So who is narrating my life?


The 18.26 is trundling along, taking it’s time as these trains do in a not quite all stations North kind of way. It’ll be another two and a half hours before I arrive and it’s at this point that I realise I’ve been talking to myself about time distortion and is it really just a mental representation of the time/space/speed continuum of Einstein fame.

Not actually talking out loud, I hasten to add. The voice in my head has just pointed out to me that would be way too weird and I’d have been asked to shut up or leave the train by now. What would be really interesting is finding out the split of readers who are pretty sure that voices in heads should also result in automatic train defenestration and those who nod as if it’s the most familiar thing in the world and feel relieved that someone else has taken the plunge and put it into words so they don’t need to admit it in public themselves.

To be fair to them though, feel is probably the wrong word. We of the internal monologue persuasion tend not to go in for feelings per se. We know they’re important but they should be saved up and used sparingly and most importantly, privately. Emotions should be stifled, squished and forced into a small box to be metamorphosed under the intense pressure of life into the diamond strength of the soul. At least that’s the theory behind the AD mind, (Audio Digital, one of the categories of NLP’s Rep system).

The reality, of course, is that the metamorphosis doesn’t quite work out, resulting in a procession of AD clients beating a path to the CogHyp door. At least it would if they had the slightest notion that such a move might be beneficial. Anything except emote.

Why do some people want to bare the soul with the least provocation and others wouldn’t know an emotion if introduced itself and gave references from previous owners and satisfied customers. Which persuation do you belong to? A trouble shared is a trouble doubled? A friend in need is bloody nuisance? Listen to that inner advice? Probably AD.

The crazy thing is that once you get an AD on your side, you have a friend for life – even if you never see them again. These guys are foul weather friends. You won’t hear from them for years but when something goes wrong, really wrong, they’ll roll their sleeves up and deal with the mess.

My problem, and I always have at least one to avoid self-therapeutic atrophy, is that my AD is closely supported with K which, as you all know, stands for Kinaesthetic of all things. It’s pretty much the exact opposite of AD, leaking feelings all over the place. This leads to my spending most of my inner monologue mopping up spilt mental milk and other metaphoric wetness.

But how does all this have anything to do with Einstein’s less well known theory of of mental time distortion? Now, the real theory pretty much says that the faster you travel relative to something else, the slower time passes. This really does happen. Most of us use it every day.

It’s an integral factor in GPS systems. The effect in percentage terms is so tiny as to be almost infinitesimal, or infantismal as Robo-Warrior would have put it. But don’t forget we’re dealing with the speed of light here and on a human scale, light covers a significant distance in an infinitesimal slice. About 10 meters a day to be precise.

If we ignored Einstein, your SatNav would drift 10 meters every day. So would every one else’s. Maps would slowly become useless. We’d all be driving down alleyways and into fields. Maybe that’s what happened with those trans-continental Euro-trucks in the Nineties. Come to think of it, maybe that’s why EasyJet think their planes are going to land somewhere close to the cities they claim to be flying to.

Meanwhile, back to time distortion. If acute awareness of your surroundings were measured by the number of snapshots of now that you take when you’re really stuck in one of those can’t get away from it moments of total boredom, anxiety, stress or anything you wish wasn’t happening and were to equate to the speed-relative-to-something else that Einstein was always banging on about, then one of those lucky sods who’s really enjoying themselves and completely missing the now in everything would equate to the slow thing you’re mentally travelling next to, so maybe that’s why time passes so slowly for you and that other bugger can’t fit enough hours in the day. Not to mention the weirdly long sentences you can construct that still nearly make sense.

When you’re bored or stressed or anxious then your mind is wringing out every single thing it can find to confirm to you that you really are as bored, stressed or anxious as you thought, if not more so. You are fitting in many more units of nowness per dragged out second than someone who is engrossed in an anything of their choice, be it work, a movie, a book or a blog.

If it’s this blog and you’re still reading, you’ve either got some serious stamina or an odd sense of the interesting. Thanks for sticking with it.

So if the mental passage of time is actually controlled by your unconscious replaying the now-based snapshots at normal speed, then concentration on nowness makes time pass slowly and focus on otherness causes time to pass more quickly, (fewer units if nowness in each second: boy doesn’t time fly?), then what is Time Distortion? Presumably it turns one into the other without the you that’s experiencing the distortion being aware of it.

If your unconscious gets prompted to take snapshots for recollection later but at a different rate than your current mental state would usually do it, then once the events have passed, whether quickly or slowly at the time, when you look back your mental instagram will have different numbers of recollections than you were aware of along the way.

It would turn a speeding life-journey into a slow one from which you recall more and would prime you to take more notice next time.

And it would turn 3 hours of a boring train journey into a momentary slice of time and a hopefully interesting Post for you to read. The last two hours only felt like 20 minutes.

It’s 21.08 and I’ve only got 20 minutes left until I arrive. With nothing left to do…

…so according to my units of nowness theory…

I hope I haven’t finished this post too soon.

Shining a light
© Tony Burkinshaw

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