Friday, November 23, 2012

Internalized Einstein: Grown-ups, Kids and Time

One of the big mysteries of maturity is why or how the perception of the passage of time changes -- why time seems to go so much faster as we get older. Conjectures include biochemical brain changes and increased actual activity, often as a result of responsibility -- a greater amount of time spent working for others and not playing for ourselves. But I think it might be that we, somehow, lose the  connection that kids seem to have to Tao. Kids are so much better at just being that adults are.

"Aragorn's Quest"
Yesterday, my eight-year-old was playing a video game called Aragorn's Quest. I played it first, a year or so ago. I enjoyed it very much and I completed the entire game. He played it after me, and he finished it as well. 

Yesterday, he was playing it. "That was a pretty darned good game, wasn't it?" I said, watching.

"Yeah," he replied. "How come you don't play it anymore, Dad -- if you liked it so much?"

"I don't know." I replied. "I don't much like playing games after I have finished them -- it's not fun to me."

"Oh," he said, sounding a little perplexed by this answer.

When it comes down to it, I'm a little perplexed by it, too.

Somewhere along the line, whether it is a result of societal programming or of natural development (or both) many of us grown-ups become task-oriented; or, more accurately, task-completion-oriented. For some reason, my enjoyment depends, to a great extent, on having a task to complete -- a goal to achieve. 

Maybe this mental state gives us a feeling of constant forward motion. Could this be the entirely interior version of one of the components of Einstein's idea of actual motion within the "Theory of Relativity": perception of time speeds up when we are in motion and slows down when we are idle (in his case, for instance, on a moving train or in a car as opposed to sitting in a waiting room)?

Can we get this state of "childness" back? My boys can play a game they completed long ago. They have no concern as to whether they finished the goals of the game. They take joy in the mere action of playing. The doing is the joy, not the "reward" at the end. Does this help children "put the brakes on"?

How many times to we need to see advice to "live for now" on coffee cups and in Internet memes and among the fortune-cookie crumbs before we really get it? And, once we get it, can we step back into that mental place we occupied so many summers ago?

Can we slow time down? Maybe -- but only if we learn to step off of the train.

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