Time Is The Strangest Thing

Where does time go when you lose it?  Does it fall behind the sofa cushions?  Accumulate, unnoticed in your desk drawers until you clean up and then go “oh, that’s where all that time went?”

I love the way Pratchett explains this, through the monks of time and the procastinators, winding time, and patching time, and repeating bits of time.  It matches observed reality, including the repeated history (ours and others,) the days that go by in a blink, the times when nothing gets done.  NOTHING.  And then the two hours or so when you write an amount that should be physically impossible.  Or the three days in which I wrote Plain Jane.

I’ve always been fascinated with time, and I love stories of time travel.  More importantly, I’ve always been fascinated with those crucial minutes: the minute before the car swerves.  The minute before you fall and do yourself permanent damage.  The minute before the bullet hits.  It’s just a minute – it’s a tiny slip.  It shouldn’t be permanent.

That’s probably the hardest thing to accept.  Instinctively, at a gut level, we all feel time should be rewindable.  We should be able to travel either way on it.

Possibly my favorite story of time travel and the consequences thereof is The Man Who Murdered Mohammed by Alfred Bester, which I – weirdly – first read in a French magazine, so I always remember it in French.  Possibly part of the reason it’s my favorite story is that I’m married to a mathematician.  (Though I’d never tempt him to go through a murder rampage through time.)  The idea that a mathematician, given enough incentive can assemble a time machine on the fly is absolutely believable.  (The thing is they’re theoretical people and most of the time they don’t care about reality, but if I came home and Dan said “I was bored, so I built a perpetual motion machine” I wouldn’t even be surprised, much less shocked.  When Dan and the younger boy get to talking and playing with numbers they’re downright scary.  The only thing saving us from a very odd future is that most mathematicians JUST don’t care enough to dabble in stuff like that.)

I’ve been thinking about this lately, because here we are in July and I’ve got just about nothing done this year – or (because it has more flavor) I got bupkis done all year.

First there were rewrites for Baen, which, of course, take precedence.  Then there was health.  Then there was the kid’s graduation and applications to college.  He hates bureaucracy more than his mother does, so I paid for my sins of making my dad sign me up for things.  We ended up getting him to complete ONE application properly.  The other ones sort of went in limbo. Thank heavens his record was good enough to be accepted in that one college.  (Might it have something with his not being ready to move, yet?  Who knows?  Devious is the mind of the kid.)

Then there was, since early May a series of illnesses.  Now, all along we’re dealing with odd hormonal issues.  After years of doctors assuring me I was menopausal (starting at 38) a doctor finally figured no, there is something hormonal wrong.  What it is, though, G-d only knows, and so far no treatments have been really effective.  (There is a suspicion I’m not human.)  This might be genetic.  I have a little cousin who has similar issues, including the infertility and the auxiliary side effects (you don’t want to know, but one of them is weight gain) and she’s been told it’s a defect in some chromosome.  What I know is that as I get older it becomes even odder and harder to cope with it, and there might now be other issues (there is at least one resulting from the very bad caeserean that gave us Robert – am I complaining?  No.  Just a fact.)  Anyway, not getting into TMI, this stuff might be at the back of the knocked out immune system and – annoying isn’t it – hormonal balance definitely affects the ability to write.

Then there was the death-flu.  And then for the last week the fires.

I’m starting to wonder if there’s a conspiracy to prevent me from writing.

Of course, when I look back, it’s the writing that counts.  How many books did I finish?  What did I research?  What did I publish?

Unless I look back ten years, and then other things count too: kids, house, moves, the friends we made, how happy the years were.  (The nineties were VERY happy.)

Of course, me being me, I always feel guilty about time “lost” and “wasted” even though it is usually time in which OTHER things were getting done – things that weren’t writing.

Having read Heinlein’s bio, I realized I’m far from unusual.  The man spent a lot of time being ill, or traveling, or politicking.

What did that mean?  Who knows?  

