What accounts for this acceleration in time? In part it is just an optical illusion. The older events are, the vaguer they get, but things that you have lived through remain vivid. A pop song that was a hit seven years after you were born is wrapped up in all kinds of memories and associations. A pop song that was a hit seven years before you were born is part of the history you need to be told about. Particularly if you don’t read much, it gets stored in the same mnemonic trivia bin that holds the epigrams of Marcus Aurelius, the Norman conquest, the Mona Lisa, the UK’s General Strike of 1926 and “Yes, We Have No Bananas”.
But there is another way in which this acceleration of time is not an illusion but a reality. Although we organise our lives around time measured chronometrically, chronometry is not the way we instinctively measure time.
The relevant instinctual unit we use to reckon time’s passage is the lifetime – not some hypothetical lifetime drawn from actuarial tables, but your actual lifetime as you understand it concretely at a given moment.
Saturday, January 2, 2010
There is an interesting op-ed in the Financial Times on how we view time by Christopher Caldwell, Time really is speeding up: