Almost the end of the year. Time is flying..or is it?

Does it seem like the end of the year is coming more quickly at you than usual this year? I am amazed at how fast this year has seemed to have gone by.

Curious about my sense that time was flying by I began looking up information and I ran across several articles talking about perceptions of time. Basically I found out that as we get older how we experience time changes. Looking further, I found there have been many studies done on perceptions of time but these sentences, from an summary article on Suite101, get to the gist on current thoughts on perception of time:

The theoretical and most widely advanced answer for the subjective acceleration of time with aging says that subjective time is relative to a person’s lifetime. To a 5-year-old, for example, a year seems like a long time, specifically 1/5 of a lifetime. To someone 65 years old, however, a year is 1/65 of a lifetime and seems to pass so quickly as to be hardly noticeable.

Read more at Suite101: Why Does Time Speed Up as One Gets Older?

I’m certain I’m not the only one who can remember traveling as a child and sometimes it seemed like it took forever! to get places. Of course, in hindsight, given the amount of time I had already experienced, it *did* take forever.

Well then, that explained things. Time certainly was flying by at a faster rate than it had before.

As a writer, though, I think about this sense of the passage of time as I write, and even more when I read. Particularly when I come across a paranormal character who has lived for a hundred years (or more!). Part of me simply cannot imagine how these characters experience time.

Given what I’ve experienced, and what I’ve learned about perceptions of time, there seems to be a conundrum of how you would have a character who has lived for many, many years in the mortal world, particularly if they were once mortal, be able to relate to the sense of time a mortal experiences. How does someone, who has supposedly lived for three or four times as long as I have, deal with mere mortals?

Think about it, if the character has supposedly lived two hundred years, a day is 1/73,000 of their life experience. If, as the author above notes, a year is hardly noticeable to someone at sixty five, day to a 200 yr old is a blink of an eye. How can they function and live, even be effective among the necessary time constraints mortals have (and writers place!) on their time?

Of course, then I start thinking solutions, because otherwise my disbelief is no longer suspended and I can’t go on with the story. Given the amount of paranormal stories I read (and write!) I have to come up with some solution to deal with this odd conflict I’ve raised on my own.

One thing which might happen, then, is perhaps their perception of time at whatever age they became paranormal simply halts. Simple and elegant, however there are instances, say waiting interminably in a line, when I’m glad my sense of time has changed. And, personally, I can’t reconcile how someone could experience all those years and not have their sense of time affected. Plus, think about it, there’d be some radical changes in attitude with teenage vamps complaining ‘are we there yet?’

No, for me, personally, that didn’t work.

Hmm, an elegant solution is found in High Fantasy. In most stories long lived characters reside in the mortal world, but their sense of how time runs is influenced by an external world, one which their rhythms are in sync with. In this scenario the long lived paranormal character is both living the days faster (say a month in mortal time is equal to a week of their time, then day is experienced as if it were one quarter of a day) and slower (using the same parameters as above, during one year in the mortal world they will only age three months).

Examples of this are stories of characters who have only lived a season in ‘Elf havens’ coming back home to find years have passed in the mortal world. For me, this then becomes easier to understand that an ‘immortal’, in this situation, experiences time at different pace than mortals do, in part because their ‘clock’ runs at the pace this external location does.

But when you remove this external location, as is frequently (but not always) the case in contemporary paranormal literature, and have former mortals living in a mortal world for hundreds of years, I can’t jive things at all.

For now, I’ve simply let myself agree to suspend my disbelief, but in the back of my mind I still mull it over. Clearly there is no one ‘right’ or correct solution to this, and I’m not sure that anyone but me thinks there needs to be one. It’s just the way my mind works.

On the other hand, those hours long, all night sex sessions some authors include? Well, they make a lot more sense to me now. 🙂

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One thought on “Almost the end of the year. Time is flying..or is it?

  1. Just read “Heaven’s Makers” by Frank Herbert (author of Dune). His immortals often reflect on how their long, long past seems to collapse down into a single “blink of an eye” moment. One of the primary characters seems to have a memory like mine – a few highlights scattered through my life and lot of blur in between, some of which I can remember if I work on it.

    Also, I think there is a difference between experiencing time as we live it which doesn’t seem to have changed as much with age ( having a meal with a friend doesn’t seem to run significantly faster than it did when I was 20) and one’s sense of how much time has past as we look backwards. (Another year gone already!) Although, that could be related to the fact that our internal clock – the number of heart beats or breaths per minute have remained unchanged. An Elf or a sentient tree might have a different internal rhythm that change their subjective, in the moment, experience of time.

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