Perhaps his illnesses and struggles, the time he spent gardening and/or moving cost us another The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, three Puppet Masters and four If This Goes On.  Or perhaps without those times engaging in physical labor or dealing with the non-writing world, he’d never have written anything worth reading.

Is time lost?  Or does it just hide?  It slides by and leaves us changed.  Attempts to hoard it or channel it always fail.  The best we can do is try to do the best we can at every moment.  And let the rest slide.

Unrelated and personal update: Fire seems more or less stationary, at least the part in town.  Our guest will probably go back home tonight, after we make sure he has a means of contacting us in case of need.  Has to, his cat isn’t eating.  Due to the vagaries of wind, not much smoke out there around me.  I might take the opportunity to do some outdoor work.  The car stays packed, of course, and the other stuff ready to go until the fire is out.  I do bear in mind that fire is unpredictable.  Postponed doctor’s appointment is now for the sixteenth of July.  And today (maybe after a little light outdoor work) I get to write.

140 responses to “Time Is The Strangest Thing

  1. I understand Time well enough to realize I don’t understand Time at all. “Where does the Time go?” strikes me as an increasingly Zen-like question and one which I refuse to spend Time mulling.

  2. ppaulshoward

    Err, where I’m living, it won’t be July until Sunday. [Wink]

    Seriously, there was one SF short story where somebody was literally stealing a writer’s time. It had a happy ending because the agency that “enforced” personal time found out and gave the writer extra time in payment. [Smile]

  3. I’ve always found it slippery of physicists to get around the question “what happened before the Big Bang?” by saying “Nothing, because time was created (lol, created) in the Big Bang itself, so nothing could happen before it.

    Smacks of weaselness.

    • A couple years ago there was a prominent astronomer (I forget the name; sadly my set of Astronomer Trading Cards is temporarily misplaced) who disavowed his atheism on the grounds that the Book of Genesis so accurately described the Big Bang that he could no longer deny Its Truth.

      • Everything you guys are saying is all very true. I speak as an astronomer and a licensed Protestant minister. What many people on both sides of the argument (though there needn’t be one) don’t realize is that the Hebrew word that’s translated as “day” in Genesis 1 is “yom,” which has a primary USAGE of “day,” but in reality simply means “a span of time.” Thus a completely valid interpretation is, “And the beginning and the ending were the first era.” (Evening was the beginning of the new day for the Hebrews and is to this day in modern Jews, as well as other groups such as the Celts.) And if you plunk a non-scientist observer down and let him watch events unfold in fast-forward, from Big Bang to creation of Earth to solar fusion ignition to dispersal of solar nebula to development of life, and let him write it down in terms he understood, likely somewhat poetic due to the awe of it all, what you’d get is awfully like Genesis 1. I once did a study comparing the animals called out in order in Genesis (ch 2 I think), and their appearance in the fossil record, and lo and behold. Same order. Some generalities had to be applied, as specific species aren’t named in Genesis, but still. Awfully accurate.

        And now we’re discovering things like M Theory (or developing, I should say) and finding that in order to explain everything we see, we need at least ELEVEN DIMENSIONS. Whoa. “I Am,” indeed. To me it also says something about matters prophetic, which becomes entirely possible if there is a Deity outside of our spacetime, able to move freely in time and let someone see a glimpse of Elsewhen. In addition, the business about Satan roaming to and fro, then suddenly being “cast out” and raging “because he knows he has but a short time,” makes all these bells in my head go DING-DING-DING!

        • A lot of things get lost in translation. I recall a preacher explaining the same as you just did the Hebrew meaning ‘a span of time.’ Also ‘Thou shalt not kill’ is an incorrect translation, the original meaning was ‘murder’ not kill, a very important difference.

          • This is why (one of the reasons) I own several translations of the Torah, including my favorite annotated one. (Yes, I’m probably insane.)

            • I recently discovered this handy reference site: http://bible.cc/genesis/1-1.htm

            • Yes, you probably are, but that is not evidence of it; you are one amongst many.

            • I’m not sure you can be considered truly insane until you have at least one in Hebrew, with interlinear word-by-word translation.

              (Which is seriously interesting, by the way; I recommend it. The word-by-word translation brings out things that even good glosses don’t.)

              • I haven’t managed to learn Hebrew. When I’ve been in towns where it was offered (not the town I grew up in) I was … writing and had kids. It’s on the list however, moreso since older boy intends to learn soon — if still while he’s in house (next year) we can buddy each other which in languages helps.

              • word by word translations (uh) Link?

              • One reason I have learned Koine. Did you know that Koine Greek verbs have a way of expressing states of time/nature/function that English simply does not. There is a state of To Be that I finally took to translating as was-ing because it did not indicate a single point in time or a completed action, but an action that has been and continued to occur. It has proved fascinating, but I really do not have the kind of understanding that comes with living with the language.

                (Here I pause to compliment our hostest, it is no easy task to become fluent enough to write creatively and well for the consumption of native speakers. Obviously you have a felicitous talent AND you applied yourself to the practice of it.)

                I hope to take a class in Hebrew someday, G-d willing and the creeks don’t flood.

                • Younger son and I are working on Greek, but very raw beginners.

                  If they want oriental language, they’re on their own. I can’t HEAR well enough for that.

                  • Greek. The joy of discovery. I wish you both much of it. I remember when I first began to get a bit of a grasp of the language. Eye-opening. This lead to The Daughter and I having a discussion where we concluded that the language you think in shapes your thought. Greek was definitely designed for philosophy.

            • Yes, I’m probably insane.

              You say that like it’s a bad thing for a writer. :-)

              • When I was on high levels of prednisone, the doctors would ask me if I was hallucinating – visual and aural. My hubby asked “more than usual? she is a writer after all.” *snort

              • Weirdly I’ve suspected for a long time I’m too sane for this career.

                • You’re lucky – I think ;-)

                  • The prednisone hallucinations were the scariest ones I have ever been on. I saw the void. Really! Plus it felt like things were swimming towards me. Thankfully my hubby kept me safe and partially sane. Prednisone in high dosages for long periods of time can cause mental illness and paranoia. Thankfully when I was weaned to a better level, my paranoia levels came done.

                    • I don’t need drugs to talk to my characters. But codeine gives me BAD hallucinations.

                    • The docs used to give me codeine for migraines. It took only one experience and I won’t take it.

                    • I’ve never had hallucinations — if you discount the current one, of course. I find the idea that hallucinations might merely be a different mode of perception a little too Mimsey Were The Borogoves for comfort. If I started seeing in Infrared, Ultraviolet, X-rays or higher EM frequencies, what would the world look like?

                    • RES – in my case I was seeing two worlds. One was this one and the other was watery. The watery world was transparent.

                  • Oh not transparent – the watery world was like an overlay.

        • Stephanie, I’d love to hear a conversation between you and my cousin, who is a Baptist Minister, but who is adamantly a “young Earth” creationist. While I am myself Agnostic, I certainly can see the parallels between Genesis and the cosmological evolution of the Universe from the Big Bang, but of course, his version of belief won’t allow him to admit as much. I wouldn’t expect you to convince him of anything, but it would certainly be an interesting conversation.

          • Hi Wayne –
            Our pastor and his wife are also “young Earth” creationists. I just can’t see it. The earth has too many things about it (DNA, earth sedimentation, bones) that actually contradict that view.

            I like Stephanie’s info.

            Cyn

          • Given He can do his work outside of Time, I see no reason He cannot create an Earth of any “age” He wants, much the way we can make new “antiques.”

            Years back I read an sf story in which G-d was constantly performing retro-continuity to adapt His creation to the latest theories.

            • I believe that one’s usually called the “appearance of age” theory. The idea being that God created Adam and Eve as adults, who didn’t go through childhood. So while they were technically just one day old, their bodies had the appearance of being twenty-five years old (or whatever age they appeared to be at creation). Similarly, under the “young Earth” theory (and if you believe in the young Earth theory, you have to believe in the appearance of age theory if you want to be intellectually honest), the Earth (and the universe as a whole) has the appearence of having gone through “childhood” — Big Bang, planet formation, and so on — but God actually created it a few thousand years ago, with everything actively going on in-process (photons from stars millions of light-years away would have come into existence close to the Earth, and so on).

