Andy Rooney, the star of CBS’s 60 minutes (long dead now) used to say that “life is like a roll of toilet paper. The closer to the end you get, the faster it goes.” There’s much validity in what Rooney said. All of us who have aged, talk about time and how fast it appears to be going.
Whether or not time goes faster the older you get is irrelevant. The perception that time goes faster the older you get – is true. Ask anyone older than 50 and they’ll tell you – it’s a fact.
Why does time appear to move faster to people the older they get? I’ve been doing some thinking about it, and here’s what I’ve determined.
Time appears to move faster to older people because they don’t recognize the passage of time.
Have you ever started reading a book and become so engrossed in it that before you realize it, several hours have passed? Have you ever gotten on the internet and realized that you have been on the net for more than an hour when it seemed like minutes?
Have you ever driven a car and become so caught up thinking about a problem at work or a situation at home that before you know it, you’re at your destination?
Have you ever driven to work and back every day to the point that it becomes a habit and you don’t think much about the drive, until suddenly, something new popped up alongside the road and you noticed it for the first time?
Those are all signs of how we deal with time.
As children, everything is new. Every time we see a bird, watch a leaf fall from a tree, hear a new word out of the mouth of our parents, ride a bicycle or wait anxiously for the first day of summer vacation – -our brain treats time differently.
As children, and teenagers, our mind is busy processing new information on a regular basis. As the processing is going on we are aware of time. Our mind reacts to the stimulate and thus to the time.
But, as adults, we have already processed most of the new information we’ll ever learn. Our brain is no longer processing vast amounts of new information and instead has been placed on “auto pilot.” We go through life not noticing the same old things because our brain has already processed that information and doesn’t call it to our attention – – and we don’t realize the passage of time.
It’s not until something jars us back and forces us to think a new thought, that we again realize the concept of time.
So, it’s not the fact that time is moving slower or faster – – it’s just that our perception of time has changed. As long as the brain doesn’t experience new information it moves us through time without our realization. It’s only when new information arrives that stopping points are created. These stopping points bring us back to a realization and with it a concept of time.
Can you slow down time? I think you can – -but not to the point of our childhood.
As adults, we can try new things, read new books, learn a new language, do some traveling, experience new ideas and new thoughts. Those things will force our brain to temporarily re-open the processing factory and consequently slow down the passage of time.
But, because those new concepts are such a small portion of the knowledge already retained in our brain, we’ll never slow time down to the point we remember as a child.
We will always be forced to watch, as the roll of toilet paper continues to move faster and faster – the nearer to the end we get.
(Want to wake up the brain? Try brushing your teeth with the other hand.)