As the New Year commences, let’s put time into perspective.

Looking in retrospect at 2017, there are events that we remember, and others that often slip from our memory. Before you go ahead and look back, take a minute to stop and think. We’re sure that you’ve come across articles that take on this tone, telling you to look back and make an evaluation. The human mind tends to harp on the segmentation of the annual cycle to create  benchmarks for its lifestyle and the conscientiousness it displays in its areas of responsibility.

As the year comes to a close, and a new one begins, the brain may be wired to start thinking about new beginnings. We’ve spoken about the desire to ‘shed old skin’ and make a resolution, but this time around, we’d like to put time in perspective. Is the passage of time something that is relative because of the way it is perceived by individuals with varied ideologies about it? The answer is a simple ‘yes’!

There are two ideologies that we’d like to discuss today that pertain to time and how it flows. The first involves looking at time as the start and end of a period. When we look at 2017 in retrospect and start to ruminate, we treat time as a combination of starts and ends. For us, the New Year would be the start of a new epoch. It would embody the desire for change and betterment on an internal level if we thought of it this way. When a period ends, and another starts, we often try and make room within our gamut of qualities to add new ones that we desire to imbibe through new experiences. A lot of people also take this perspective about time to influence their way of thinking about the role they play in the grand scheme of things.

Image: Wikimedia Commons- Persistence of Memory by Salvador Dali

Some of us may say ‘I’m not going to rest one bit till I reach 40. I’m going to make all the money I can, fulfill my familial responsibilities, and then live life to the fullest.’  The notion that may go behind this thinking is that one can have an un-compromised permit to enjoy their lives post a certain period. In this case, a period of leisure only begins upon the termination of  responsibility. Does this mean that there ceases to be responsibility of any kind beyond a certain time period?

Let’s look at the other end of the spectrum, and take another view of the passage of time into consideration. When we look at time as a continuum, with no separate end or start, the boundaries start to become more fluid. At odds with the previous notion of starts and ends, this ideology is something that exemplifies flexibility. A continuum allows us to live in a balanced manner, engaging with both responsibility and our quest for peace at the same time. A vacation and the expansion of a home-space are two events that could very well happen in close conjunction with one another in this scenario. This continuum is what leads us to become more spontaneous in our doings, because of the desire it creates to elope from one’s responsibilities to have leisure. It thus allows us to understand that the boundaries of the conventional ‘party after your 9-5’ train of thought can very well be loosened.

Image: William Bennett Gallery
Stillness of Time by Salvador Dali

Taking these notions to look at human experience, let’s consider two MBA Graduates, A and B. They’re both working in administrative positions at company X. A strongly believes that not taking a single break at work till he decides to get a doctorate is what will give him the best springboard to be successful and manifest his dreams. B, on the other hand, has taken up a host of online courses to up the ante, while pursuing his job. He thinks that learning is a continuous process, and yields result when it is made a regular habit. Even though time ticks the same way for A and B as they work and study towards their own self-actualization, is their subjective experience with it the same?

Even though we may say that time is a measurable, scalar quantity which has definitive value, it is clear the the experience of time is far from uniform. Years may feel like days to some, and vice versa, depending on the emotions they feel and the opinions they have about their experiences. We hope that this New Year is something that has enabled you to perceive time in a way that is conducive to your own individual experience. This day may either be the beginning of a new era for you, or just another day on your lifelong continuum of events. We’d like to know which of these your perception fits best with.

An undergraduate in Psychology, Shantanu is an aspiring Educational Psychologist who will be pursuing his Master’s in 2018 at the Ohio State University. He is adept with psychometric and statistical research, and has honed his grasp over psychology through a 4 year undergraduate course in Liberal Education at FLAME University, Pune.