              Basically, it’s the same as the classic philosophical question “How do you know the universe didn’t come into existence just a second ago? Your memories of yesterday, last week, and last year? Oh, those are illusions, caused by the particular pattern of neurons firing in your brain that is part of the universe that was just created last second.” It’s impossible to disprove. But of course, that maens it’s a useless theory from a scientific point of view, because it can’t be falsified, and also because it provides no useful premises from which we can make predictions about the future. “The universe has a Designer,” as a theory, does provide useful premises: for example, the Designer baked predictable physical laws into the cake, and we can discover those laws. But “the Designer created the universe recently, with the appearance of age” provides no useful premises on which to base experiment.

              • I always find the “young Earth” arguements kind of interesting. They are fairly common on the internet and tv/radio, but I have never, ever, not once, met a ‘young Earther’ in person. So that has always caused me to believe that it is an arguement used mainly by atheists and anti-christians to try and make christians look stupid and out of touch.

                • No. I have several friends who are young-earthers.

                • No, they do exist. For the most part they don’t go around announcing their position as it does give rise to derision. After I had explained the concept of G-d being outside of time/creation to a friend, I discovered that her family ascribed to the young earth position. They are very all very intelligent, well read and both the daughters have traveled outside the United States. The eldest boy is in working in technological fields, and the second is entering into one as well. As this young lady explained it to me the non-poetic sections of Bible had to be taken at its word, or it did not mean anything.

                  In my mind the question then arises, what exactly is ‘its word.’ That is where learning the original language matters.

                  • Yep. Most of the young Earthers I know have degrees in scientific fields, too.

                    I stick to “one man’s religion is another man’s belly laugh.” I’m sure some of the ways I cope would be very funny from the outside.

              • Well, I met a man once who claimed that (practically) all fossils were from the Great Flood. I look at the limestone here where I live in Kentucky, and wonder, “How could there have POSSIBLY been enough life before then to produce limestone HUNDREDS of feet thick?”

                • I actually don’t have large issues with the “appearance of age” hypothesis, except that it doesn’t feel right. The main problem I have is with people who go around claiming that things like radioactive dating are conscious lies told by the atheistic scientists, because if they didn’t tell these lies, all their theories would fall on their heads.

                  Then again, I have a real problem with people calling other people liars if they don’t have solid proof that the other person knew the truth and said something different, anyway, so my reaction to such things kind of makes sense.

              • no useful premises on which to base experiment.

                Which is why such things remain Philosophy and not Science.

        • This allows for man to exercise free will within the time stream, but for those outside of time looking across it to know what will be. If you consider that heaven is outside of time it then makes much more sense when you read an account in the prophets and it says that the prophet was taken up into heaven and shown what will happen.

      • I’m always amazed when people think science and religion(or philosophy, if you prefer) conflict with each other. A careful reading shows that they actually compliment each other. one is how and the other is why.

        A leading geneticist, Francis Collins, abandoned atheism after seeing that the Universe has far too many coincidences to be coincidence. ;-)

        • Yes, but as an author, should we perhaps invite G-d to a good writing group? I mean “you shouldn’t plot by coincidences!” is the first thing we tell newbies.

          (Seriously? I ALSO don’t know why I remain un-thunderbolted. I THINK I’m the plucky comic relief.)

        • Because we have lived so long in a rational universe we tend to forget that this is a relatively new view of reality. For most of human history reality was that the Universe was not predictable, was not rational, was chaotic and subject to the whims of extremely whimsical entities.

          The Scientific Method was founded on the premise that The Creator was not irrational and therefore the Universe was predictable and consistent. Science is, at its core, an expression of a religious faith.

