Space & Time

March 2, 2010 § Leave a comment

I’m quite intrigued by the difference between “real time” and “perceived time.” As in, how the time on the clock may differ from the time we feel as though we’ve spent on something. The time between each tick on the clock feels different during an intensive ab exercise than during a song that lasts for the same number of minutes. I wonder at our choice to label these things as real or perceived. Depending on how you view the universe, the time which is perceived may indeed be more “realistic” to our lives. It all depends on what lens you focus through.

What if we relied only on perceived time, had no clocks? I imagine that some functions of society would fall apart, while others fell in line neatly. Maybe a class should go on until the point where the students feel as if they’ve been in class for a certain number of hours, instead of measuring by the clock. This is a rather idealistic thought, but if a student is no longer feeling connected to the material, or feels such a lack of engagement that he or she feels the need to leave, then the class will no longer benefit that student anyway. Maybe that student’s brain is telling them it’s time to move on to a new task. Of course, this all brings into question the idea of discipline…It would be easy to slack off on purpose.

I think there is an way in which familiarity definitely influences one’s perceived time. For example, if you have driven the same route to school for years and years, it may seem to be much shorter than if you are driving somewhere for the first time. So I think there is a clear correlation between familiarity and perceived time, and it comes through attention. If you have something memorized, such as your route to school, you don’t have to pay as much attention as you’re driving.

One of my most enjoyable experiences of this has been with music. As I would dig very deeply into the rhythm, harmony, tone and phrasing of a song, I would notice that it began to change in my mind’s eye. I have a tendancy to visualize most of the music I learn as sort of a timeline that changes according to the shape of everything. As I grew more familiar with a song, a space that seemed short in between two notes would begin to stretch. Suddenly, a pause that originally seemed hardly sufficient for a hurried breath is actually a chance to manipulate the rhythm or relax for a moment within the flow of the music. I have always found this fascinating.

It’s almost as if the music is a piece of putty, and at first it is quite hard. The timing can’t be changed, and you have to simply keep up with the structure that exists, with the incessant ticking of the rhythm that won’t wait for you to catch up. But then as you delve into the song, you are slowly able to massage the putty until it is warm enough to be stretched and molded. While the ticking time that passes is going equally as fast in beats-per-minute, it feels so much more malleable to you that you have suddenly created space where there once was none.

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