Most of us will agree: the older we get, the faster our days seem to pass by. When we reminisce about our childhood, we get that feeling that our experiences back then were longer, more fascinating, more intensive. Our birthday parties were endless magnificent festivities and summers gave us at the end a sense of a sweet dullness.
However, when we leave youth behind, time seems to speed up. Memories about when happened what gets opaque. Frequently, we wish we could stop the time for a while. But time and life run inexorably after a point.
It reminds us of the famous poem of Edgar Allan Poe who caught this agony in words:
I stand amid the roar
Of a surf-tormented shore,
And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand —
How few! yet how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep,
While I weep — while I weep!
O God! Can I not grasp
Them with a tighter clasp?
Chunking our experiences speeds up our life tempo
Basically, it may sound self-evident that as children we perceive time differently. Everything is new, we are curious, the associations between events are still challenging. Well, that’s utterly true! But what happens afterwards? Is it the tedium of daily life?
In fact, this is the answer, but it does not suffice. The question, in turn, is to examine in a more concrete way. how our brain accepts this “erosion of time”.
For understanding that, a research team from the University of Kansas ran a relevant study. Its results were published in the journal Self and Identity. Its methodology is described in this Research Digest post. As the authors point out: “Perceiving life as rapidly slipping away is psychologically harmful: unpleasant, demotivating, and possibly even hostile to the sense that life is meaningful.”
The research was based on a theory of the philosopher Douglas Hofstadter. He suggested that when we get older, our brain tends to package distinct but similar experiences into bigger “chunks”. For example, after an age, every single walk under the rain will be grouped together as “the under-the-rain-walks” chunk. Consequently, our brain encodes all that time spent for these walks quite as a single event that entails the same impressions. There is no more variety in our actions, so we do not remember each of them as something unique. And this is then how we regard our whole life, in short chunked memories.
Be mindful of every moment!
How can we now slow down this process? The authors propose that we try to be more mindful. The motto “enjoy the moment” is not just a banality but the way to slow down the flowing time. Not only will moments become more precious, but you will perceive your whole lifetime in a more well-rounded pace.
It goes without saying that the spiritual life of our witches and mages is one of the best remedy. Meditation, preparation of spells and ceremonies are all exceptional occasions and each time something we experience anew.