I suppose I feel like writing something relatively big picture today. It’s a little odd because I had the idea of what to write about this morning when I woke up but then became occupied to some extent, so now I’m writing this in the late afternoon with a few small note I jotted down. A little different from my normal more purely stream of consciousness writing but it should be interesting. So, παμε τορα
I was thinking this morning about these concepts of time, and how routine and familiarity and expectations change our relationship with time, distort how we feel time. Time is one of those interesting senses we have. Pirsig (borrowing from another philosopher who I don’t remember) explains that time is an “a priori” that is, an aspect of existence that lives outside of empirical experience. We don’t touch, smell, taste, hear, or see it, but we all experience it’s passing. We can all tell the difference between 2 minutes, 2 days, and 2 years passing, we can sense to some extent how time passes. I’d like to put forward (as I’m sure has been observed before) that this sense is massively crude. Devoid of all material markers, I’m not sure that we could tell the difference between 6 months and 3 years, we might get them mixed up. This is due to what I’ll cheekily call the “new theory of relatively” that is a theory of relativity based not on physics, but on human perception. (again certainly this is an existing theory but I’m just making my own observations).
Within this theory already exists a million well worn cliches about aging and change and love and loss and fun. But I’m observing now how the impact of environmental change on relativity. I’ve been in Greece now for 4 months, and the last month seems to have gone quite quickly. I’m building a routine now, I know a few coffee shops that are good work at (sitting at the wonderful λοκομοτιβα in εξαρχεια as I write this) I’m volunteer teaching two nights a week, taking a weekly workshop etc. etc. I can understand some conversations in greek, and I don’t need to ask for things to be repeated at the corner store. I know some people in a deeper context than just getting beers once in a while. This is not to brag of accomplishment, but to communicate my naturalization (a naturalization that in retrospect feels less of my own doing and more like a property of physics, of chemistry).
I feel now that the strange creek of Athens that I was quietly admiring from the bank, I’m now lying in, drifting along. Time is moving me now, rather than the other way around. And this switch brings with it an intense distortion in the mental time space continuum. I can already feel the momentum gaining and the time passing through. I’m imagining this is the mental terminal velocity of a time of change in life. After all, I’ve experienced all of these feelings before. College brings a similar sensation. Your whole world changes in a way that’s indescribably immense (especially being a teenager). At first it’s overwhelming, but as your exposure to new existence accelerates, you begin to mold into your new environment, and life continues as usual. I imagine this is what all of life’s changes will feel like.
And in a way, each of these experiences of change and reaction are in way their own separate lives. Each one sees you arrive in a state of infancy, of unknowing, gaining knowledge along the way, meeting people, forming ideas, bonds. And by the end you are somewhat ready to move on, and to lose some part of what you’ve gained, to say goodbye to this life and move to the next. These lives live themselves out in any span of time. Oftentimes I even get this feeling from a week long event or conference. New schools, new partners, new countries, death of those close, they all follow this template pattern of experience. Bewilderment and excitement, adjustment, closure, and letting go.
It’s these structures which dictate our personal relative experiences of time. These black hole dilations are strong enough to bend our perception. We live and remember through these blocks of change, not through years or decades or days.
And what precisely is carried over between lives I’m not so sure about yet. Fragments, friends, connections, ideas practices, knowledge. Surely these are all trinkets you can bring home in your mental tote bag, but the essential experience is left drifting off somewhere in the past. Ignorant time pushes past each one of these lives, and we are left in the odd moment of today, this hour, right now. It seems the reason we have all this talk about living in the present is because it’s all there really is. My past lives from this life, my past selves from this self, relate to me, only tangentially. We refer to our perpetual self more out of pragmatic convenience than out of truth.
and because I’m attempting to run from my own fear of being seen as unintellectual, I’ll leave you with the opening lines of “Jackson Cannery” by Ben Folds.
“Stop the bus I want to be lonely When seconds pass slowly And years go flying by”