which, in their vast size and historical infinitude, provide consistent gauges by which we can accurately categorize the march of time as it applies to our puny existence. When we speak of a minute or an hour or a year, it means little in the scheme of natural law. There is no elemental construct of time that we can measure. There is basic building block of time which we can objectively use to define or note time’s passing other than what we can deduce from the march of time as measured in the sweep of large celestial objects or in the decay of natural earthly minerals.
Yet, time exists as a quantum entity.
Time is as manifestly present as the speed of light. Time shrinks and expands in response to the amount of “space” or “bandwidth” that speed and gravity distend. There is a cosmic constant, a “one sum” game in which all elements add up to one, and the acceleration of the value and ferocity of one results directly in the reduced or diminished value of another. As you approach the speed of light, time, its quantum roommate, must necessarily shrink and exert less force. At our normal earthly velocities, the impact of speed on time is invisible to the human eye. It takes specially placed atomic clocks aboard airplanes to detect the slightest reduction in the pace of time in response to normal air speeds of 500 mph. Walking across the street at 7 miles per hour slows time as well, theoretically, but it’s laughable even to contemplate the ramifications.
Time is fascinating and scary.
I wonder how it is that the nature of time appears to change according to the mental and emotional state of the witness. When you’re having a shitty time, conversely, why does time seem to slow down?
I believe the problem is that we measure time in retrospect and since our senses are not constructed to perceive time as a 3-dimensional ingredient in our existence, we recognize and shape time, our perspective of it, by proxy, much like we’ve designed clocks to do. We are unable to grasp the true structure of time as it occurs; rather, we mold it to fit into the reality we are able to recognize and sense. What then, you might wonder, is the difference between a clock and a scale which also measures an equally elusive natural foundational element? Well, a scale measures a solid and immutable value. Weight does not vary. However, imagine that you carry a 10-pound sack around the block. For your next circuit, you are handed an 3-pound sack. The lighter sack will feel much lighter than if you had not preceded it by carrying the heavier sack. In this case, the measure of a constant may seem altered due to your own perceptions, but scientifically and pragmatically, the value has not changed at all. Time follows and adjusts to the physically measurable landmarks of existence we are able to feel and touch and measure. Even speed, which we accept as a measurable and tangible quality, is as observantly precarious as the measurement of time against which it is contrasted. 100 mph is fast and we know this. We can feel it. The distance of 100 miles is comprehensible to our senses. And to traverse that physical distance at a velocity that would accomplish this in an hour’s measurement is also a comprehensible notation. But the hour is the shaky unknown. Our awareness of velocity is still limited by the standard measure of unknown time. The passage of time devoid of a physically perceived distance is a sensory orphan.
We are left to measure time within the framework of our emotional perceptions, which we know are shakily unreliable and capricious. Hence our perception of time in an isolated and suspended environment of physical stillness is subject entirely to mental perception.
That’s why this weekend has flown by so damned quickly.