Slowing Down the Perception of Time

Japanese Macaque Snow Monkey - Perception of Time-2

I’ve made a mistake.

I look behind me but there is no turning back, I’ve past the point of no return.

The chill of frost has seeped further into my bones; the other side of the frozen lake appears just as far away as it did an hour ago. Or was it only a few minutes ago?

With snow blowing around I bow my head and take a seat, lost in time.

Japanese Macaque Snow Monkey - Perception of Time-1

Earlier today I met up with a friend, a theoretical physicist who has one of the best minds I’ve ever known. Her head is often in the clouds and her optimism makes her irresistible in conversation.

The day started out as it often does, walking along a path with coffee in hand amid a group of monkeys. Today, she brought up the infinite monkey theorem: given an infinite amount of time, a monkey at a typewriter would almost surely produce a piece of work such as the complete writings of Shakespeare.

Japanese Macaque Snow Monkey - Perception of Time-7

Based on the low energy level of the group, we agreed today no such masterpiece would be delivered by our friends.

However, this did get us talking about time and the few fleeting hours remaining in 2015 before the New Year arrived. As if on cue, we both said “time has flown by faster this year than ever before…” and with this our discussion of time began.

Japanese Macaque Snow Monkey - Perception of Time-8

A topic very dear to her heart is the question of how our brain sees the world ~ how our brain organizes what we experience, sorts through the chaos and creates a perception of reality so we can function effectively in this world.

Her enthusiasm is contagious.  I remember the first time she looked over her coffee and breathlessly whispered, “The only reality we know is what our brain manufactures…how we experience and feel time – it all happens within the mind” followed by her smile and a mad-scientist laugh.

Mother & Child

“When I was a young kid; summer days seemed to go on forever. Every second of the day had something new to explore, my mind racing to understand and learn. Time did not matter.” She sat back and mused, her eyes on a baby monkey being cared for by her mother.

“A young child has no understanding of time, they live in the moment…being time as there is so much happening in their world, their brain is in the now doing all it can to make sense of life.”

She is lost in thought but adds, “The adult interpretation of time is irrelevant to a child.”

Japanese Macaque Snow Monkey - Perception of Time-13

I’ve always been fascinated by time, from the view of a physicist and the existence of time to the neuroscientist and our perception of time.

One early memory I have, I was a young kid floating in a pool of water thinking about time. Thinking about why adults always said, “time goes by faster and faster as they get older…” I had no idea what this meant.

Japanese Macaque Snow Monkey - Perception of Time-18

Whooper Swans Lake Mashuko - Perception of Time-3

When I grew older, I began experiencing this feeling of time speeding up, but did not take it seriously until recently when I sensed time flying past at an increasing rate. It is alarming.

The honking of the geese above signal the alarm as well, time speeding away out of reach. The bite of the cold wind sends shivers down my spine. Strangely, it is a feeling I am relishing – this rush of a new experience.

Japanese Macaque Snow Monkey - Perception of Time-6

“This is the frustrating thing about life,” she nodded at me, eyes sparkling again, “when we were young, our minds were spinning. Our brain receiving so much information, often out of order, that it needed time to process and reorganize all the new ideas so we could understand the reality we were living in.”

She paused wistfully, “Our brains needed time to sort and organize reality, so our perception of time was longer when we were young. We extended time. This may be the key to extending life today.”

Japanese Macaque Snow Monkey - Perception of Time-9

“Fast forward to us as adults, and the world is familiar.  Information can be processed quickly,” and with a sigh she took another drink of coffee. “Thus our perception of time is shorter. Time flies by.”

“Add to this our repetitive routines, modern technology efficiently processing information and time begins to pass quicker every year.  We continue to provide the fuel by getting in a rut, spiraling quickly downward with time.”

Her gaze landed on the far side of the lake, and she added, “Days quickly turn into weeks, weeks into months and months into years until one day *poof* we look back and it is over.”

She paused, and I was surprised to see tears welled up in her eyes. “I feel as if time has tricked me and I am spinning out of control.”

