I am perplexed. Today was a perfect example of a phenomenon that has really been on my mind a lot lately. I spent some amazing quality time today with someone I love deeply, and time simply evaporated. It always does when I am with them. We all know the adage, “Time flies when you’re having fun!” Well, it does. But what is going on there? Is there a scientific reason? I am sure there are studies on this and I really need to dig in, but before I do that I’d like to line up the questions I am seeking the answers to, form my own hypotheses, and then see if there is any support for them.
Here are some recent observations about time:
- When I’m bored (which is almost never) it seems to move slowly.
- When I am in a crisis or emergency situation it moves very slowly.
- When I am deep in creative thought (losing all track of time) it moves quickly.
- When I am separated from my love interest it moves very slowly.
- When I am with my love interest it moves faster than at any other time.
- When I am connected through any means of communication with my love interest it moves very fast, but not as fast as when I am with them.
There are many more scenarios I am sure that I could list, but these convey the general idea. These things result in localized compressions or expansions of the perception of time. Although there seems to be an overall increase in the perceived speed of time associated with age, I am really referring to a more event based or causal alteration in the perception of time during specific circumstances like those listed above.
It is a well established fact that time is not constant in the universe. Einstein theorized that the further something was from a gravitational source, the faster time would progress. This time dilation aspect of general relativity has been proven to be a fact in physics. But, is it a fact in us? Is there some sort of effect that causes time to distort for us locally? Think about this; every night for each of us, time becomes hyper-compressed during sleep. If all goes well, we go to sleep and in a blink it is morning. If you have an operation and undergo general anesthesia, the same thing occurs. If I want to propel you forward in time, I can do it easily by falling asleep. You are forced to be in my accelerated time, because when I awaken, we are aware of one another and are synchronized to the space and time we are both consciously in. If you stayed awake, you probably did not feel this time compression, but if it happened to one of us, and we are in the same spacetime continuum, then it happened to both of us. Or did it?
If you subscribe to a multiverse interpretation of string theory, then I suppose it is conceivable that we are always getting out of sync with those around us. Those that we perceive around us just happen to be with us in coincidental momentary collapses of the wave function, forcing versions of us to be temporarily in the same reality. This is a depressing notion, because it implies that the people you are closest to aren’t exactly the same people you became close to originally. They are long gone in some other momentary localized collapse of the wave function, i.e. parallel universe.
Whatever is going on, it is very real and every one of us experiences it daily, and to varying degrees throughout the day. In reality, we are all time travelers. We seem to all be travelling in the same direction in time, but for some of us, we are literally travelling at different rates. The astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) are traveling in the same direction on the timeline as we are, but they are travelling through it faster. Not much faster, but measurably so. If you want to live for a really long time relative to everyone you know, just hang out near a black hole, or travel for a while at nearly the speed of light.
So time compression and dilation is real in physics, but there are extraordinary circumstances involved. Yet, we experience extreme variations in the perception of time and we aren’t pitching tents in the event horizon of a black hole, or taking cruises at near lightspeed. I would contend that the variations in our perception of time are orders of magnitude greater than the actual variations in the rate of time change for the ISS astronauts.
Ok, here is where I might be jumping into rainbows and unicorns land… Could our perception of time be related somehow to what I will call “Soul Gravity?” Isn’t it ironic that when we refer to bad things or tragic things we say they are heavy? When things are heavy, isn’t time slower? What about when we are lighthearted and joyful? Doesn’t time seem to move faster? When we sleep, I wonder does our soul or consciousness enter a state where there is less soul gravity? While awake, when we experience extreme joy, we all experience time dilation. These perceptions are real. And the only things we can be certain are real are the things that we perceive. So it is actually happening on some level. Perhaps even on a level that could be modelled mathematically in the future. My suspicion is that all of this is somehow tied to quantum phenomena, though I am pretty sure we have absolutely no way of testing this notion (yet).
One sad side effect of having a lightness of soul is that time moves so quickly when we are in extreme happiness. But I guess in reality, and in cosmological terms, our time here is but a blink anyway. Concerning that, I would much rather live in joy and experience one short blink than be miserable and endure many long ones.