Imaginary Time

Here’s a thought experiment.

Compare yourself to a mayfly. The mayfly hatches, matures, mates and dies within a 36 hour period. It’s experience of infancy, adolescence, maturity and old age happens within 3 solar days.

may fly

Arguably a mayfly experiences time different to you. Solar time is constant, but experientially the fly lives a lifetime within a few days.

solar time

Compare yourself to a toddler who wakes, eats, naps, wakes, eats, plays, sleeps. Within a few hours the child can transform from happy, sad, tired, hungry, excited and morose.

Their attention span is at the minute level. They change so quickly, each day learning new things. Like a dancing flame, their life experience is vital and changing.


Arguably a toddler experiences time different to you. Solar time is constant but experientially the toddler lives a few months within a few days.

ancient clock

Do you notice people older than you seem to find the years pass pretty much like days ?

Oh – another year already?



Arguably someone in their 80s experiences time different to you. Solar time is constant but experientially they live but a few days within a year.


Do you imagine that experiential time progresses throughout our life as though on a coil? Tightly sprung we are conceived, we are born, we grow, we mature, we age …..and we die.

solar time

We come into this world spinning like a top, whirling rotations. As the solar days set our clocks, our experiential time differs  to other creatures and other humans.

golden ratio

Slowly our coil slows until our experience plateaus into unchanging days and years ………..


Enter into a story, and within the short inches between covers, you experience a life time of feelings, visions, tastes, smells, loves and losses. A few short days can yield months or years of experiential time.

imaginary time

Is it true then reading stories makes as though young again? It tightens the coil of our experiential time back to the vitality of our youth?

3 thoughts on “Imaginary Time

  1. I think you’re right.
    Do the lives of older people lack the tight, swirling narrative tensions of a novel or a child? My first thought is – how could you maintain a changing life storyline as you age? But maybe God intended the old to be stimulated by the unfolding stories of the young in their communities, and for the young to calm their raging streams in the wide, steady river of an old person. Experiential time would have to slow down for an empathetic old person if, for example, a kindergarten kid invited you into their world:


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