And then one day you find
Ten years have got behind you
No one told you when to run
You missed the starting gun
Time tugs, inexorably, incessantly at the world in general, and you and me specifically. It doesn’t waiver, it doesn’t sleep, it waits for no one. In sports, it chases as you race it to the finish line; running, swimming, the giant slalom. It runs you down, counting backward to nothing; basketball, football, hockey. It stays still sometimes and waits you out; baseball, cricket, golf. It fakes you out in soccer. There’s the slow progress of a baseball game, time all but ignored as we count innings rather than seconds. There’s the almost audible smash of a Colorado timing system at the pool as the LED digits climb and you still haven’t reached the wall. There’s the anxious tick tick tick as a game clock winds down; 10…9…8…7…6…5, and your team is desperate to speed it up and end the game, or make it stop (get out of bounds, call time-out) before time literally, for that situation, ends.
But, it doesn’t stop completely, does it? It starts again. Hit reset, drop a new puck, throw a first pitch, toss the jump ball, fire the starter pistol.
And let me tell you this, time really is relative, despite what a clock, or the sun or the calendar tries to tell us. You tell me if your hour in the dentist chair is the same as your week at Disneyland. Just because we all agree sixty minutes makes and hour, doesn’t mean a minute can’t feel like a lifetime and an hour can flash by in an instant. Time is a function of your mind; we perceive time in terms of stimulus and experience. The more stimulus thrown at you, the more you have to attend, and time literally moves faster. The less stimulus, the slower it goes. According to neuroscientist Warren Meck, there isn’t a single “clock” that tells time in our brains: There are multiple brain clocks, all running at different speeds. They all coexist inside our heads and our brain decides which one to believe at any given time. Sit in a room and watch a stranger’s vacation pictures of the Grand Canyon, and you brain engages one clock. Sit in the same room and watch Chevy Chase advance on Wally World and your brain engages another.
There’s a theory that we never truly experience the present; that it takes 80 milliseconds to process the information in front of us so that we are, in fact, constantly experiencing the past. This tape-delay is a product of gathering information with the senses, sending it through the nervous system, our brains doing something with it, then sending that product back out to whatever body parts need to react. What if you could cheat that gap in time? What if you could cut processing down to 70 milliseconds, or 60? Would it make a difference?
This is how superior athletes make their games look easy. They are able to look at the same stimulus as you and I and process it more quickly, to close that 80 millisecond gap, to move closer to the past…to slow time. You and I look at a 100 mile-per-hour fastball and we’re overwhelmed by the stimulus, time speeds up and we don’t have the time to swing the bat. The professional baseball player bunches the information from that same stimulus into a single process through experience and repetition, and handles it more efficiently. According to neuroscientist David Eagleman, that’s because your brain always tries to synchronize the sensory information that it gets from your body in a way that will make sense to you. It does this by nudging your consciousness ever-so-slightly into the past.
A bizarre real-world implication is that the taller you are, the further back you live in the past, since it takes longer for the information to travel through your body. Shorter people actually experience a more accurate version of time, because there’s less of a delay in information getting to the brain. Chew on that for a few milliseconds.
A time to build up, a time to break down.
A time to dance, a time to mourn.
A time to cast away stones.
A time to gather stones together.
The Byrds …adapted from God (Book of Ecclesiastes)
To read more of Bill Burk’s reflections, astute observations and a rant or two on the wide world of sports, visit www. jamestowngazette.com and click on Bill Burk’s page. The Jamestown Gazette is proud to present our county’s most creative and original writers for your enjoyment and enlightenment.