I’ve been thinking about this explanation of time for more than four of my past eight decades, and have now decided it is time to put it on paper and get it down for others to understand and ponder.
Time has at least two methods of measurement for me. The most common one that everyone knows and uses daily is the exact method: seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, decades, and so on. We all know that one year is one-half of two years and one-tenth of 10 years. This way of measuring time can be added, subtracted, multiplied and divided precisely. Furthermore, unlike money, everyone has the same amount of time per unit in which to accomplish things: 365 days a year (366 in a leap year), 24 hours a day in which to prioritize and accomplish what we each feel is the most important. This is what people think of most often and the way to measure time.
But there is another method, which I call proportional. Using the proportional method, units cannot be mathematically manipulated because the units are not equal and are memory-based.
When one is five years old, one year is 20 percent of one’s remembered life. When he reaches 10, one year is 10 percent, at 20, one year is 5 percent, at 25 one year is 4 percent, at 33 one year is 3 percent, and at 50, one year is 2 percent of his or her remembered life. Further, since memory doesn’t really begin for most people until they are three or four years old, these proportional numbers would be even larger.
This measurement of time is entirely subjective, and based on our memory. From early childhood, in this writer’s opinion, the proportional method, while substantially subconscious, is the more important of the two.
To understand the proportional measure of time, here are some examples:
First: A 50-year-old grandfather and his 5-year-old grandson are standing in line for ice cream. A five-minute wait for the 5-year-old is proportionally the same as a 50-minute wait for Grandpa. A 25-minute wait was way too long for the grandson, but Grandpa thought the five-year-old was very impatient as a five-minute wait for the grandson was already too long.
Second: A fourth-grader starts his school summer vacation thinking the three months will last forever. You will remember that one year for a 10-year-old is 10 percent of his memory span, and the three-month vacation is 25 percent of a year, or 2½ percent of his memory span. Contrast that with his 50-year-old teacher, whose entire year is only 2 percent of her memory span, making the summer vacation proportionally longer for the fourth-grader than the entire year is for his teacher.
The proportional measure of time is so subliminal and subconscious that we might not notice or understand it, but it can be readily observed.
Third: At a recent summer picnic of some 100 people, it was interesting to note that the younger children all gathered together to play, and the older children did the same. The young adults likewise spent time visiting, the middle-agers (whatever that is!) as well as the seniors also were grouping with their contemporaries in age. As you observe groups, you will see this happening again and again.
The proportional method of measuring time is so potent and unconscious that this writer even recommends that older men who are selecting new spouses would be much better off not picking a “trophy” wife, but rather settle on one who agewise is a contemporary. Statistics support that spouses of similar ages have a greater chance of success.
As we go through life and experience it, each year appears to get shorter and shorter, and the last year is always the shortest one. I am approaching the point at which each year is just more than 1 percent of my total life span. I once commented that life is like a roll of toilet paper; the closer to the end you get, the faster it goes.
That’s it — about time.