Grey Matters: Reflections on time

I am convinced that time is speeding up. I clearly remember as a child being told that something I wanted, such as Halloween or Christmas, or especially my birthday, was coming soon!

“Grownups always say that.” I would grumble to myself. None of those things were “soon” unless they were tomorrow, or perhaps a maximum of three sleeps away.

But now, at age 72, everything comes much sooner. I feel as if I have barely put away the Christmas decorations and now it is time to drag them out again. On the afternoon of October 31st, the shops were putting Christmas items out on the shelves. How is it possible that another year has gone by? This morning as I extracted my morning medications from their handy little compartment in my week’s plastic box, I noticed that it was empty once again. I was sure that I had just refilled it. Was it the day before yesterday? It can’t have been a whole week. And that sort of thing happens again and again. Time is definitely speeding up.

Perhaps this can be explained by the fact that a week in my life now is a much smaller fraction of the time I have been alive compared to that of my five-year-old granddaughter. But I am not sure that that is the whole story. Time recorded digitally by my phone is definitely speedier than it was on my wrist watch with its beautiful Roman numerals. (Does anyone under 50 even know what they are?) And anyway, time is just a construct. It is how I experience it that matters. And I experience it as faster.

If time is speeding up, that makes the rate of change much faster as well. Change is happening more rapidly than in the past. Take the weather for example. The changes related to climate change are occurring faster than was predicted or expected by most people. The “normal” and “average” that I relied on to predict the progression of the seasons is no longer valid. Sometimes I must confirm to myself what season we are actually in. I have had a fear of extreme weather since childhood. I think it started with one of the very first movies I saw in a theatre with my parents when I was quite young. I vividly remember a scene of a violent rain and windstorm and a trailer that was stuck in mud at the side of the road. I was so terrified that my mother had to take me outside to calm down. I have no idea what the movie was, but it affected me to the extent that when I lived for a brief time in a house trailer on the Manitoba prairie, I would hide under the bed (as an adult) when those summer thunderstorms and possible tornadoes were happening. The changes that are causing extreme weather events in so many places around the world cause me a lot of anxiety.

Any sort of rapid change is difficult to manage, no matter what one’s age. Because I have lived more years than many folks, I have had more time to become set in my ideas and habits. Combined with time speeding up, it is often difficult to adjust. If changing one’s lifestyle is one of the solutions to slowing down climate change, I know that will be hard for me. And how much time do I, do we, have? As I write this COP26 is underway in Glasgow. I have hope that the powerful will admit that they, too, are subject to the dictatorship of time, and decide to make the changes that we need. And I hope that I will be willing to do my part in this process. Time is running out.

And time is definitely speeding up!

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