Thursday, July 2, 2020

Expanding Subjective Time

Working from home isn't new to me. I've done it fulltime since 2013 when I left Wizards and joined MCG. But with the additional social restrictions of the pandemic, things have been different. One day just seems to blur into the next, and recalling what I did two days ago let alone two weeks ago is difficult. I'm sure that's true for a lot of us late.

When you’re a kid, three months seems like an eternity, because it’s all new. Almost every experience is novel. But as you get older, time seems to go faster and faster. We wonder where a month has gone, or even a year. You may have even speculated that's because it only seems that way because so many things that happen to us as adults are things that have already happened to us, perhaps many times if we have a regular job and live in the same place.

Recently, I've been on a kick to read outside my regular sci-fi/urban fantasy wheelhouse; I recently read Madelaine Albright’s latest memoir, for instance. After that, I selected Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything. I figured maybe I would learn a few methods to improve my memory. 

As it turns out, the Moonwalking with Einstein is actually more that, diving into a high-level overview of how memory works. An objective measure of how much I'm enjoying it is how many times I'll randomly quote a section to Batgirl. (Her enjoyment may differ.)

The book describes author Josh Foer's own journey into learning about memory. During this "odyssey of the mind," he meets and befriends all sorts of super-interesting people. In fact, I'd say the author displays a Hunter S. Thompson-esque talent for making these characters larger than life, which is enjoyable in its own right.

The text describes two types of memory explicit and implicit. Explicit memory is a specific memory of something that happened, like how you might remember that one time you had that bad interaction with your boss. Implicit memory is knowledge, like your knowledge of language, how to divide numbers, or that you like (or dislike) icecream.

Explicit memory is constantly shrinking, thanks to implicit memory. The way implicit memory works is that the more we do a certain activity over and over, the more likely that additional but similar memory gets classified as “more of the same" by your brain. When a new memory gets that tag, the memory is far more likely to be tossed out. It doesn't need to be stored, according to your brain. It's not new; you've already go it covered under implicit memory.

Anyway, in the process of learning how a memory palace actually works, (as opposed to how I incorrectly thought it worked), one of the interviewees (a British memory champion named Ed Cooke) talks about how he hoped to expand subjective time so that it feels like he lives longer. The idea is to avoid that feeling at the end of the year ‘where did all that time go?’

And I'm like 'YES!' This is what I want, too! Lockdown or not, I'm tired of wondering how the previous year could have possibly passed so fast. Even though I'm still not quite finished with the book, I've taken at least one inspiration from it. I'm going to expand my subjective time by seeking chronological landmarks. 

All of which is to say, I'm going to try a little harder to do more new things more often, really. Starting with reading outside my regular wheelhouse... oh. I guess I've already begun.

[This article was cross-posted from my Patreon. If you'd like to support my fiction-writing, please check it out!]