My husband and I have taken to saying “it’s always ten o’clock or Christmas,” meaning that the days and the years fly by so fast that it seems we are always either saying good night or scrambling to wrap presents. I’ve been reading Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything by Joshua Foer. Foer describes his research into, encounters with, and training by memory champions who can do feats such as memorize the sequence of one or more decks of cards in a matter of minutes and the sequence of a thousand random numbers in an hour. One of these champions, Ed Cooke, sheds some light on the reason why time seems to be speeding faster and faster with each year.
“I’m working on expanding subjective time so that it feels like I live longer,” Ed had mumbled to [Foer] on the sidewalk outside the Con Ed headquarters, a cigarette dangling from his mouth. “The idea is to avoid that feeling you have when you get to the end of the year and feel like, where the hell did that go?”
Cooke’s idea is that by providing more chronological landmarks of your life, you can make yourself more aware of the passing of time. “The more we pack our lives with memories, the slower time seems to fly.” Intentionally paying attention to, marking and remembering, moments in a day is particularly important as we age because our lives tend to become more and more routine and less memorable. Foer quotes William James who long ago wrote, “[A]s each passing year converts some of this experience into automatic routine which we hardly note at all, the days and the weeks smooth themselves out in recollection to contentless units, and the years grow hollow and collapse.” Hence, it’s always ten o’clock or Christmas.
Time for a wake-up call.
It’s easy to forget to pay attention to all the little thoughts and sensory events that make up a day, and I like this reminder to do so as well as the possibility of a pay-off in terms of slowing the perception of time. I’ve been experimenting with using a diary application called Day One. You can make entries in an electronic diary by day and time, but its genius is that it sends you a reminder at times you can schedule. Just jot something in the pop-up box that appears in the corner of your screen and you’ve created a new chronological landmark. Can’t think of anything to write down? The program gives you prompts to use as springboards.