In a word . . . time

 

Ah yes. Just 340 days left to Christmas. You’ll never feel it.

The truth is, you won’t. It is a month already, by day, since Christmas 2015. You can even see a slight stretch in the evenings and January will soon be gone. Amen to that. Yeah, to do so is to wish your life away, or part of it. But who cares? Can spring be far behind?

The problem is that once January is out of the way the rest of the year passes with ever increasing speed so that the next time you look up it’s Easter. Then May. Soon the summer’s gone and, in no time at all it’s January again, but you’re a year on.

It is a truism that as one gets older time passes ever more speedily. As partial explanation for this, some note that for five year olds a year is 20 per cent of their entire lives. For a 50 year old, one year is just 2 per cent of their life.

When you’re a child on December 1st you’re counting the days until Santy arrives down the chimney. When you’re a child you’re in despair on January 25th as you reflect on the 340 long days – however short – until Santy arrives again.

When you’re an adult on December 1st you’re focused on work, bills, family life, scheduling, deadlines, travel plans, Christmas shopping and all that jazz. The more attention focused on these the less you notice, then Christmas is on top of you.

American psychologist William James, in his 1890 Principles of Psychology, wrote that as we age time seems to speed up because adulthood is accompanied by fewer and fewer memorable events. This, he said, causes “the days and weeks (to) smooth themselves out . . . and the years grow hollow and collapse”. Bleak or what!

Experience and routine

But I do think he’s on to something there. The issue is routine. Routine doth murder time. Just as Macbeth hath murdered sleep, the gentle sleep.

Routine is “the death of each day’s life”.

The word “time”, from Old English timma, is thought to be derived from Old Norse timi, meaning a continuous passage of existence.

inaword@irishtimes.com

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