Caught in Time

Our perceptions of the passage of time are not constant. Sometimes it flies, and sometimes it drags. Imagine what would happen if a person’s perception of time were to greatly increase or decrease? In the case of the former, the world would blur and you would become as a statue. If your lifespan were unchanged, you would be dead in a flash – seeming to the rest of the world as if you had fallen into a kind of paralysed coma. In the latter case, things would slow down to a virtual stop. However, there would be no ridiculous sci-fi style wandering about moving objects frozen in mid-flight and rearranging furniture for comic effect – abusing physical laws left right and centre. You would be literally stuck in place, frozen in time. If your mind was still functioning I think you would find it quite an unpleasant experience. You would be trapped for an eternity before anybody even knew it – and probably be quite insane by the time it all wore off, a second later from the point of view of the rest of the world. All this from a simple matter of perspective.

In a similar vein, your perspective and beliefs about the world that cannot practically be proved or disproved have a great effect in life. If you believe that the world is fundamentally a benevolent place rather than a cruel unfeeling place your whole life changes in a moment, but how could you ever prove one or the other to be true? Similar things can be said for belief in the existence of a god with particular characteristics, but to believe in such a thing still has a great effect on our experience of the world.

Taking this a step further: If certain beliefs, though untestable, still have a real impact on the quality of your life, then why not choose the beliefs that make it better? In a sense, I think most people do this instinctively as there are lots of aspects of our lives which are open to interpretation if you choose to do so. It’s a kind of ‘belief glue’ filling in the gaps in our knowledge. Taking going to sleep as an example: Your conscious mind stops working and your awareness stops, in a similar manner to dying I suppose, and yet through sheer habit we go through this regular ‘death of the self’ every night without much concern. We believe we will be back again the next day. Concern about it seems impractical through lack of alternatives, so we ignore it. However, given the sci-fi options where you are copied instantaneously, then the original destroyed, involving a similar lapse of consciousness but little practical difference, would you be just as nonchalant? Or what if the entire universe was destroyed and recreated from moment to moment, without any observable difference to us? How would that make you feel?

Next time you are caught in a lift, stuck in traffic, or flying in a plane, remember how much of our experiences comes down to personal perspective, and see if you can make the world a better place.