Japanese Macaque Snow Monkey - Perception of Time-5

Her tears slowly rolled down her cheek, each representing a dream disappearing into the annals of time.

She wiped the tears away and exclaimed, “It is sad, we get older and our brain becomes efficient because we are boring!” she laughs. “Without adventure, life will fly right on by.”

Her eyes lock in on mine, and I am surprised how a discussion of physics can increase my heart rate and make my palms sweaty. “We need to find a way to extend our time…”

“We need to explore new sensations, overload the brain and perhaps then we can stretch out time just like we did when we were young,” the glimmer in her eyes not seeking approval.

Japanese Macaque Snow Monkey - Perception of Time-15

We walked a few more steps before her words hit me like a wave of cold water.

She whispered, “Let’s be spontaneous.” Pointing across the lake, she added, “Your adventure begins with a trek across the lake, I’ll wait for you at the hot springs on the other side…and together we’ll try to stop time, at least for tonight.”

Stunned by her words, my mind went blank and I looked toward a monkey for help. Fortunately, he was a wise one, and seemed to understand my situation.  He nodded his head, so I looked at her and did the same.

With a quick peck on my cheek, she grabbed her keys and headed out to the car leaving me stranded.

Japanese Macaque Snow Monkey - Perception of Time-14

This is how I find myself in this predicament, lost on Lake Mashu-ko. I look ahead where I believe the hot springs lie and sigh…it seems I’ve been out here forever and the other side is still so far away.

Time, a concept impossible to define, but definitely worth contemplating as 2015 comes to an end.  My goal for the New Year, to slow down time.

Japanese Macaque Snow Monkey - Perception of Time-10

I looked at my watch and realize I’ve been out here for only 10 minutes.  Yes, this is a good sign and my laughter echoes off the surrounding mountains.

With my heart beating and my brain working overtime – I pick up the pace.  I figure, whether or not she is there waiting for me does not really matter.  The adventure has begun.  From across the lake, a cry from a white-tailed sea eagle reminds me of the words of Eleanor Roosevelt:

The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.”

I look ahead, and no one has to tell me, life is short, getting shorter.  Make time in 2016 to explore.  To slow down and take in all life has to offer.

White Tail Sea Eagle Hokkaido - Perception of Time-17

Japanese Macaque Snow Monkey - Perception of Time-11

Happy New Year!

332 Comments on “Slowing Down the Perception of Time

  1. My Golly, WOW! This is so delicious. This is so so so so delicious. I get so distracted by the (I’m out of superlatives and adjectives for you, my friend.) images, but can’t look away from reading about the conversation and the story. You carried the narratives so well. I loved how this ‘mind over matter’ intellectual conversation turned into an exciting story. Love all the theories and analytical thinking. In some ways, many adults already are doing it – preserving their precious time and not wasting it. I know I do so with traveling. Other people do it in different ways. I definitely learned a load more on this. Be a collector of experiences and new things in order to preserve and slow time.
    A most remarkable post

    • Rommel, very good to hear from you my friend ~ yes, this was a very good way to break in the New Year. I think you are very correct, many adults have found something/a hobby, that makes good use of precious time – creating experiences and in a sense manipulating time. Making it longer, and life richer 🙂 That is a good goal for every day I suppose, and for 2016 I hope to hear more about all the great experiences created in the days ahead. Cheers to a great weekend Rommel.

    • This comment is simply perfect ~ not sure if I’ve received a better (or more poetic) compliment. Thanks W., wishing you a great day ahead.

      • Ahhh- you’ve done it again! 😉 …sometime you must share your secret ~ Have a beautiful day… or— just looking at my clock, I’ll wish you a peaceful night instead.

  2. Slow down to enjoy the moment, being spontaneous – oh I am sure you will have a great year to expect for!
    I hope someday we will see each other, gosh, you have to teach me how to capture those amazing images 🙂

    • Slowing down the moment to enjoy life ~ hopefully you will be able to do this frequently in Minnesota, a far cry from Denmark and even farther from your warm Indonesia 🙂 Wishing you a great trek into the New Year Indah, thank you.

