October 25, 2009

Compressing Time

One of my running, self-depreciating gags revolves around me getting old. There are others, such as I'm stupid, inept and hapless. But "old" seems to get the most mouth time. Now, I know I'm not old in the traditional sense. In fact, I still think I'm relatively young until I'm snapped back into middle-age reality, usually by pictures of myself. I had my picture taken for my work badge this last week and when I looked at it, I thought "What the fuck? Is that me?" And I do actually belong to AARP, but that was only so I could get the old people's discount at motels when we traveled last summer. I guess they give those out because they think that old people aren't going to mess up their rooms, but if Jan and I were what they expected in terms of "check-out room tidiness", then they were sadly mistaken.

But, whether or not I consider myself old, there are certain changes that occur to one's thinking about past events. Things that may have seemed to happen a long time ago when I was in my 20's, now seem to have taken place fairly recently.

Last night I was watching a commercial for the movie "Amelia". Okay, most people are familiar with the Amelia Earhart saga from their history books or other sources. A great mystery of the 1930's. Maybe the biggest mystery of the first half of that century.

Earlier in my life, I used to think that it was an ancient occurrence, like the Civil War or the sinking of the Titanic. But when I thought about it, her disappearance around Howland Island in 1937 had happened only 15 years before I was born.

Now think about that. If you're in your 40's or 50's right now, does 15 years seem like such an incredibly long time to you? I'll bet you can remember at least one event, no matter how trivial that happened in 1994. For me, it was moving from my old office into new digs and my son starting the 5th grade. To me, that seems like a short time ago.

I suppose you'd have to consult an expert on the subject, but it seems to me that the more time you get under your belt, the brain starts compressing learned memories and behavior to make room for all of the extra shit that you're going to stuff into it. Kind of like your computer hard drive compressing files so that it doesn't freeze on you. Your brain is wadding up your experience so that you don't overload it and blow a fuse.

Just think how I'll perceive things 20 years from now? Maybe the Civil War will seem like a recent event.

That's "heavy, man".

That was a catch phrase from the 6o's. Which of course was only a short time ago.

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