Seeing Noah's post prompted me to re-read Steven Johnson's rather lovely piece that talks about his reasons for moving from his long-time home city of New York, across to the West coast and San Francisco.
This kind of change, believes Johnson, is intrinsically good in itself because the changed context helps you see your old home in a different light, and understand better what really matters: "Changing the background scenery helps you see the foreground more clearly".
But it's also good because it seems to slow down time. To paraphrase Johnson paraphrasing a friend who wrote to him about the move, when you're in your routine and frequenting the same old places time seems to accelerate. But all the complexities of moving and navigating a new environment means that all the things that once passed as background are suddenly are thrust into your conscious awareness. The act of having to figure more stuff out every day makes you more acutely aware of the passing time. So more than anything, says Johnson, "we're moving to slow down time".
This reminded me of 'Making Time (Why Time Seems To Pass At Different Speeds and How To Control It)' by Steve Taylor, which I read last year out of sheer curiosity. In the book, Taylor talks about what he calls the 'first four laws of psychological time':
1. Time speeds up as we get older
2. Time slows down when we are exposed to new experiences and environments
3. Time passes quickly in states of absorbtion
4. Time passes slowly in states of non-absorbtion
Taylor draws on a whole series of psychological studies and examples to make the case that the speeding up of time we experience is related to our perception of the world around us and of our experiences, and how this perception changes as we get older. The speed of time seems to be relative to how much perceptual information our minds absorb and process – the more information there is, the slower the time goes.
It's a cliche, but time is by far our most valuable commodity. The older I get the more precious time seems to get to me. I think that's less about a sense of it running out, and more about being increasingly conscious of the possibilities of how each moment might be used. We talk a lot about the value of continually creating for ourselves new and different contexts and experiences. Perhaps one of the less talked about (apart from Johnson of-course) but no less important reasons for doing this is that in doing so, we slow the passage of time.