    • It’s always good to remember that “Time” as we measure it is a human construct. One of the interesting things about science fiction is that we can play with time. We can divide time into picoseconds, but it’s still based on the time it takes the earth to make one complete spin. Different planets, different rotation speeds, different day lengths, totally different measuring sequence.

      Our lifespan also arbitrarily establishes a specific concept of time. We talk about our “allotted time”, but if our lifespan were three or four times longer, how would that affect our worldview? If it were a third, how then?

      One of the things that got me to thinking about time was religion, especially the passage, “Before the world was, I Am.” My interpretation is that God is saying that He is not bound by OUR concept of time, that He is Eternal. That led me into thinking about the difference between God-Time and people-time, but that’s a totally different discussion and could go on forever – or at least until OUR time is up.

      • Being a mathematician, phrases like “before the world was, I am” make perfect sense. Deity is outside time and is projected onto time in a “Flatland” kinda way. It’s just a part of the whole Transcendence package. There’s a distinction between “Everlasting” life and “Eternal” life and I understand the former a lot better than the latter.

    • That’s no longer true, Scott. The current notion regarding the Big Bang requires that there must at least have been laws of physics to govern its occurrence. Laws of physics imply some sort of spacetime.

  4. I am always grateful that I was given more time after 2003.

  5. Stay safe and have a good afternoon’s writing. Enjoy the fact that you do enjoy your family. Hurl a chocky in the direction of those nasty auditors. ;-)

  6. I’m glad that I’m not the only one doing that this spring/early summer. “Where has the time gone?” indeed.

    [starts bouncing because a story idea just flitted through her mind; zooms off to get to the “story idea” net before this one can escape]

    • I’m trying to think up a short short about gargoyles. Isn’t coming yet.

      • Gargoyles are all about the mouthwash.

        • Gargoyles can live for centuries, but arthritis always gets them in the end. All those hours spent immobile on gutters, waiting for the unwary pigeon. All those cold rains. Eventually, little by little, from the toes out, they grow stiff and freeze, their bodies always-stone like, turning stony in death, frozen in their death rictus for the centuries.
          It is a rarely acknowledged fact that the great Cathedrals are the graveyards of gargoyles, a witness to the time when they were plentiful upon the Earth.
          They’re rare now, of course. Even though I specialized in them when I took my degree in cryptozoology, I never expected to see a live one.
          I certainly didn’t expect to find one in my boot, early morning as I slid my foot in and met resistance and heard a pitiful squeak.
          My first thought was that the cat had brought me a gift. Again.
          I removed my toe cautiously, grateful I hadn’t been bitten — yet — and trying to figure out when I’d last had rabies shots.
          Nothing scurried out after my foot, so, cautiously, I tipped the boot over.
          He rolled out. About the size of a large pebble, with big ears, a broad grinning mouth, a little dragon tail, and the biggest most piteous eyes I’d ever seen on anything.
          “Squeak” he said, and blinked at me.

          Okay, Cyn, there you go. Now you finish it. ;)

          • LOL! Thank you for the best laugh – about the only laugh – I’ve had today. I’ll try to reciprocate.

          • Awwww! THE CUTE!

            (Good luck with all, you.)

          • oh wow – actually I did a 250 word story on a gargoyle on the New York library waiting for those evil spirits we were talking about. Mine isn’t really into pigeons. lol

            • I thought gargoyles just passed through Time more slowly than we humans, rather like tortoises but even more slowly. Of course, I was also thinking they crap cathedrals …

          • “Squeak, squeak,” he demanded that I picked him up. I wasn’t sure why I knew what he was saying because I wasn’t telepathic It was almost as if he had metaphysical hands that just wanted to to be held and cuddled.

            I put my hands around his belly, making sure I didn’t pick him up by his tail. It had been awhile since I read about gargoyles, but didn’t they hate being picked up by the tail? I could imagine that my cat would be equally mad at me if I had tried that stunt.

            Those blinking eyes made me go “oh.” Now I wasn’t into babies. Not really. Eventually I would like to have one of my own. But, oh. I cradled him in my arms. He blinked again.

