Experiencing Time

Here we are at the end of another year, about to celebrate the beginning of a new one. We've got Julius Caesar to partially thank for that, by the way. He decided that their old lunar calendar was broken (for natural & political reasons) and had a solar one, the Julian calendar, defined in 45 B.C. 

Because they didn't calculate the length of a year precisely enough, an 11-minute annual discrepancy accumulated to a greater-than-10-day discrepancy by the 16th century. The Roman Catholic Church didn't like that the celebration of Easter drifted farther away from its intended time around the spring equinox, so in 1582 Pope Gregory XIII refined the Julian Calendar by making a one-time adjustment for the 10-day drift and instituted the leap-year rule, giving us the Gregorian calendar which we use to this day. 

So thank you, Julius Caesar, who we still honor with our seventh month, and Pope Gregory XIII, for giving us the calendar standard by which we celebrate the end of 2015 and the beginning of 2016. 


There were a couple things I saw in the past year that opened my eyes in terms of how I thought about time. 

The first is a visualization of our perception of time as we get older. I know that I've felt like time flies faster and faster every year. I've heard many people say the same thing, and Maximilian Kiener created this interactive visualization of this perceptual phenomenon. 

Here are my 42 years visualized, wherein the past year was 2.38% of my life's total versus the 5% it would have been when I was 20, and every year only goes down from there. Math, eh? 


The second is a great post on Wait But Why by Tim Urban of the years, months, weeks, and days of his life as well as various events and interactions in his own life visualized in very simple but powerful ways.

My life in crossed-off boxes. 

My life in crossed-off boxes. 

This inspired me to do a simple visualization of the years in my own life. I took into account the life expectancy of 92 years based on this online calculator, though I've used others which gave me 83 years. So I'll be a bit more optimistic for the sake of argument. Each box is a year, each row is a decade, and each X is a year lived. 

Thinking about time feels abstract, but when visualized in this way becomes very concrete. Tim's illustration of how much time he has spent and has left with his parents is amazingly powerful and poignant. I defy you to not be moved by that especially as you think about how it might look like for your life if you aren't a "typical" American who lives only 18 miles from mom

I am almost afraid to do additional visualizations of the things I like to do, places I want to see, and the time I may have left with the people in my life, but that fear may just mean I should do it. 


The theory of relativity may affect how we each experience time (go see Interstellar if you haven't yet for an entertaining sample of how this could be done), but we will still continue to experience it moving ever forward, day by day, year by year. 

As I mark yet another year and get closer to crossing off another box, I hope that I spend my time wisely with the people I care about and that my time is marked not by a red X, but by the positive impact I hope to have, however small that may be. 

Happy New Year!