The other day while dropping Juni off at daycare, an important thought struck me.  Much of my life, I’ve wondered at how we experience time.  Large periods of time seem to have passed very quickly when considering how long they’ve been, however on a day by day basis, time is at a very deliberate pace.  It doesn’t truly change, although at times it feels faster or slower depending on what type of stimulus is occurring.

The thought that occurred to me is that we actually experience time in the exact same way that other nonhuman animals do, temporally.  We are reacting moment by moment over much like a fight or flight animal would, though with more consideration than less mentally capable.  Yet physiologically we are similar.

Despite that, we think about time differently than any other animal.  We are capable of considering the vast amount of time we have experienced and what has transpired over that timeframe.  So in essence it’s our memory alone that makes the expanse of time seem to have passed quickly.  Any rational human understands that time and space are constants given our physical limitations to transcend them.  But we cannot rationalize time as easily.

The moment to moment understanding of time as a constant is inherent to our lives.  They line starts to blur when we talk about hours, days, months, years, decades and so on.  Our memory cannot recall specifics past certain points of time.  In computer terms, our random access memory is tapped out.  So we make mile markers in our minds, subconsciously, to keep things straight.  The shorter periods of time we experience as part of that RAM feel like they should be equivalent to the longer periods.  One minute is one minute and the relative measure should apply to years and larger portions of time as well.

If humans were perfectly able to recollect all periods of time, the longer periods of time we reflect one would not feel as though they went quickly.  They feel that way because we can only remember small portions of them compared to smaller, more recent samples.

This issue has been on my mind for a long time.  It’s interesting to me that sometimes, seemingly out of nowhere, an explanatory reason for the way things are just pops into my brain.  My guess is that someone has already figured this out, and applied some real scientific reasoning to it, but the beauty one new idea that morning put a large smile on my face.