            “Mommy,” I heard a distinct voice. By that time I was too far gone. I was now a proud foster-mother of a tiny gargoyle. I did remember one thing. Gargoyles had long childhoods. He would probably be in his terrible teens about the time I died.

            I was already checking my insurance, looking for foster parents, and trying to find out the dietary requirements of my bundle of joy, when there was a loud knock on the door.

            Who wants to continue???.

            • I looked down at my new little bundle, then at the door. The rapping on it was louder this time, more insistent. But whoever was out there was NOT going to get the notion of a baby gargoyle, that much was certain. I looked back down at the little fellow.

              “Baby,” I said, “do you know how to play freeze tag?”

              “SQUEAK!” he responded enthusiastically, and somehow my brain interpreted that as, “Yes! Fun!” I wasn’t sure if the gargoyle was projecting at me, or if I was projecting onto him. I assumed it was a him; I hadn’t had a chance to check that yet. I set him on the corner of my computer monitor.

              “Ok, baby, FREEZE!” I said. “Stay put until I get rid of who’s at the door.”

              The little one appeared to turn to stone before my eyes, and I turned for the front door.

              Once I opened it, I wished I hadn’t. Mrs. Feeney, our nosy neighbor, had come by with a batch of cookies. I knew what that meant: I was to provide the coffee, and she was going to sit in the kitchen for hours gossiping and letting her eyes wander the house looking for additional supplies of gossip which she would dispense to the other neighbors. Aside from the fact that I had a new family member, it took up time that I really should be using to write. But there was no help for it at this point. If I turned her away, it would only make for worse gossip. I manufactured a smile and plastered it on.

              “Why hello there, Helen!” I said. “I wasn’t expecting YOU this morning…”

      • The scariest gargoyle story I ever saw was on an episode of The Twilight Zone in 1985(?). Kept me awake that night. :-P

    • [pant, pant, pant] Caught it! [pant, pant, pant] Not really good for a stand alone, but it will fill out and finish a story that I’ve been wrestling with for over six months.

      • Just make sure you nail it down properly … I’ve read too many stories ruined by loose ideas flapping in the breeze of the author’s thoughts.

  7. Not “The Man . . .”, but “The Men . . .”.

    (I wouldn’t normally indulge in such pedantry, but it’s moderately important to the story that the title used the plural.)

  8. I can’t help seeing Time as a creature – occasionally friendly, deeply self-centered, often fickle and slightly befuddling.

  9. I would be utterly discouraged about lost time except for something Goethe said. “There is enough time if one is careful.”

    • An important point, that. We humans are prone to husband what is rare and precious and to squander that which is abundant.

  10. Time. Once you get the hang of it, you can go “backward” in time almost instantaneously. (There’s some kind of thought-speed lag.) But you can only come FORWARD at the rate of 60 seconds per minute — the standard one. Something to do with conservation of events. You know: if you went back and killed Hitler in the trenches during WWI, Rohm gets elected chancellor and becomes Fuhrer. Like they say, you can’t win. You can’t even break even. You can’t even quit the game.

    Gargoyles’ guts are a hot mess. They eat rocks, pee acid, and defecate aggregate. You do NOT want to be around one with the runs. Where do you think all those stains on the walls of the cathedrals come from?

    M

  11. I’ve been told many times “Time flys when you’re having fun” but have never quite figured out how to do so. Their flight is so erratic that I’ve never been able to time them over any appreciable distance.

  12. I’m definitely in the camp of all those not-writing things make you a better writer. I think writing, more than any other of the arts, is an expression of the writer’s mind and soul. And we don’t grow as human beings by living in our heads and putting words on the screen. We grow by interacting with other humans (or, to paraphrase Pratchett, we become human by bouncing around in the Brownian motion of humanity). We grow by taking on responsibilities and developing skills and watching the world.

    Yes, I wish I had started back writing earlier – about ten years earlier. But I also know that I wouldn’t be writing what I’m writing now because of what I did instead, and what I learned and how I grew. There are things that older people learn faster than younger ones. Drawing is one of them; I think writing is another, because we have a context to put things in, and, in the case of writing, we have more to say.