  3. These are amazing photographs and a nice story. Thanks for posting this!

  4. Another stunning post, my friend. I definitely plan to create more ‘slow time’, to appreciate life in finer detail as I know I did effortlessly when I was a child, and as I believe life wants us to at every phase of our existence.

    • There is nothing quite like slowing down and seeing all things new again…and as you say being able to “appreciate life in finer detail” that is a great way to look at it. Cheers and wish you a great coming weekend and Lunar New Year.

  5. What fantastic ideas and conceptions here! Its true that when I was small I never thought about time and only lived the moment. So different now, when time just seems to go so fast and I feel like I don’t have the time to live the moment… I like the infinite monkey theorem by the way. Maybe I’m a monkey. When I play a piano piece at a student concert, everyone only hears the result, the masterpiece. I probably took about 6 months studying and practice to make it like that. Give us enough time and we can do it.
    Such gorgeous photos. As usual. I love the white wintery scenes, though seeing the monkeys splash around in what must be nearly freezing water gives me the chills.
    I suppose you found your way around the lake, otherwise you wouldn’t have written this. Happy New Year!

    • There is nothing quite like thinking back to the days when I was young and there was so much to do and time really never mattered (summers lasted forever…such a great feeling), and then to now where we have already lost 10% of 2016 🙂 I would very much like to hear you play your piano again, I think music is another one of those pieces of life that can stop time – it takes the listener (and from what you say the artist as well) into another world. You’re very lucky to have such a great outlet. Wishing you a great year Sofia, thank you very much.

      • Oh I would love to play for you! I’m just beginning another Rachmaninoff piece (I calculate it will be ready in about 5 months…) and I’m so excited about it. Wishing you a great year too! 🙂

      • Ok, then we have a deal 🙂 Isn’t Rachmaninoff suppose to be the most difficult of all composers to play? Hmmm, 5 months, maybe in Hong Kong – I can rent out a music hall and that’ll be perfect. Wish you success Sofia ~

      • Oh sure, rent out a hall for me to play, what 4 and a half pieces 😀 Thanks!

  6. Congrats Randall on being “discovered”! Your photos are breathtaking and inspire living to the fullest.
    Glad I discovered you via my Shamanic Tracking blogger pal.
    Thanks for sharing your world with us. peace, Linda

    • Thank you Linda ~ it was nice to see the Discovered email, and the timing was perfect as I was just heading out for a long business trip so it put things in a great perspective (and kept my mind in photography and writing :-)). Yes, I also think back to the great discoveries of the community – Shamanic Tracking in particular 🙂 Wish you a great year ahead.

    • Thank you very much Fletch ~ something about the musing of physics and Mother Nature always makes for an interesting post. Wish you a great weekend.

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  8. Man, you told us about inspiration, but actually the inspiring one here is you! This feature wouldn’t disfigure on National Geographic. The pictures, as well as your prose, express the utmost qualities of communication. Chapeau

    • This comment itself is inspiring – thank you, there is always something about trekking off somewhere and finding something that connects you even more to this life. Cheers to another great year ahead of stories and photography ~

  9. Dear Randall – I truly enjoyed this post. This is the second time visit you for this post. I was in a rush the first time and so I thought I would rather come back later when I had better time. Funny coincidence time is what it is was all about. I am definitely connecting with your message. Time if flying by faster the older you get. It is almost a bit scary. And I love your goal for 2016 so much I feel like adopting it myself. When it comes to your photos I don’t even know where to start. I have looked through them 3 times now and cannot find the right adjectives to describe them. Beautiful, stunning, jaw-dropping doesn’t seem to cut it. I am captivated by them.

    Happy New Year – wishing you all the best for 2016 and look forward to sharing stories in the year to come.

    All the best, Inger

    • Time does fly so quickly these days (we’re10% into 2016 already!), so it makes getting out and having adventures all the more important ~ and I’m hoping that this year I can find the magic you did off British Columbia and track an Orca pod and be at bliss 🙂 Wishing you a great year ahead – look forward to exploring more.

