How Do You Think About Time?

posted in Miscellaneous on Mar 14, 2010

This is something that I like to discuss with people but rarely get the chance to. I, like others, have always had the thoughts of “well, if I see red this way, does everyone see red that way?” Sure, we can break it down to seeing what light reflects off of what and using fancy science to know that red will only occur in certain instances. We’ve figured it out that we will never be able to see ultra-violet light and so on and so forth. But is your red like my red? I don’t know. Similarly, is your time like my time?

When I look at time, or, rather, think about time, I don’t necessarily see a clock face first, or that of a calendar. For whatever reason my mind created what I can only describe as a rotating wheel of time that spins throughout the day. “Oh, like a clock?” Well, sort of. This wheel exists in a “3D” space, always off axis, with varying shapes and colors to denote periods of work/sleep/play, etc. I will do my absolute best to illustrate what this looks like to me. Know, first, though, that at differing times of day this wheel is perceived at differing angles, so a few static images really don’t suffice to display the whole. This first is of what a normal Monday-Friday day looks like. I couldn’t do the spacial-ness of it justice, so this is the best I could come up with on a 2D plane:

For the hours, each of them do in fact “fill up” as time passes through them. The arrows denote which way the time flows within each block. They’re essentially just progress bars waiting to be filled. You’ll notice that a few hours are tipped or turned. Why they are like that I have no idea. However, I do know that 7 AM is darker because my mood at that point is generally fairly low; getting ready to go to work, driving to work, etc. In high school, half of 6 AM was dark all the way through 9 AM with a slightly differing shade starting at 7:30 AM. Why? Well, throughout high school I woke up at 6 AM, showered, took a nap until 6:30 AM (as Beakman’s World played on the TV), then made my way to school by 7:30 AM when band would start. Then regular school would begin at 9 AM. Now those pre-day duties only exist from 7 until 8. There’s a similar situation with noon and 11 AM. For whatever reason 11 is always one of the lightest colors; so much so that I can’t even think of what color it might be. The 11 AM hour throughout my life has always felt fast; I’ve never had an extended period of time when it hasn’t felt that way, and that’s why it’s short and white. Noon’s physical shape is wider than the other hours and generally a light yellowish color. I think my mind wants to believe it’s a “long” hour, but since it’s generally lunch time it takes no time to pass.

Years work in a similar manner but they are very rigid. All of the months of the year are the same shape and the same size. I assume this is because it takes so long to get through any certain month that there’s no need for wackiness. I really have no idea, though. My mind generally sees but two years at a time, with the even year always on the left side, unless I consciously think about “turning” the two years around, but then they just snap back to a position where even numbered years are on the left.

Days of the week are pretty much the same. They all are rigid, I can see two weeks at a time, but the colors are essentially inverted: the week days are a drab grey while the weekends are brighter. There could be a mixture of colors within each day when envisioning them in the “week” state. If there’s something important that might happen that day, then it might be 90% grey and there be a small sliver of blue or some other color. When my mind transitions into the hours, those hours that have the event are cordoned off in another color than normal but usually a darker version of whatever they’d normally be.

Unlike the singular years, months, and weeks, how my mind thinks of decades and centuries is back on a scale that’s similar to the hours (oh, by the way, minutes within each hour are wacky too, but I won’t get into that; every hour is different based on the shape of the hour). The 20th century is one very long rectangle that’s attached at one end with the start of the 21st and on the other by the end of the 19th.

The interesting thing to me is that all of these blocks of time – centuries, decades, years, months, weeks, days, hours – all are viewed as one large structure. It’s just what needs to be focused on that I see in my mind’s eye. When I think of a date in time, for example Dec. 7, 1941, my mind usually starts at the vaguest level of time – centuries – before “zooming in” to decade, then year, then month. Since I’m not sure what day that happened on off the top of my head, I’d see December within the stack of years and there would be a darkened area at the beginning of the month, but my mind wouldn’t go to see the weeks because it wouldn’t know where to place that darkened area.

And that’s the long and short of it. The way I perceive other things is based off of this system (or this system is based off of other things). My internal number system works in a very similar fashion, for example. 1-10 is located within a very detailed block that is always easy to see, 11-20 is off center from that but has perspective. Sometimes 11-20 is turned to the side, just depends. 21-100 is another vertical stripe, with 101-1,000 zig zagging back and forth like a staircase at each one hundred units, then 1,001-20,000 goes straight to the right, 20,001-100k another vertical line, 100,001-1M back left, and finally 1M-1B is basically one thick vertical block unless I need to focus on a point within it, then it all comes into focus and starts breaking down into smaller units.

So how do you think of time? Am I just a nutso crazy person (don’t answer that), or is that a standard way of thinking?

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  • I have never thought about time. Now whatever I could tell you about how I perceive time will be colored by your account!

    Pretty much everything I think through is visual, though, so perhaps you are not so crazy.

  • Garret

    It’s actually somewhat odd to me that I read so much, considering that I find myself having difficulty remembering things from novels unless the narrative was able to bring up a substantive image in my head.

    For example, I’m reading Pride and Prejudice and Zombies right now, and P and P is very dialogue/thought driven, so the locales have little to no detail. It’s very hard for me to pick out what is actually important within the text because it’s so boring there’s just little for me to latch onto visually.