    So those years weren’t wasted. They make us who we are today. Even the regrets teach us something.

    (Glad fire is stationary. Still keeping fingers crossed for you. And hope you can finally get to the doctor and it leads to something productive.)

    • (Glad fire is stationary. Still keeping fingers crossed for you. And hope you can finally get to the doctor and it leads to something productive.)

      Seconded.

      They say, ‘All good things must come to an end.’ How about bad things. Hopefully the fire will soon be contained, burn itself out and become one of those historical landmarks people talk about. And I am so sorry that this whole medical thing is dragging even further along, it must be horribly frustrating, which I am sure does not add to the matter.

      (Interesting phrase, should be: does not add anything positive, but actually adds negatively….but that is just getting awkward and wordy…and only someone like Pratchett could get away with it. Sigh.)

  13. One of my favorite lines on genius:

    “Lord Vetinari often speculated upon the fate of mankind should Leonard ever manage to focus his attention on one thing for more than an hour or so.”

    (It loses something out of context, but any Pratchett fan will recognize it immediately.) Later he does do this, but only so he can build the Kite. Which leads one to the question of whether Leonard could have done it at any time, and didn’t bother, or whether he needs some external catalyst of sufficient power. Hmm.

    Speaking of concentrated genius, here’s a very dramatic interpretation of Dr. Impossible’s opening speech in “Soon I Will Be Invincible.” (The actor is young and handsome so he’s cast himself as Nick Napalm, but Nick Napalm with Dr. Impossible’s Malign Hypercognition Disorder.)

    If you aren’t familiar with “Soon I Will Be Invincible,” you should read it. No rush. Any time in the next few hours will be sufficient.

    • If you aren’t familiar with “Soon I Will Be Invincible,” you should read it. No rush. Any time in the next few hours will be sufficient.

      You know how I was asking for advice a couple weeks ago on how to get the smell of cat pee out of a book I had picked up at a library sale? That book was a hardcover of Soon I Will Be Invincible. I haven’t read it yet because the smell puts me off, and I haven’t gotten around to removing the smell because I’m in the middle of packing to move to another continent. (Specifically, to Chiang Mai, Thailand.) So, you know, I’ve been kinda busy.

      However, you have just bumped “remove the smell so I can read the book without gagging” way up on my priority list.

        • Yes indeed. This is why, when you asked if I’d be willing to be a beta reader, I said “Sure, but I won’t have time until early 2013.”

          I’m very excited about it, though. I started falling in love with Thailand before I’d ever set foot in the country*, and my recent visit to Chiang Mai in January just confirmed that this is indeed what I want to do. I’ve met a lot of people who I can tell are going to be very good friends once I get there, and it’s just generally hugely exciting. Whole lot of work, though. :-)

          * Except for the visit when I was about one year old, which I don’t remember at all. So for all practical purposes, I was falling in love with a country I’d never visited before.**

          ** Hmm, now why does that remind me of something Sarah has written about once or twice on this blog? ;-)

      • Try putting smelly books (open for more exposure) in a ziploc bag full of baking soda. It’s not great for the cover and pages (gritty) but it’s good for the smell.

  14. I’m often surprised by how often people (including me) are surprised by the passage of time. “What? She’s graduating from college already? It seems like only yesterday she was five and I was bandaging up skinned knees…” You’d think that the older we get, the more we’d get used to the passage of time — we’ve lived with it our whole lives, after all. But no, we never do. Instead, the older we get, the more we’re surprised by it.

    As a Christian, I have a theory that there’s very simple explanation for this phenomenon. The way the story goes in the Bible, Adam and Eve were originally intended to be immortal, and it was only after they disobeyed God that He kicked them out of the Garden of Eden, which contained the “tree of life” whose fruit would have made them immortal. (Perhaps its fruit contained an abundance of telomerase or something; we’ll never know. However, I do find it quite intriguing that the concept of fruit that grants immortality is found in other mythic traditions, such as the Peaches of Immortality in Chinese myth.) My theory is that while we no longer have access to the intended source of immortality, some part of our psyches still knows that we were supposed be immortal and unaffected by the passage of time, and that the current state of things is Not How It’s Supposed To Be™. Or to put it another way, we were always intended for eternity, not time — and the fact that time constantly surprises us is a clue to that effect.

