Tomorrow Began Yesterday
Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash
A study of the history of the universe tells us that if the universe’s existence was shrunk into the size of an Earth-sized day, then humans are relatively only four seconds old. In the first zeptoseconds of these four seconds, one of our first inventions was a system to measure days, seasons, years, and our position in the universe. Perhaps it is because we always worry about the past and the time we left behind.
However, what is more important: when we are, or where we are? The theory of relativity explains how and why observers moving at different speeds perceive time differently. Even though we on earth hurtle through space at the same speed around the sun, we may still disagree on how much time we ‘think’ has gone by since an event. One reason for this is that each of us orients our lives differently. We are either focused on the past, the present, or the future. We reveal these perspectives unconsciously, in the words we speak to one another, the messages we type in a hurry and the emails with the formal signoffs. Studies in psycholinguistics find that these language signals are good predictors of our temporal orientation. Did you know that more future-oriented people are more likely to be older and female? Furthermore, those who talk about the future are more likely also to have better mental health.
Perhaps there is something to be said for the dreamers and the futurists, who seem to have their heads in the clouds. However, like the waxing and waning of the moon, planning versus the present has its trade-offs. Psychologists have theorized that when people choose to live in the present and engage with their environment, they do so at the cost of more stable long-term goals. On the other hand, choosing to think of the future means that we do so at the cost of exploring and gathering information from the world around us. As the seconds tick by, perhaps it is time to look ahead. Perhaps it is time to be mindful of our space and place and thankful to have a future to plan.