Time Is On Your Side

(688 words)

Recently, a friend recommended two books, A Brief History of Time and The Science of Interstellar

Time is ironic, not what it seems. When you’re in the zone, clock-time flies by but the time inside your head, your being, slows to a pleasurable crawl where every detail of life shows in High-Def.  “Wow, where did the time go?” we say when we’ve packed a lot into an hour.  The paradox is in the way the hour speeds by while our experience of that hour was of something full, expansive, and large.  Is time a construct of our evolutionary brains, distinct from our true selves, the soul? Could science someday prove such a thing, the existence of the soul that is?

Some moments last a lifetime.  But, in the grand scheme of things (13 billion years), is there really much of a difference between such moments and the totality of our lives to date? Once, you were in kindergarten.  Now, suddenly, you’re here.  It all may as well have been a moment.  One is as significant as the other, at this point.

This confusing, seemingly contradictory, phenomenon is universal to all people, everywhere.

Working my way through these classic books, my own core feeling for what once seemed so simple–time–dissolved within me. Einstein’s theory of relativity shows that if I’m driving 50 miles per hour and you are in front of me driving 60 miles per hour, then, relative to me, you are driving 10 miles an hour.  That’s relativity, not so bad.

But the relativity of time is another thing, altogether.  In my brain, time is taking “now” and “later”, measuring the space between the two, and coming up with a measurement that would apply anywhere I took it, even in theory. But Einstein proved otherwise.

Time moves faster or slower, in actuality, depending on where you are.  It all has something to do with, you guessed it, gravity. You would age faster on the moon than you would on earth because the moon has lower gravity.  The greater an object’s mass (earth compared to the moon, for example), the greater the space around it is warped, and the greater the space is warped, the greater gravity’s force, and the greater gravity’s force, the slower time moves. Therefore, time is relative, not absolute. 

This is the point where my mind rationalizes this, personally, incomprehensible notion as having something to do with perception. We merely perceive these differences in the essence of actual, absolute, unchanging time, I’ll think.


Einstein’s theories were proven in a Harvard experiment done in 1959 (1959?) which showed that in a single day a person living at the top of a 70 floor high-rise ages 1.6 trillionths of a second faster than someone living at the ground floor.  Gravity is greater at the ground floor, closer to earth, than at the top floor.  And where gravity is greater, time slows down. Clocks onboard satellites, before they are adjusted to account for these differences, tick faster than clocks on earth. 

These discoveries changed the world.  The 20th century was what it was—historically prosperous and historically violent—in large part due to these and a few other game changing contributions from science. 

The time that any physical body experiences is a direct byproduct of its mass.  Only objects with mass, our bodies for instance, experience time.  Photons (pure light), having no mass, experience no time. They move as fast as fast can go in our universe (the speed of light).  Could it be that when we are in the moment, in the zone, we are reduced (paradoxically expanded) closer to the level of light and no longer experience time the way bodies, our bodies, do? 

It is already shown that when bodies are at rest, seated in a chair for instance, they move in time, only, and not through space. As a body begins to move, getting up to walk to the door for instance, it moves a little less in time as it moves more through space. It’s like a sliding scale between space and time. The more a body moves through space, the less it moves through time.

Stephen Hawking’s and Kip Thorne’s books are helping me begin to understand these ideas.