Tuesday, April 17, 2012

O is On the importance Of the adolescent mode of Operation

Okay so this is going to be another really long post, feel free to click past if you aren't up for some existentialism, musings on time and the value of childhood.

For quite some time I have been making the argument for the relative velocity of time, wherein we percieve time to pass more quickly as we age because of the incrementally smaller percentage of our life each unit of time represents to our continuum of experience.  More simply as we age every second is a smaller fraction of our total existence and therefore less notable and perceived as less valuable, we notice it less and less because it is a smaller fraction of our total life span.  To me this explained why time used to drag on forever as a child, at age 6 each second was 1/189,216,000th of my life, but age 30 it is 1/946080000th of my life from roughly 1/190 million-th to nearly 1/ trillion-th.  That is a huge shift in percentage and it is always becoming fractionally less and less.  I've been trying to explain this to people since High school, and still get eye rolls from most people that I try to tell about it.  There is a dearth of critical thinking minds in the world, and those that do think critically seem to discount the value of upstart minds.  Consider that the bulk of great science attributed to Einstein was done at the age of 24.

This time as perception idea that I've been dragging around with me has framed how I see the world for some time, but a few things of late have shifted my mind to believing that this velocity of time is just one filter on the lens of life, and there are other things that might temper how we perceive the passage of time in given moment.  Most people are aware of the concept of a body clock and how it affects us through out the day and the general statement that the exposure to pervasive digital/artificial lighting is shifting our natural phases and affecting our general wake sleep cycle.   These wakeful periods are affected by how rested we are.  This affect I'm sure has been experienced by most everybody at some point (seriously when you are tired the day can drag on forever).

Another potential way to affect it is engagement.  The saying "Time flys when you are having fun" is grounded in perceived reality, but I think it is more likely that time flys when you are mentally engaged.  Your mind is distracted from the perception of time because such a high percentage of your metal capacity is being focused on what you are doing.  Many of us have experienced this at work, where the day goes by quickly when you are busy but slowly when nothing is going on.  It also passes when you are having fun, but again I think fun always implies engagement.  I believe that this can be explained because time only exists as a metal construct, in that we perceive it, we measure it and ascribe it meaning it is a cerebral notion that we are moving through time.  By engaging fully in what you are doing, that part of the brain that would otherwise be acknowledged the passage of time in occupied.  Related would be the actual functions of hydration and nutrition.  If your body is not nourished the ability of the mind to perceive time time could be altered, thus affecting our perception (hows that for quantum state)

I have always wanted to participate in a wake sleep study where they measure your average or natural day.  The problem with this is original studies where criticized for access to artificial light saying that skewed the results longer.  My counter argument is that, if it where dark and I literally where unable to do anything else I would sleep too, but the access to a way to change my environment so that I could continue to do things enables me to shift my natural day.  If I could choose so, my natural day would be closer to 30 total hours 22 waking and 8 sleeping.  The conclusion that our "natural day" is approximately 24hrs is basically concession to natural constraints and doesn't factor that we are no longer bound by those constraints.  The day doesn't have to be 24 hours, it can be as long or short as we will it to be!

So where is this going?  The title was about the adolescent state of mind, and I thought that the framework of time and how it is perceived was important groundwork for how children experience the world.  What I am proposing is that access to the childish mode of operating is the gateway to youth and vitality.  This difference is not just innocence but in frame of reference, and the willingness to explore.  Often as adults we come to the conclusion that I have matured enough now I don't need to explore new avenues, or gain new experience.  I know what I like, or can apply what I have already learned to the challenges that come up;  rather the frame with which I view the world is now set, I can get on living.  Lifehacker had a post about new experiences, and how they affect our perception of time.  The short version is that new experiences require more time to process than familiar one's there by elongating time.  I'm suggesting that those that seem young around you are the ones that see the world with fresh eyes, that seek the new and different for the sake of it.

One of the hallmarks of youth is risk taking, not just the end your life kind either.  The attempting things that you may not succeed at, trying new approaches to things (different ingredients or styles of doing something). This sense of adventure and discovery are essential elements of that which we identify as youth, and the value to your mind and personhood might extend.  In that sense it could be youthful frame of mind could be considered the open mode of operating.  As John Cleese was pointing out in my recent transcription post, the childlike state is open to combining ideas and searching for meaning.  To this end, the adolescent mind open to combining ideas, playing with them with no fear of right or wrong ideas only interesting and fun.  This is where adults can look for rebirth.

The value of childlike thinking hasn't always been recognized, traditionally they only one that was allowed to be creative where the oldest and most important people, while the younger people where supposed to pay attention and learn from their elders.  While I won't discount the value of experience in most fields, it is interesting how much new ground is uncovered by looking at the world with fresh eyes, and a young mind.

I'll leave you with an interesting video on the value of being young and how the baby boomers paved the way for the current generation to capitalize on the realization of the value of thinking young.

We All Want to Be Young from box1824 on Vimeo.


  1. For me time passed slowly as a kid cause I was constantly made aware of time. Each year I was in a new grade and given new responsibilities and each new grade ment a year older. I always got time off at Christmas so always wanted it to be Christmas in the fall and wanted it to be summer during January to May so I'd have time off from school. I was always aware of time. But as an adult I'm not made aware of time as much. If I have a job I could work there for half a year and then be promoted, or work there over a year and not. I take my holidays when I can and not at set times so I don't care about summer as much or notice when its gone.
    For me thats why time seems different. The more I think of time during a period the longer that period feels, the less I think of time during a period the shorter that period feels.

    I haven't had a job for years now (exept as a freelance cartoonist) and I often sleep six times a week. Awake for 20 hours and then asleep for 8 hours. Its like my mind is on a 28 hour clock.

  2. My brain is full of fuck after reading it.

    Thanks! XDDD

  3. Were you inspired by Buttersafe's recent comic about the Moon's daughter? Still, interesting to see other people acknowledging how time is relative.

    1. No, I've never heard of buttersafe. The comic was interesting, but a little sad.

  4. omg. this is indeed a very long post..


  5. Absolutely agree... just because we're adults doesnt mean that we should resign our youthful curiosity. If anything, the added freedom of adulthood should -enhance- our wanderlust.