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  • So, there used to be this thing called a party.

  • The concept was simplegather a bunch of living, breathing bodies in the same place

  • at the same time and just see what happens.

  • Some parties were promisesand those were calledweddings,” and other parties were

  • goodbyesand those were calledfunerals.”

  • There were parties towarmnew homes and parties to mark the day you were born

  • and parties to signal the arrival of a new year.

  • And if my friends wanted me to be on time to a party, they'd lie

  • I wasn't proud of my reputation with time but

  • SINDHA: Do you think my lateness is genetic?

  • DAD: I don't know.

  • SISTER: No.

  • MOM: Yeah because it's too much like your dad's.

  • There's a lot of different ways to be late but you're late in this particular way that's

  • exactly like him.

  • SINDHA: Have you ever heard of IST?

  • SISTER: Yeah.

  • Indian Standard Time.

  • DAD: It means

  • SISTER: It means that you don't have a sense of time.

  • *laughs*

  • Once someone was describing their color blindness to me and it reminded me a lot of how I feel

  • about time.

  • How I know that 3pm and 3:05 are technically different, but I personally don't perceive

  • that contrast.

  • Time resembles color in other ways, toowe can only access the smallest sliver of both

  • spectrums.

  • Non-linearity and relativity remind me of ultraviolet and red-greenwhat scientists

  • call theImpossible Colors,” colors we can measure, but can't actually see.

  • And like color, time is continuous.

  • We can't locate the seam of an hour, the border of a daythe same way we can't

  • declare with any precision where yellow becomes orange or orange becomes red.

  • And yet, over the course of human evolution we've insatiably sought to structure time.

  • Dividing the sun into angles and tidily organizing the story of our lives into years.

  • It kind of embarrassed mehumans taking the unfathomable expanse of time and refining

  • it into hours.

  • The universe is 13.8 billion years oldwho are we to assert the importance of a minute?

  • But I tried my best to banish those thoughts.

  • I bought clocks and set them to five minutes early.

  • I filled calendars with meticulous, month-long plans.

  • I even put a whiteboard on my fridge and every morning, I wrote the date down.

  • I was finally closing the gapbecoming one of those people who holds the reins of

  • time.

  • And then

  • The pandemic happened.

  • And suddenly Tuesdays were Thursdays were Sundays.

  • Flowers bloomed and wilted and babies learned to crawl and grey hairs grew in, but the larger

  • story of time felt interruptedbland birthdays and cancelled weddings and solitary holidays.

  • Doing the same thing in the same place with the same people, day after day after day.

  • Previously imperceptible shades of time showed up at our doorsteps.

  • Like special relativityin the spring, time moved glacially as it does alongside

  • black holes.

  • And then, without warning, it acceleratedso that when I asked my mom what day in

  • May we were on, she gently informed me it was July.

  • Or non-linearity.

  • How we emerged after months spent holed up in our homes, only to find ourselves reliving

  • the very same moment that had driven us inside in the first place.

  • The whole world joined me in temporal disorientationeven my punctual superiors were at a loss.

  • They knew how to arrive five minutes early  — not how to repeat the same five minutes

  • 43,854 times.

  • I regretted taking time for granted.

  • Now I would give anything to hear someone say, “the party starts at five, the doors

  • close at eightdon't be late.”

  • It turns out our perception of time is incredibly malleableeven color can distort it.

  • When people are shown blue and red stimuli of the same durationthey consistently

  • overestimate the blue and underestimate the red.

  • Temperature also warps timethe hotter we are, the faster we feel it passing.

  • And music, too.

  • Oddly, uptempo music decelerates time and downtempo music hastens it.

  • So, if smooth jazz, heat waves and a bit of blue are enough to mangle time, no wonder

  • a pandemic upended it.

  • In 1983, a paper published in the journal Science described an experiment in which researchers

  • claimed to have overridden the human eye's opponency mechanismallowing people to

  • seeimpossible colors.”

  • The participants said the colors were vivid and awe-inducingbut entirely indescribable.

  • Like seeing red for the first time and having no name for it.

  • I imagine them returning to their lives, tucking the impossible colors away, into the closets

  • where we store our most inarticulable memories.

  • But had they not been alone in what they'd witnessed, had the whole world woken up one

  • day, suddenly able to see a new color — I think we'd have created a name in a matter

  • of hours.

  • Because when it comes to color, we innately gravitate towards classifying what we see.

  • Naming the shade between orange and redpink,” calling the blue of the Aegeanroyal,”

  • and the blue of the Caribbeanaquamarine.”

  • But when it comes to time, we have such a limited lexicon.

  • Fast.

  • Slow.

  • Long.

  • Short.

  • Future.

  • Present.

  • Past.

  • Beyond thatwe're pretty much speechless.

  • But not hopeless.

  • In 1812, Dietrich Nikolaus Winkel invented the metronome.

  • But two hundred plus years later, classical composers still prefer to communicate musical

  • time in sentimental Italian.

  • Tempo allegrocheerful time.

  • Tempo allegro ma non troppocheerful time but not too much.

  • Tempo rubatostolen time.

  • Maybe we've been too fixated on fixing our metronomes when what we need most is vocabulary

  • for these new colors of time.

  • To describe 17-second months, millennium-long days and a year without any parties.

  • Language for when time undergoes a phase transition right there in your handdays melting

  • and months evaporating and years freezing.

  • Maybe there's a word for that in Italian.

  • Maybe it translates toimpossible time.”

So, there used to be this thing called a party.

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B1 Vox impossible relativity sister pandemic cheerful

How the pandemic distorted time

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    林宜悉 posted on 2020/09/07
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