Time is Elastic

In and out of focus, time turns elastic
In and out of focus, in and out of focus, time turns elastic
In and out of focus, in and out of focus, time turns…

[Song by Phish – Time Turned Elastic]

Reading through the links on my Facebook page this morning, I came across an article from FastCompany on the perceptions that people have of time and how this impacts their work-life balance. Essentially, the article reminds us that between the time we’re not sleeping, working, or eating, we still have plenty of opportunity to do other things – which can constitute anything that we’re truly interested in or passionate about (Vanderkam, October 2nd, 2013). The author of this article calls time ‘elastic’ and then elaborates on this concept:

“The truth is that we tend to make time for the things we want to do. Time bends to accommodate what we want to put in it. Even if we work a lot–even if it feels as though we’re always working–we have time for many other things, too” (Vanderkam, October 2nd, 2013).

I used to feel that socializing would take up far too much of my time, thus precluding me from completing more important value-added, work-related tasks. But the concept of time – and the way that we as humans relate to it – suggests that when one thing on our schedule disappears, we do not end up with a net gain in free time. Something new appears to consume that available time, or we’re more leisurely in our completion of our current set of tasks (Reynen, January 31st, 2007).

Several years ago, I had the great pleasure and honour of hearing Lee Smolin speak at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics. Smolin, once a high school drop out, is famous for his contributions to quantum gravity theory, and more specifically his work on loop quantum gravity (Lee Smolin, Wikipedia). His most recent publication is entitled “Time Reborn: From the crisis in physics to the future of the universe” (see the reviews of this book here and his podcast on this subject here). Reading the work of this brilliant man will probably leave your thoughts in a whirl for a while, but it’s well worth it.

Smolin’s radical assertion in Time Reborn is that, contrary to current cosmological belief, time is real and everything else in nature evolves around time (Time Reborn, Perimeter Institute). Previously, time was understood as a product of how we experience the forces of nature, and those forces were assumed to be generally unchanging laws (Time Reborn, Perimeter Institute). Cleverly, Smolin outlines how our understanding of time affects everything “from our personal and family lives to how we face major problems such as climate change and economic crisis” (Time Reborn, Perimeter Institute). Hence, changing our perceptions of time opens the door to “infinite numbers of imagined unobservable universes” and the need for “human agency and imagination in envisioning and shaping a good future” (Time Reborn, Perimeter Institute).

So when you next feel like you’re running out of time to do the things that are really important and meaningful to you, perhaps a careful reflection on your relationship with (and perspectives of) time will assist you in doing those activities.

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