I just thought of something pretty neat. Now, our brains are poorly wired to understand the concept of time, and we often associate the “flow” of time with Euclidean vectors and shapes. We then break time into discrete absolute units like years and then break those years into days, hours, minutes and seconds – but if Einstein’s anyone to go by (and you can bet he is), time is a relative creature.
Most people in the world visualise the hours of a day (or rather, a half day) with a clockwise cyclical circle. This is most certainly a conditioned mental image because most of us grew up telling time using an analogue clock. So if I am to make an educated guess, I’d say that a person who grew up without ever seeing that iconic 12-hour face would see a wholly different shape of his day in his head. If I ever produce a kid, I’d try teaching him to tell the time using sundials and see how his mind’s eye perceive the daily hours – among other messed-up, nurture-type psych experiments I’ve thought up over the years. This is also why I shouldn’t be allowed to procreate.
Then, there are time units which are much less ubiquitously and graphically represented and thus, would figure very differently in different individuals. Take the 7-day week, for example. This is how I see the week in my mind,
I consider Monday the first day of the week. The weekdays are arranged in a horizontal row from left to right, bowing slightly upwards. My Saturday and Sunday are “situated” below them, swinging from right to left in the curve of a smile. It’s a bit like a semicircle, looping back again and again on itself.
The girlfriend sees her entire week in a straight horizontal line running from Monday to Sunday which rewinds back to the start of every new week.
Let’s scale it up to a month, shall we? Phoebs’ month has its days arranged in rows of seven. The days in each row runs from left to right and subsequent rows are placed below the preceding ones. The leftover days of every month (except non-leap year Februaries) would form the fifth and final row. It’s essentially how a calendar page is configured.
Me? This is how my month looks like,
I visualise the progression from one month to the next as a “step” up from left to right, with the previous month vaporising away as soon as the transition is complete. I also break every month into two parts: the first 19 days being one bit and all the remaining days being the second. There’s also a “step” to climb between day 19 and day 20. Do not ask me why I think this way because I haven’t a fucking clue. It just feels right.
Anyway, when I zoom out to the scale of a year, the stepladder effect disappears and I get a smooth, flat line heading eastward,
My vision of time itself is also a left-to-right horizontal line. I fancy that this is probably the influence of how historical and scientific timelines are traditionally depicted. Unlike mine, Phoebs’ year is oriented vertically from up to down. And she envisions the concept of time as going forward, with the past positioned behind her. Her predilection might have been persuaded by the English language (the tongue she thinks in) which does in fact assign such arbitrary prepositions to the the past and future.
And I’ve even heard of a guy who sees the months of a year as points on an analemma. What a nerd.
I don’t know about you but I find this to be fascinating stuff. All my life, it never occurred to me until now that all of us perceive time in different fashions. Knowing how someone would process time feels a bit like taking a tiny glimpse into how his or her mind operates. It might not be terribly informative, I know, but it’s still pretty damn cool.
So how do you see time? Describe your week, month or year here. Enquiring minds want to know!