“Time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’ into the future.”Fly Like An Eagle – The Steve Miller Band
“What we are doing is waiting.”Shannon Stirone, nymag.com
As I write this blog, it is nine o’clock in the morning. But, what does that really mean? It is nine o’clock in relation to what? My granddaughters probaby aren’t even awake yet, for it is six o’clock where they live. However, it makes no sense to say they are three hours behind me. They exist at this very moment as I exist. As you exist. They are in the same space-time instant as we all are. It is just that we homo sapiens have assigned measurements to control time, to create more order in our lives.
But, alas, time cannot be controlled. And lately our lives have been in a state of disturbing disorder. Or as journalist Shannon Stirone writes in the magazine, New York, “The days feel as though they’ve been whipped through a blender.” Thank you, COVID.
The more we do, the faster time seems to pass. We do less and time drags. For the past year, many us have had a lot of time on our hands. Stay at home, self-quarantined, isolated and socially distanced long enough and pretty soon you start running out of things to do. Still, it is a paradox. On the one hand, the venomous virus goes on and on. Will it ever end? One the other hand, was it really a year ago that this pandemic began? It seems like, maybe, just last week. Time is funny that way.
UCLA Neuroscientist Dean Buonomano, a researcher who studies how our brains handle time, has a book called “Your Brain is a Time Machine.” In Stirone’s article, Buonomano says “…in many ways, the brain’s most important functions are to predict the future.” Think about it this way. Put a roast in a hot oven and about an hour or so into the future, you know it will be cooked. Or this way. Stay up late at night drinking too much wine and you can predict that you will feel lousy in the future, the next morning.
Those are the mundane, every day events. Our brains have been efficient at predicting larger, more important issues in time. We forecast that if we save and invest wisely, our future years have a fairly good chance of being secure. If we see a dentist regularly, we can fortell our teeth will stay healthy far into the future.
The coronavirus has turned this whole future-fortune-telling ability on it’s head. So much seems uncertain now. How long will this virus last? Will I become infected? Will my family? Should I visit my friends and neighbors? What about my job? What about school? How soon will I get the vaccinated? Shoud I get vaccinated? Will the vaccine really work? Am I going stir-crazy?
It hasn’t helped that other aspects of our lives have been upended, as well. The presidential election process has been confusing and upsetting on multiple levels. Our daily routines have been thown into chaos by matters than seem out of our control. As Stirone puts it, “We’ve lost not only the present, but our sense of the future as well.”
The good news is that we, as a species, are resiliant. Our brains know the heartache and grief will continue for a while. With grit and determination, we will tough it out. The future may be in flux at the moment, but our brains also know we will get through this. “What we are doing,” as Shannon Stirone writes, “is waiting.” Time will tell.