Archived from the former firedocs blog. 23 August 2005
If I aged as fast as I live I’d be a mummy, not a mommy. I wish that meant I have an exciting life. Not quite. I’m thinking tonight how weird it is that my primary communications are in an IM box. My job and a good percentage of my personal life interests (or at least, my masochistic desire to share my real interests with the world via web), are virtual. All of which has resulted in my sense of time being completely scr–er, skewed.
If my job or my kids’ school are not specifically “requiring and reminding” about the day, date, week, or even month, I am oblivious. Has it been 3 hours or 12? Was that 2 days ago or 2 weeks ago? How would I know? I am beginning to think that the sense of “time” we have is based on nothing more than a “practiced, acculturated subconscious metronome” constantly re-set and re-wound by exposure to the larger clock of culture and environment ticking around us.
When younger I used to have a difficult time remembering if a memory was real or was from a dream. Most people think this means real vs. not-real. To me it means, ‘reality A’ vs. ‘realities B-through-infinite’, which feel the same as this one while in them, but have to be tagged like a museum curiosity for reference when we return ‘home’ to ‘here’, lest we forget that this reality doesn’t share certain things. Or as I sometimes say, I don’t share a reality with others, I share an apparent agreement about reality with others. I can have whatever reality I do without complaint from others, as long as I appear to share an agreement about what ‘reality’ contains, or what can be perceived. Which is really not much different than “acting normal” in a new social situation or when mildly stoned. If one’s mental database of ‘not-this-reality’ tagging is up to date, it is seldom a problem interacting with the world and keeping track of it.
Keeping track of time is harder though. I can pick up ideas I dropped and utterly forgot–they ceased to exist for me–for weeks, even months, and the lack of continuity doesn’t matter. I have wondered if programming is partly to blame for that: one must hold everything in the head simultaneously, as everything impacts everything else, like playing chess… 8 moves in advance. And so the attention required for whatever one is doing that moment is absolute. The house is burning down? Someone had better break my line-of-sight to the code, or I may sit obliviously through it until my screen melts. But when I drop the attention, it is gone. Like a dream you forget, whatever-it-was just vanished from my reality. It’s hard to be responsible with this kind of selective attention; “out of sight, out of mind” becomes so literal that little besides alarms and notes can compensate.
I wouldn’t have made the computer connection except for a book my step-grandmother bought me. I could swear it was called TIME WARS but I can find no trace of it. Late 80’s or early 90’s. The book was based on research the authors had did into the ‘time perception’ of computer programmers. It was extremely distorted and odd, the way they could drop something (say, a conversation in the lunch line at work) in the middle of it, and pick it up 10 days later like no time had passed at all. Many other things I don’t recall. I didn’t do programming then so it was only of peripheral interest, mostly because of my interest in hypnosis at the time and subjective time perception.
I find, though, that nobody understands what I mean by “living on internet time” except other people who, like me, spend a good 70%+ of their waking hours on the internet. The very concept that time is so distorted seems surreal to everybody else I guess. Like the state of my reality and what I am paying attention to acknowledging the existence of at any given moment, I just try to fake the time-thing. With the Outlook Exchange scheduling combo that my job makes me use, I am finally starting to seem “in sync” with everybody else. Finally, Microsoft is good for something, rather than being an internet 800-pound gorilla nightmare and more harm than help. Now that’s a miracle.