  10. Beautiful story and fantastic images. They really capture the spirit of what you’re saying.

    • Thank you very much – the story and photos worked very well together, made it easier to write.

  11. Beautifully written and photographed. Hope you’re having a great day.

  12. Fantastic photos, really amazing. I’d love to know how to take images like these. and the words is absolutely on point to the images they discuss.

  13. Beautiful photos , as a person who loves photography and is trying to further pursue my passion for photography you really inspire me

    • This is a powerful comment, thank you very much. There is something powerful about losing yourself in photography ~ I think it is that you are able to create your own verses about what life means to you. Wishing you a great year ahead.

  14. What an amazing collection of photographs ! And yes, I cannot agree more. The purpose of life is to live it, so let’s do it. Best wishes for 2016 !

  15. there was no acknowledgement of time in their eyes……..their eyes always seem to be so sad with intense awareness
    I think they know we are the ones in captivity on this “time” not them….
    I woke up feeling an energy shift this morning….the little town I stay in was completely dark, no electricity and no sound even whispered in the darkness,,,, gave me a quickening in my thoughts…no matter how fast light travels, the dark arrives first…
    , and then I click on to your stunning photographs…and your thoughts seem to connect with this stillness here,half a world away……between Christmas and New Years I think one always wonders what they are doing here, and where will the next year take us…….I turned another year older and those numbers gave me pause, I feel time is speeding up too…and the energy I felt this morning made me wonder about it even more…

    you have such a way with words, a true Bard with an ancient soul….
    Thank you for sharing….

    Take Care…You Matter…
    mary

    • This is a very perceptive comment, “they know we are the ones in captivity on this “time” not them….” ~ yes, they seem to understand that to fully enjoy time we need to stop every now and then and just ‘be’. Your description of the energy shift you felt in the morning reminds me of why I like the early morning so much: peace, stillness and time to reflect on what lies ahead. Thank you Mary.

  16. I am just getting around to reading this post from you from the 1st of the year. Yours are some of the posts I save to read until I know I have a nice long “time” to savor them. This is so good Randall. I have a friend like yours, she’s not a physicist, but she may as well be – we have the most stimulating, thoughts provoking conversations about everything from subatomic particles to theories about reality, God… and she’s so passionate, I always come away with a fresh perspective. Sounds like you did here too. It was so interesting to read what the two of you discussed regarding children and perspectives about time, thanks so much for sharing. And the photography was amazing as always! Happy New Year my friend! 🙂

    • Wishing you a great year ahead Julie ~ it sure does seem that it is going to be a great one for you. Yes, nothing quite like having conversations that never end, keeps friendships fresh as we ponder ideas and end up with new perspectives to discuss next time. Always nice to hear you enjoy the posts, thank you very much.

  17. Randall, at my age, there isn’t anything I value more than time. The thought of being able to ‘stretch out time like when we were young’ is delicious! Worth a try! Thank you for this special, special post and the magical images. Wishing you happiness in abundance in the year ahead. And mastery over time 🙂

    • Isn’t is such a great thought…I too think it is worth a try 🙂 Wishing you a great set of adventures, health and happiness as we enter into this New Year Madhu ~ safe travels!

