I Have A Theory …… Part One

Posted on Thursday 29th March 2007 at 00:00
I have a theory that one's perception of time is affected (at least partially) by the distance that they have travelled.

This thought first struck me on Sunday night, when I returned to Bristol after a day visiting friends. It was about 10:30pm when I pulled up to the house, and I remember thinking that it felt like I'd been away for quite a while. There is a certain feeling of unfamiliarity that comes from seeing a place you know well for the first time after having been away for a period, like you are looking to see what has changed. In my case I felt as though I'd been away for a week, or a long weekend at the very least.

This feeling refused, however, to tally with my watch, which was convinced that I'd been away for less than 12 hours, having left (for once) at my planned time of 11am that very morning. The next day I had work, where I completed a 12 ? hour shift. This time when I came home, it hardly felt like I'd left at all, despite being absent for even longer than on the previous day.

The only explanation I can think of for this is the difference in distances travelled. Work for me is a quick car trip lasting a little under 10 minutes; a journey of maybe 4 miles each way. On Sunday through I drove from Bristol to Egham in Surrey, almost exactly 100 miles from one end to the other. After seeing a delightful amateur production of Gilbert and Sullivan's Iolanthe, directed by a good friend of mine, and spending a happy hour or two in a nearby pub (The Monkey's Foreskin Forehead) with a group of my best friends from school, I took a slight detour to Yateley to drop in uninvited on my parents, before driving the 90 miles back to Bristol, a total journey of just under 220 miles.

Although this took less time than work, the huge distances covered and number of places visited made me feel as though I'd been home for the weekend, as was the case a couple of weeks ago. Perhaps this reaction highlights a flaw in our ability to cope with the wonders of modern technology which we've yet to evolve to be comfortable with.

After all, it wasn't very long ago that such distances couldn't be travelled in a day. There is an old saying that I can't really remember, but which seemed to be suggesting that it is unnatural to ever travel faster than the walking speed of a camel, as this is the speed which we have evolved to move at. In many ways our current jet setting lives are an assault on the parts of us, such as our body clock and sense of direction, which are meant to help us maintain an understanding of where we are and what is going on around us.

It'll be interesting to see if we change at all in terms of our physiology or psychology in order to adapt to this fast changing world in the future. Shame none of us will live long enough to notice such changes, unless we invent a time machine, and that will present us with a whole host of new problems to get used to!

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