The way people perceive time has been on my mind for a while. I can't tell you whether it's been a week, a couple of months, or a quarter of a century. I'll explain it later.
Time as a line
There is a linear time - time as a sequence of events. There are big rocks - the birthday, graduation, emigration, wedding - events which give closure to a certain period in our lives and a beginning to another. As we grow older, we realize that the small parts of the day - grain of sand if you will - have a huge impact on our life's quality. Small daily habits can break or make our health, and well-being. At some point, we realise that life is a lot about repetition which brings us to the second type of time perception.
Question: What's the next milestone?
The world repeats itself
The circle of time has its rhythm. Spring, summer, autumn, winter. Nature goes through this cycle every year. By paying attention to changes outside, we can expect changes in our mood, energy levels, and lifestyle. I will never forget the spring after my first winter in Berlin. Suddenly, there were people in the streets chatting, drinking, and laughing. Pétanque players populated parks. Everyone was out in the city which had been deserted in winter.
Question: If the time repeats itself, what are you willing to relive?
It's a spiral
Over 2500 years ago, Heraclitus taught us panta rhei (everything flows).
You cannot step into the same river twice, for other waters are continually flowing on.
It seems logical, doesn't it? The seasons may come and go in the same order, but it doesn't mean that each spring, the same birds nest. We get older too and hopefully develop in our humanity. Knowing this, time can be considered a spiral - we are in the same place but not exactly. Wisława Szymborska, a late Polish poet and Nobel laureate, wrote in Nothing Twice:
No day copies yesterday,
no two nights will teach what bliss is
in precisely the same way,
with precisely the same kisses.
You can read this poem on the poets.org website or listen to it as a song in Polish.:
Question: What small habit can have a compound impact on the future?
Why are types of time perception helpful?
Remember the statement at the beginning of this post? Time for the big reveal. I don't understand time. If I were to draw my time perception it would look more or less like this:
It stays a mystery why my brain doesn't possess a sense of a past or a future. Both what was and will be appear misty to me. Today is the only land I know, which can sometimes feel lonely or even scary. I journal to remember the past, to make it more real. The future... honestly, the future is limited until the end of the weekend.
However, I've been incorporating different types of time perception into my way of thinking. I ask myself the shared above questions every now and then to befriend the passage of time. The milestones guide me, and daily habits bring comfort.
How do you perceive time? Do you focus on big events or small habits?