Time is simply blocks or slices of reality, added on top of one another. Writes C. D. Broad’s in his theory of time in 1923:
[…] such a theory as this accepts the reality of the present and the past, but holds that the future is simply nothing at all. Nothing has happened to the present by becoming past except that fresh slices of existence have been added to the total history of the world […] The sum total of existence is always increasing, and it is this which gives the time-series a sense [direction] as well as an order.
Time is speeding up in a real way. Younger people’s sense of time is completely different than mine; they have been working on screen time since they were tiny. Perhaps the reason why summer went by so fast for your son is that he has never experienced the slowdown in time, or boredom.
We have food, we enjoy our electronic screens, yet boredom seems to harder to find. It is scarce.
We’ve learned to pursue distraction as a replacement for letting our minds wander. Entertainment fills the void: it introduces new and shiny objects in the form of YouTube videos and shiny Instagrams.
But we can still freeze time, at least in our heads when we look at something like a painting. Says Phillip Glass:
When I look at a painting, time always seems to be in the present. In music, things happen in measured time. When a painter looks at a canvas, time is irrelevant. I was visiting Jasper Johns once, looking at one of his number paintings from 10 years before. He said, “I am still working on that painting.” When I look at your paintings, for you a day of work may go by fast or slow, but the painting is the painting, and looking, I can jump in and get to zero time easily.
When in the midst of creativity, time also seems to slow down. We dance, play an instrument, write, or paint to the rhythm of each tick-tock.
Once I get the composition down, I can begin to pay attention to the rhythm of the painting. I put on music (for example, your Satyagraha) and enter into a dance with the painting, changing the composition to exaggerate the rhythm. Time disappears. I become a verb, seeing, painting. That time cannot be measured. With this kind of focused attention, time has no boundaries. That’s the kind of time you find in love, in creativity, in the life of the spirit, the kind of time I live for.
Time is elapsing now, yet there are still ways to grasp it.
I stop and do nothing. Nothing happens. I am thinking about nothing. I listen to the passing of time. This is time, familiar and intimate. We are taken by it. The rush of seconds, hours, years that hurls us towards life then drags us towards nothingness … We inhabit time as fish live in water. Our being is being in time. Its solemn music nurtures us, opens the world to us, troubles us, frightens and lulls us. The universe unfolds into the future, dragged by time, and exists according to the order of time. What could be more universal and obvious than this flowing?
In a physics laboratory, a clock on a table and another on the ground run at different speeds. Which tells the time? The question is meaningless. We might just as well ask what is most real – the value of sterling in dollars or the value of dollars in sterling. There are two times that change relative to each other. Neither is truer than the other. But there are not just two times. Times are legion: a different one for every point in space. The single quantity “time” melts into a spiderweb of times. We do not describe how the world evolves in time: we describe how things evolve in local time, and how local times evolve relative to each other.
Time is always moving at different speeds, a subjective interpretation.
It only takes a few micrograms of LSD to expand our experience of time to an epic and magical scale. “How long is forever?” asks Alice. “Sometimes, just one second,” replies the White Rabbit. There are dreams lasting an instant in which everything seems frozen for an eternity. Time is elastic in our personal experience of it. Hours fly by like minutes, and minutes are oppressively slow, as if they were centuries.
Before Einstein told us that it wasn’t true, how the devil did we get it into our heads that time passes everywhere at the same speed? It was certainly not our direct experience of the passage of time that gave us the idea that time elapses at the same rate, always and everywhere.
“It is amazing the number of students I am coming across in year 10, 11 and in sixth form who do not know how to tell the time. We live in a world where everything is digital. We are moving towards a digital age and they do not necessarily have analogue watches anymore and they have mobile phones with the time on.”
Children tend to get bought an iPhone before they get a wrist watch if at all