Theory of Personal Relativity

This is a little break from the usual politico-economic musings of this blog. Unfortunately, this idea came to me in the night and I've forgotten most of the conclusions I came to and what I wanted to say. All I can remember is that I wanted to finally put this theory out there for the world. It's a theory I've had for a long time: time is relative.

No, I'm not talking about Einstein's relativity, I'm talking about personal relativity. We (it seems, at least) all know the experience: the older we get, the faster time seems to go. I have long thought that this has to do with our perceptions of our own lives. We can only conceive concretely of a time period as long as our own lives. Anything beyond that, though "conceivable" remains abstract. It remains abstract because we have never experienced it. This means that we perceive daily time as a fraction of our lives. For this reason, time seems to run ever faster.

Let's apply this in a very unscientific experiment. Do you remember when you were 5 years old and your mother took you shopping for AN HOUR?!? That's FOREVER! Now an hour can pass when I drift off in thought for a SECOND, I swear. The reason, as I've said, is simple: an hour is 1/43,800th of a 5-year-old's life. That doesn't sound like much, but an hour is a mere 1/262,800th of a 30-year-old's life. This means that an hour for a 5-year-old is equivalent to six hours for a 30-year-old (and 12 for someone who is 60).

Remember waiting for Christmas as a kid? I'm 28 now, and Christmas seems to whip around the year really quickly nowadays. Could it be that I'd have to have Christmas once only every 3.5 years to match my experience as a child? This is all a ballpark, but that really sounds right to me. It felt like I had to wait more than 3 years for Christmas to come when I was eight.

This also could help explain why children seem to learn so fast: for them, time is passing much more slowly! OK, there are a host of neurological explanations for that as well, so maybe this is pushing it. Still, if you are dealing with people significantly older or younger than yourself, using this formula might help put you in their shoes, especially if you're dealing with kids. This is also why a five minute time-out is so useful for a kid: it's an eternity for them already.

If the theory is right, there's bad news: life will keep flying by faster and faster. The good news is, the acceleration steadily slows as you age (an hour for a 30-year-old is only twice as long as it is for a 60-year-old). Still, not only are we not getting any younger, we're getting older faster and faster... :-/


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