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  19. Happy New Year to you, Randall! I just watched a documentary about the Large Hedron Collider in CERN and the theoretical physicists who were working on the project. The documentary talked about the multiuniverse vs supersymmetry models of the universe and how the experiments going on at the LHC will hopefully shed light on which theory might be supported—it was simply fascinating stuff to me. The theorists in the documentary were such intelligent, interesting people and obviously deep thinkers. You are fortunate indeed to have such a friend to discuss deeply philosophical and personal thoughts with. For me, time and reality are totally perceptual. It passed deliciously slowly when I was a child too. But I wonder if once we become adults our perception of the passage of time has something to do with our passion for life or with our desires or with what we’d still like to accomplish in life. For example, my mother is in her 80’s and living in a nursing home and she can no longer do many of the things she used to do. She is depressed, bored and no longer feels the desire to do much, even the things she can still do. For her, the days go by painfully slowly. But for me, because there are always more things I’d like to do on any given day than I have time for, and I have so many goals and dreams I’d still like to see happen, time passes so fast. The more I have to do, the faster time seems to fly. And for me, as an adult, it also has something to do with joy. I’ve noticed that when I’m doing things I love, time flies so quickly. But when I’m doing something I’m not so keen on doing, time drags. Years ago, I worked at a job I really did not like. The hours in those days dragged more slowly than at any other time in my life. Whatever our perception of time, for me, a happy moment is a moment well spent. Many happy moments add up to a happy day. Strings of happy days add up to a happy life. Ultimately, for me, a successful life doesn’t have to do with the quantity of life spent living or even our outward accomplishments, but how happy our life was. Thank you, as always, for your thought-provoking and well-written commentary. Your photos are amazing, as I’ve come to expect from you. There is so much beauty in this world and your photography never fails to remind me of what a miraculous and wondrous world we live in. Happy New Year! May you have a year full of fun adventures, delightful surprises, magic and an abundance of all things good. ~ Jeannie :))

    • The LHC in Cern is such a great place where great thoughts/ideas/imagination comes to life – it is something else to see all the data leading down the path to a multiverse, and while it would be earthshattering – I find it also very relaxing. There are an endless number of copies of me out there (many better and many worse off), so all I have to do is just make the best decisions I can and move forward 🙂 I like the way to describe time ~ “a happy moment is a moment well spent” and if you can keep adding those up you’ve got a life well lived, and isn’t that the key? Wishing you a great year ahead Jeanie, and to capture all the magic that comes your way.

  20. Copy your word >> ”I look behind me but there is no turning back, I’ve past the point of no return.” A philosophy of life “goes on” and never return. Precious word. And… wow, marvelous photography. Standing ovation for you Randy, superb! Regards #Della

    • Sometimes I think the best thing in the world to happen is looking back and realizing nothing to do but to go forward boldly (without much concern for what has passed) ~ a bit freeing in many ways. Thank you Della, it is great to see you connect to this post so well. Wishing you a great year ahead.

      • I also agree with what happened in the past, we can use as a learning process.We are just human. Thank you Randy.

  21. This did it! Finally someone was able to explain the concept of time.

    i loved it, loved your friend for the life that she has. It is contagious enough for me to just find a nearby lake and hike. Thank You!

    • Ha, ha – very good to have been able to provide a bit of inspiration ~ there is nothing quite like catching a bit of an adventure then moving on to create one of your own. Thank you and wish you a great year ahead.

  22. A great discussion about time. The reality of time is puzzling at least, not to mention the relativity of time. Of course you could start to move at the speed of light and time would really start to slow down – except you wouldn’t notice yourself. I think the trick i to live as much as possible in the now, which is what I believe you experienced when felt you had reach the point of no return. Great photos as always my friend. A belated Happy New Year to you. May 2016 go slowly by – and be full of adventures. 🙂

    • Relativity of time is one of my favorite topics…a clear night staring out into the universe and I imagine endless adventures with time 🙂 The year is off to a good start already, and I agree with your thoughts about passing the point of ‘no return’ – it is how we can truly relish life. Cheers to a great 2016 Otto and the many adventures out there waiting to be had.

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  24. Good post and pictures. I think your friend made a valid point. Time does pass by fast as we get older, but routine is probably a big reason. I’ve never thought of it like that and I guess it is good to try new things now and then.

    • I agree, a routine while nice to have as they can be quite efficient – every now and then it is great to break out into adventure. Wish you well in the Year of the Monkey.

  25. I’ve lost track of time reading your post as well as blogging and reading most post. Picking up the words ‘let us be spontaneous’ is what I can relate to. This is no monkey business when I can literally feel your conversation with your friend. As Jane Goodall said: “The purpose of our life is to make the world better and to live fully.” Her words are timeless and so are your photography. Best Wishes to you Randall, Perpetua and Happy Chinese New Year.

