Is Time a Trick?

Have you ever noticed how when you’re enjoying what you’re doing and focused that time tends to speed up? Conversely, when you’re bored, time seems to drag?

P.M.H Atwater wrote a book entitled, “Future Memories.” Time is a trick and can be bent one way or the other. She says that “some claim time absolute; others have said the future could be altered if people were willing to change certain attitudes and behaviors.”

She recounts the following story in her book.  “I was doing the morning dishes when this rush of energy nearly lifted my head off. I suddenly experienced myself at a dinner party that night, saw who would be there, and took part in what happened and what was said. The whole thing was so real, I decided to make no plans for the evening, just to see what might happen. Sure enough, a friend called and began apologizing all over herself for being so tardy, then she asked if I would come to her dinner party that night. I had to muffle laughter as I accepted her invitation. When I arrived at the party, it was a duplicate of what I had already experienced that morning; every conversation, every wave of a hand, repeated what I previously lived through. I’m glad I ‘attended’ the dinner party before it happened so I could be prepared in advance.”

It gets weirder. What if memory worked in reverse? PMH Atwater wrote the following essay about just that:

One Monday morning in the summer of 1978, P.M.H. Atwater returned to work after a two-week vacation. A financial analyst, Atwater was excited to be back and eager to focus her renewed energy on the pile of papers that had accumulated in her absence. Then something strange happened. As she sat at her desk, pencil in hand, everything around her froze in place. Heat rushed from her feet to her head and her office surroundings faded from view, and, suddenly, she was in the future, “preliving” the events she would experience over the next year.

She was saying good-bye to her friends, selling and giving away everything but the few things that would fit into her small Ford Pinto. Her car packed, she set off for a cross-country adventure, fulfilling her childhood fantasy of exploring the United States by car. She watched the sun set on the Pacific, explored the Carson Sinks of Nevada, ate fry bread in Albuquerque, hopped aboard a Mississippi steamboat, followed the footsteps of Abraham Lincoln in Kentucky, and watched the sun rise over the Atlantic. She made new friends, talked to strangers, felt connections that seemed to reflect some important aspect of her life. Simultaneously, she watched and thoroughly lived this scenario, in full sensory detail that left her feeling as if every instant of the experience was as real as any present moment.

This experience ended as suddenly as it had come, and she sat in her chair stunned. Although she had just “lived” through a whole year, barely ten minutes had passed. She asked her co-workers if they had felt or noticed anything strange. Nobody had. She shook her head and wondered if what she’d seen could be true. How could it be? She a dedicated Westerner, pull up stakes and move to the East Coast? But then, as if to seal her fate, the entire scenario replayed itself once more. Except this time, an ending was tacked on; she also saw herself meeting and then marrying a man, the two of them embarking on a life of nearly continuous writing, public speaking, and travel.

All came to pass as she had foreseen or, post-seen?

When I was a child, I used to think that we could bend time. The thought naturally came to me. I recall many lazy summer days as kid when I’d spend the entire day outside playing in nature. Those days seemed to go on forever because I wanted them to. Other such days would pass so quickly that I would swear I’d just gone outside to play before hearing my father’s call to come in because it was getting dark.

My late husband and I were together almost 14 years. That decade and a half went by in a flash and at the same time, the memories could fill a century. Conversely, the 7 years since his sudden passing has moved at a snail’s-pace and feels like it’s been decades with not a lot of memories attached to this time.

I can’t tell you how many times the thought comes to me that when it’s my time to shed this body and move to the next place that my late husband will be there waiting for me and the first thing out of his mouth will be, “why did you suffer so, it’s only been 20 minutes!”

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