Time and society

Last night at nearly the same time, my wonderful husband who is wonderful and I expressed opposite opinions.

Him: This week is flying by!

Me: This week is going so slowly!

Then we stood there for a second staring at the other one, probably both of us (at least one of us) wondering how the other one could have it so wrong.

Einstein, that lovable son of a gun, used an analogy to help explain the relativity of time. He said, an hour feels a second if a pretty girl sits in your lap, but a second feels an hour if you sit on a hot cinder.*

The point is, what you bring to Time is what you get back out of it. Time goes slowly for us if we are anticipating something or are bored (or both), and it passes quickly if we’re content, or busy (or both).

Aristotle said that humans are, by their very nature, political animals. As I understand it, at it’s most basic, that means that we tend to form societies. We’re like dogs and horses. Sometimes there’s a loner out there who prefers solitude, but as a group, we like to clump together and be sociable. I think it’s this natural tendency that makes us prefer to see things the same way as our friends and family – and have them see the same things as we do. Many of us seek out diversity of opinion and thought, because we like the broadened horizons we get, but others find a real sense of security in liking literally the same things as others – partly why marketing is so successful. Anyway, I think this underlying tendency to align views is why the conversation above gave both of us pause; “But we’re in love! How can your week be passing differently than mine!” I didn’t say it was logical.

It got me thinking about all this, anyway. In a very elemental way, we have a strong desire to align with others. Not necessarily agree with them about politics or who should be responsible for what chores, or whatever, but to basically see things the same way. To feel the passage of time in the same way. To be individuals in tandem. But of course, the differences between any two of us, when understood and accepted, make each other stronger. The thing that makes me unlike my husband, when he learns about it and it becomes part of his mental state as well, makes him more well-rounded, more understanding of others (“mo betta” as my boss would say), and the same applies to me and everyone else.

I don’t think blindly agreeing with someone else is optimal, and I don’t think never disagreeing is optimal. Everyone has to find their own view, but sharing that view is what gives us the panorama of human experience. Yes, some of us will have remarkably similar views. Some will have remarkably different views. That’s ok. Our society has always worked pretty well when balanced between extremely like and extremely unlike. And it gives us a chance to read and write about utopias and dystopias.

Thinking about how Bob could be having a really speedy week while I was mired in the slowest week in the entire world, ever, made me also think about how autonomous we each are. I can’t ever be inside Bob’s head and feel things just the way he does. I have a pretty good idea of stuff that goes on, and I have a pretty good idea of how things affect him, but I don’t feel it and think it the way he does – I feel and think it the way I do, through a superimposed Bob-like lens. And that’s really cool – I get to continually find things out about him and discover new things about him that I would have never suspected. He told me once that he read that Hillary said that she wasn’t going to leave Bill (over the scandal) because their life together was a conversation that they started in college and she wanted to continue that conversation. I like that, too. We, Bob and I, have a nice conversation because we have basic alignment on a lot of things – and that seems to make us happy – but we are still a little bit mysterious to the other, as well. Applying this line of thought to the twins… I grew them (at the same time…ahem) inside me, without using hands and without looking, and I KNOW them. They are my pals (although I’m pretty sure they are each others’ favorite person) and I love them dearly, but it is still absolutely amazing to me to see them figure stuff out, and how they get to conclusions they reach. They are utterly mysterious in some ways.

When you think about society as a mass, we are pretty homogenous. We are all humans, we feel an array of emotions and we can all be categorized into broad buckets, depending on how the cataloger is feeling. Looking in from the outside (like, way outside), we all live together (on Earth), and we all interact all the time. Once you start zooming in, you start seeing the fringe cases and how we are actually separated by geography (something we can overcome with things like internet access) and by arbitrary things like religion and politics (in the grand scheme, these things are very arbitrary, but I mean no offense). If you zoom in to the final granular being, you see something totally self-enclosed again – a micro to the macro that is all of humanity. And of course if you were to dive into an individual and start getting into cells and DNA and proteins and hormones, everything seems to be acting completely autonomously again. Funny, these repetitive patterns.

Oh how far afield we roam.

*I paraphrase, because I don’t remember where I saw/heard this – possibly on the Biography episode on Einstein.

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