    • 🙂 Nothing quite like losing track of time when reading or view photographs, it always happens to me. There is something special about being spontaneous, and in photography it often goes against the grain of being patient for the shot. The words you mention of Jane Goodall are perfect to reflect upon for the new year – and it looks as though with your travels to Cuba you’ve got a lot of experience of spontaneity and adventure to last a while 🙂 Wishing you a great Year of the Monkey too Perpetua, thank oyu very much!

  26. “Without adventure, life will fly right on by.”

    If that’s true then you seem to be on target for a very long life!

    Belated Happy New Year.

    • Ha, yes that is my hope! Thank you Malcolm, and the Chinese New Year will officially beginning with the next 10 hours ~ so your New Year wishes arrive right on time. Cheers to a great Year of the Monkey!

  27. I’ve never read such a good reason to not be boring. Fantastic story. I like this idea that more adventures and more unknown will help slow down our perception of time, as our brains process it. Thanks for sharing.

    • Thank you Angela ~ this is my reasoning for exploring and seeking adventures this year. Wishomg you a great day.

  28. Wonderful words of wisdom to start the new year and remind us life is fleeting. I also enjoyed the pictures of the monkeys and it reminded me I need to add this to my bucket list for travel.

    • Thank you very much Sydney, it is a great area and a great place to slow down and enjoy the day.

  29. Epic – beautifully sincere thoughts and wonderful images. Your Snow monkey images are technically great but it is the emotion you have captured which set them apart. Great work on both counts. The very best to you sir!

    Cheers,

    Chris

  30. Excellent photos! I understand the reference you made about seeing a few friends, ha. When did you see the monkeys? We probably do have a few shots of the same rascals.

    • It is so funny, because I see photos of this area and lo & behold, one of my monkey friends will inevitably show up ~ such great characters. Cheers to a great weekend!

  31. Where did you find these monkeys? and what kind are they? It’s amazing that you were able to photograph them as if they were interacting with you and your story. My favorite monkey parable is the 100th monkey. I once wrote a blog about it. beautiful work.

    • These monkeys are Japanese Macaque (also known as the Snow Monkeys) ~ very curious and mellow 🙂 They seem to have life pretty much figured out…

  32. Loved reading your conversation with your friend… and I love the idea of slowing down time. So many wise thoughts Randall, and your photos are incredible!

  33. Our mind is our very own time machine. Interestingly the subconscious portion holds a plethora of unknown elements, and when carefully intact we delightfully experience it’s essence. This post is an amazing and introspective message full of knowledge and self reflection. The time space is always a beautiful mystery to explore.

    • Thank you E., there are such mysteries within the concept of time it is fun to sit back and dream of possibilities.

    • It is always special when able to slow down time, even for a little. 🙂 And yes, I do tend to gravitate towards wise women ~ wishing you a great year ahead and great to see you back.

  34. I’m so glad I stumbled upon your blog. I reached here from Sue’s page and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed your writing and photographs. It’ll take me a while to saunter through all of them, but in keeping with the spirit of this blog, I intend to do it at a leisurely pace, enjoying each stretch of this landscape . Much love. May the rest of 2016 be filled with wonders for you.

    • Nothing quite like a nice leisurely pace ~ so much to see and enjoy out there that sometimes I think we all rush to see something new without taking the time to slow down and notice the small pieces of quality all around. Thank you much Nadira.

  35. Finally got around to this post and it is simply amazing. The photos are outstanding. Your writing is so poetic to me. Combine that with your photos – speechless.

  36. It’s amazing how time can run away with us… Time for me to start catching up on your posts! Pic are first rate as always. 😉

    • Nothing quite like running away with time ~ I enjoy those moments as long as I am engaged with what I am doing. Great to hear from you Kev, wishing you the best.

      • Engaged and enjoying what you’re doing is the key. ☺

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