Is time just a big illusion?

Published 11:59 pm Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Well here we are living in Daylight Saving Time again. It arrived earlier this year, which is fine with me because I like having more daylight hours.

More daylight hours … every time I have that thought, a little voice whispers in my ear.

“There aren’t more hours of daylight. You just changed your clock; you didn’t push the sun around.”

When I have that thought, it sends me down a winding road of reasoning, stirring up all kinds of questions about our concept of time and whether or not it is all an illusion. And I’m not the only one who has these thoughts. Just go online and do a search about time and you’ll discover site after site discussing it.

I even found quotes from famous thinkers on the subject. For example, here are a couple of Albert Einstein’s thoughts about time.

“The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once.”

“Space and time are not conditions in which we live; they are simply modes in which we think.” — Albert Einstein.

Plato argued that time is constant — it’s life that’s the illusion, which is too deep for me to think about first thing in the morning.

Nope, my thoughts about time are not quite so philosophical. Perhaps they are more observations than deep meditations on time as an illusion.

For example, Daylight Saving Time means the days seem longer. Just by turning a clock forward one hour, it feels like we have more sun time, but like I said, there were the same number of light hours Saturday before the time changed as there were Sunday after it shifted.

So, I guess what changed is how we look at it. If I follow that train of thought, I find there are other instances when time moves according to the experience I’m having.

Take weekend time versus weekday time. It always seems Saturday and Sunday pass much quicker than Monday and Tuesday, and we know getting from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday takes much longer than say a Thursday.

Ask children waiting for Christmas to arrive and they will tell you it takes a long time to get from that last time of school to Christmas morning. Of course, they will also say that once Christmas is over, the days left until school starts back fly by.

Certain experiences take longer than others, or at least that is the way it seems. Every woman who has gone through giving birth knows that hours in labor move much slower than the same amount of time spent sitting on a beach watching the waves roll in.

Which ends sooner, a visit to the dentist to get a tooth pulled or watching a great movie?

The more I think about it, the more I realize that this line of thought could go round and round forever, which is a whole different concept of time.

So I guess I’ll leave it to folks like Carol Rovelli, a physicist at the University of Marseille in France, who along with other great minds suggests, “Time is all a matter of perspective — not a feature of reality but a result of your missing information about reality. So if your brain hurts when you try to understand time, relax. If you really knew, time might simply disappear.”

I’ll concede that it is quite possible I’m missing information about reality, but I do know looking at my clock and out my door tells me it’s light longer than it was last week. And since I’m not ready for time to disappear, I’ll just enjoy it the way it is until we fall back in November and I have this “time is an illusion” discussion with myself again.