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My Life at Warp Speed

March 13, 2011

I woke up this morning missing an hour of my life.  Thanks to Daylight Savings Time (a practice that, in my opinion, should have been discontinued around the time we stopped depending on people-power to sow, manage, and harvest crops), I’ve missed experiencing one hour (60 minutes, 3600 seconds) of my life.  (And, yes, know I will ‘get it back’ in the fall, but right now it just feels like I’ve been ripped off).  This total disrespect for an hour of my life got me thinking about our perception of time, and the oft-heard complaint that the older we get, the faster time passes us by.  And I wondered – could it actually be true?

Monet's Giverny GardenI’m going to be brutally honest with you here.  I know that I have openly stated that I am on ‘the other side of 55’ – which means, of course, that the date of my birth has appeared on more than 55 annual calendars, and I have eaten more than my fair share of cake and ice cream.  However, I am pretty sure I’m only 34. Really.  That’s how I feel.  That’s how I look when I take a quick passing glance in a mirror without my glasses on (I am both near and far-sighted; not wearing my glasses gives the whole world a nice hazy appearance – sort of like looking at one of Monet’s paintings).  And 34 is just about how many years I can actually remember.  And that, too, got me thinking … what if my life has somehow been ‘fast forwarded’ without me even knowing about it?

In space, galaxies and their planets are millions of miles apart.  With even the fastest spaceships available, NASA estimates it would take a minimum of six to eight months to get from Earth to our nearest neighbouring planet, Mars (based on trajectory and the varying distance between the two planets – between 35 and 50 million miles at any one time, as they rotate around the Sun); it would take tens of thousands of years to get from our solar system to the one closest to us.

Earth to MarsASIDE: just to give some perspective to this discussion, here’s your science lesson for the day.  Because of the vastness of space, the distance between objects is measured in light years (the time it takes light to get from one point to another, converted to miles).  Light travels at 186,000 miles per second; therefore, a light year is 5,865,696,000,000 (or roughly six TRILLION) miles. The nearest star to our sun (i.e., the closest solar system to ours) is a little over four light years (about 24 trillion miles) away.  If it would take eight months to get to Mars, a trip to our nearest neighbouring solar system would take approximately five and a half million months (or somewhere around 45,000 years), using current space travel methods.

Warp Drive

Image from the Anderson Institute

Science fiction authors and movie producers usually overcome the challenge of showing space explorers travelling between distant points in space by employing one of two principles – the use of wormholes (jump points, star gates) that act like super-fast conduits between galaxies, or warp drives that create a sort of fold in spacetime (the spaceship rides a wave caused by the contraction of space ahead and the contraction of space behind, allowing it to move through space without distorting time). The actual existence – and possible use – of these types of technologies continues to be a topic of debate among some of the world’s leading scientists (and considering how little we really know about the universe beyond our own ‘front door’, there’s no end to the possibilities).

Personally, I think we have something akin to warp technology in use right here on our own planet, right now.  Albert Einstein is famous for a lot of scientific theories, including several about the relativity of space and time, and some conjecture about whether or not it is possible to travel through time (forward or back). I’ve tried to read and understand his work, but it just gives me a headache.  However, I’m pretty sure the whole forward-time-travel thing has been going on for most of my (adult) life.

For example, it is common knowledge that this is the year 2011.  If I do a quick bit of math, I should conclude, then, that my eldest son (born in 1981) will turn 30 this year.  But that simply can’t be possible. I know. I was there in 1981, and I’m here now (in 2011).  I remain unconvinced that almost 11,000 days have passed between then and now. Something just doesn’t add up!

30 Years of TechnologyI admit that the world has experienced some very obvious and significant changes since 1981 – computers, the Internet, global warming, reality TV – but it all happened so quickly, I hardly recall when we DIDN’T have these things.    Surely, if it had taken thirty years, I’d remember it all a little more clearly.  Life-changing events would have happened like a slow-mo film sequence, lasting long enough for me to form clear memories of them.  I should remember the details of my son’s childhood, the minutiae of his life, seen him growing – inch by inch, stage by stage. But I don’t.

Surely the past thirty years shouldn’t play out in my mind like a jumbled-up blur of people and places and sounds and actions and occasions and experiences.  There should be clear, concise, date-stamped images available for recall.  Instead, I get a mash up not unlike years of laundry that hasn’t been sorted or put away properly in the closets and drawers of my mind.

My Son as a ToddlerI remain convinced that my son was a toddler only a few years ago.  He was through public and high school in the blink of an eye.  In a flash, he left home and went off to college, got a job, an apartment, a girlfriend, and two cats.  I have photographic evidence of some of these moments, but clearly the majority of his life happened without me being aware of it. You can’t tell me there isn’t something suspicious going on here!

And it’s not just the seemingly instantaneous passage of his life that has me concerned, but the breakneck speed of my own as well.  A couple of weeks ago I heard a song on the radio that was popular when I was about 16.  It brought back fond memories, from a time that wasn’t so very long ago, I thought. Then, like a slap in the face, the announcer said, ‘That was a number one hit forty years ago.’ Impossible, I thought. I’m not that old! 

I am convinced that someone (or some’thing’) is trying to prove Einstein’s theories by experimenting on people like me. They’re playing with time. Folding it, molding it, twisting it, warping it.  There is simply no other explanation. The space around me may look unchanged as the clock ticks off the seconds, one by one.  But time is passing by me at light speed.  I’m not sure what old Al Einstein would think, but I’m certainly not amused. I want more time. I want to catch up with my life. I want things to slow down so I can savour them just a little bit longer. 

I just hope it happens before my son catches up with me – because that could prove embarrassing.  Without even knowing it, he could soon end up alongside me, savouring the rapid acceleration of life experiences on … the other side of 55.

Warp Speed to 55

One Comment
  1. Cathy Hendrix permalink
    March 13, 2011 10:45 pm

    It is so sadly true. Why can’t we remember every moment? Why do we lose the ability to hold those moments in our minds like a photograph or better yet, a video? Sure, many moments we would consign to the back files, but others we could call upon whenever we wished to recall something – or someone – who is gone.
    Perhaps the reality of the past might be at times very hard to re-live over and over. But other moments could bring us incredible joy. Oh well. I’ve decided to start taking more pictures. They will have to do.

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