    I’m pretty sure I didn’t come up with this theory myself — I have a feeling that I’m indebted to C.S. Lewis for the concept somehow — but I can’t figure out where I got it from. It’s a little similar to his concept of the Shadowlands (this world is just a shadow of Heaven, our true home, and its beauty is most piercing when it most resembles Heaven), but it’s different enough that I can’t tell if I adapted his Shadowlands concept or something entirely different, possibly by an entirely different author. Or maybe I came up with the concept entirely on my own. If anyone has a clue where I might have gotten this idea from, I’d greatly appreciate a link to my own sources. :-)

    • I think we’re more surprised by it because our perception of it speeds up as we age. Can’t remember which scientific journal I read that in, but there was a neurological explanation for it.

      • When I was five years old the time until my next birthday represented 20% of my life (and about 33.3% of my active memory of life.) Now, the time until my next birthday represents less than 2% of my life. So of course it goes faster. There is also much less new to be seen every day, so more of it happens in background.

        • Also, my world at 5 was very small. Now, my world is huge, I have so much – so many responsibilities, things to keep track of, and to learn and keep up with, and so many more connections in my brain to attach everything to. I don’t have enough time!

        • I’ve thought about that explanation, and I don’t buy it. I perceive each hour, each day, going by at the same speed now as it did ten years ago. When looking backwards, yes, the foreshortening effect you mention applies — each of those years is a smaller percentage of my life. And having more life experience does provide more patience. I have to wait two more months before Lee and Miller’s Dragon Ship comes out, and I’m eager to read that book — but I know from past experience that those two months will go by whether I’m patient or impatient, and there are plenty of other things I need to do in the meantime, so it helps provide patience. So when looking forward or back, the year-foreshortening effect does apply. But I believe it has no effect on our perception of time passing now: that is, each hour still passes at the same perceptual rate for me now as it did when I was five. The thought that the hours pass more quickly as you age is an illusion created by the foreshortening effect as you look back on the past.

          Now, Laurie’s explanation (below) about how your days become increasingly filled with responsibilities as you age, and how suddenly there’s not enough time in the day to do everything — that I agree with 100%. And that will have an effect on one’s perception of current time: the “time flies when you’re having fun” effect also applies when you’re extremely busy. I remember times in my childhood when I was bored out of my skull and time was dragging, because I had nothing else to do but count seconds & minutes. Well, I still find that time drags at the same glacial pace when I’m in a boring meeting that I can’t escape. OTOH, when I’m busy (whether it’s with fun or with work), my brain has other things to do than keep track of time, and it’ll pass without my noticing.

          So I think the busyness factor has much more to do with our perceptions of time passing than the percentage-of-life factor.

          • Laurie’s explanation (below)

            I should have written “above”. It was “below” when I was writing in the reply box, but I forgot that my comment would end up threaded below in the discussion. Ah well, it’s easy enough to understand what I meant.

            • Below HERS in the discussion. Below HERS. Curse this blog software’s sudden but inevitable betrayal lack of an edit function!

        • Doc Smith had a statement in his Subspace books that was very similar to your point about less new to be seen every day: “Subjective time is directly proportional to the number of learning events experienced”. The crucial point there being “learning events”. We can have lots of events, but if they don’t constitute learning events, they don’t impress much of a sense of the passage of time on to us. That phrase always resonated with me.

  15. “(There is a suspicion I’m not human.) This might be genetic.”

    Clinical study has established that only 2.7% of cases of not being human have environmental causes. Unfortunately, enviornment causes are hard to rule out.

    The next step is to check for secret adoption, or immigration to Earth by your parents. If you find either, genetically based lack of humanity is almost certain.