How variety stretches time (looking back)
We don’t remember days; we remember moments
Percy was a much loved toy penguin who sat on my colleague Jean Francois’ (JFS) desk. One day, without warning, Percy went missing. The following day, on receipt of an email from KillPercy@gmail.com JFS discovered that Percy had been kidnapped. No police were to be involved. JFS received a demand for a sizeable sum of money, for the safe return of Percy. JFS indicated that he could not comply with the kidnapper’s demands. A dialog ensued over the coming days and weeks without resolution.
A month in, the kidnappers sent a picture of Percy, bound and gagged, with a current news paper in the background. Cut out letters from magazines were arranged to spell out a ransom demand. JFS did not budge. A few days later, a handwritten ransom note was delivered, demanding cash in used notes be deposited in a nearby phone box. JFS saw his chance to track down the culprits, guessing that office colleagues were involved. He sought the help of Security personnel to analyse suspects’ handwriting relative to that of the kidnapper’s. However, this proved inconclusive and trail went cold.
As Christmas approached, JFS resolved to spend it without his friend. It was a bitter sweet occasion as JFS sat down with colleagues for the office Christmas meal. As the starter plates were being cleared, conversation turned to speculating how Percy was faring and when he might be reunited with JFS. One of the waiters approached the table with a covered silver platter and placed it in front of JFS. The lid was slowly lifted. JFS could not believe his eyes or contain his excitement. There, in front of him, was the best Christmas present ever. Percy.
If you want to lengthen the perspective of time then fill it, if you have the chance, with a thousand new things. - Jean-Marie Guyau
The objective speed of time often doesn’t match our very subjective view. We perceive time in two ways. Firstly, how fast it’s going in the moment and, secondly, how long it felt when we look back.
The cliche, time flies when we are having fun, reflects the fact that we perceive time as passing quickly when we are highly engaged in events. Conversely, we say time drags when we are bored. Ironically, when we look back in time to a period, the reverse is the case. The periods full of varied and unusual activities stretch out in our memories; and vice versa. I recall the unfolding events of Percy’s story with clarity. Whereas, periods filled with routine activities, e.g. watching TV, are difficult or impossible to recollect.
I find the following approaches useful:
Undertake varied activities: Every week I research and write about a new topic in this blog. Listening to podcasts, watching videos, taking photos, talking to different people and reading keeps me engaged.
Visit different places: Walking between 2 and 15 miles per day, I like to explore different routes and observe the wildlife. During the Covid pandemic, I walked the Cotswolds Way and, in October, I climbed my first munro.
Avoid mindless time sinks: I am more intentional with my time than used to be the case. I listen to a limited amount of news and watch little TV. This improves my out look on life and frees up time to be more creative.
Use down time: If I’m waiting in a queue then I may jot down ideas in my mobile notes app, find an interesting quote or observe activities around me. Life is never boring.
Writing my blog: My sister kept a diary. I could not see the point at the time, but I do now. Writing helps me think and provides a reference point in time.
Enjoy people: Much of my motivation comes from my family. I am very fortunate to have loving and supportive family and friends.
How to Find Your Life’s Task talk by Robert Greene
Ten Ideas Per Day post by Phil Martin
Make Time post by Phil Martin
I have fond memories of my time working with Jean Francois and other colleagues in Cable and Wireless’s London HQ. As comedian, Jimmy Carr, said, the purpose of life is to enjoy the passage of time. I do, indeed, enjoy the passage of time. I hope you do too.