Making Time: Why Time Seems to Pass at Different Speeds and How to Control It by Steve Taylor

15 Feb

Who has time? Who has time? But then if we never take time, how can we have time?

– The Merovingian

You may read the title and say “control time perception? Yeah, right“.

But consider: when you were 8, how long did the summer holidays last? And how long does it seem to take for 6 weeks to fly past these days?

Taylor says that our perception of time speeds up as we get older because we repeatedly do the same things, and take less notice of them. Kids see things with eyes wide open because everything is new to them. They take in everything around them like sponges. The implication is that doing things you haven’t done before will slow down your perception of time. Similarly taking your time to enjoy what you are doing, taking in all the information available, even when doing something mundane like the washing up, will add to the experience, and slow down time.

If something is new, then you remember more things about it, so in hindsight it also seems to have taken longer given the extra details.

Think about your daily commute to work. You do it so regularly, sometimes you don’t recall a single part of the journey and it seems to go past quickly. Contrast this to going somewhere  you haven’t been before and it will appear to take longer.

I read elsewhere that when an event has an emotional impact on you, you will remember more, so becoming emotionally engaged with your experience will mean it seems to take longer.

I remember an incident when my car went out of control at high-speed and my perception of time passing slowed down to a surprising degree. I was acutely aware of the car and its handling, the environment, and my actions and physical state. I had a meta-awareness, which enabled me to watch how I was reacting so that I could consider each possible action before I chose to carry it out. Both in the moment and in hindsight, that hyper-awareness meant an event that happened in seconds, seemed to take an age.

As a result of these observations, Taylor advises that we avoid just sitting in front of mindless tv programs, or playing simple computer games, as that simply absorbs you so that time goes by without you being aware.

Clearly, the assumption implicit in his advice is that people want time to go slower. They want to appreciate the life they have and if one perceives it to have taken longer, then all the better.

He moves on to discuss the ‘zone’ that sports people get into; e.g. Jimmy Connors used to say how big the ball seemed, how slow his opponent was, and how he had so much time to make his decision. I’ve experienced the same when I’ve been on top form in various areas, such as when playing my guitar, the implication being, that when you become experienced and intuitive with your chosen practise, you have more ‘brain-space’ to think about other things, thus experiencing the feeling of having more time.

He also talks about thought-chatter: the annoying thoughts that flit across the front of your brain when you stop doing stuff. These are generally about the past or the future. When you are able to quiet these (through meditation for example) you can then enjoy the present and not be limited by the past or the future.

His writing style is annoying; he repeats himself and sometimes talks nonsense. He could have written a book with more impact in a quarter of the space. For example, when he said “scientists are often suspicious of anecdotes, preferring to stick to hard facts which they can verify through experiments, But surely there are some cases where anecdotal evidence is so widespread…” he sounded rather foolish. Of course when “anecdotal” evidence is widespread, then it is no longer anecdotal. It didn’t help that he was spouting some nonsense about transcending time altogether so you can predict the future.

But his main message is a fantastic one: to enjoy the time you have, to keep your experiences rich, varied and new, and enjoy the small mundane things too.

I think Athlete say all he’s said very simply in their beautiful song Vehicles & Animals. To paraphrase: young children enjoy the present with contentment; open your eyes with a child-like attitude and take in the world around you in the same way.

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3 Responses to “Making Time: Why Time Seems to Pass at Different Speeds and How to Control It by Steve Taylor”

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