I’m currently reading Alan Lightman’s wonderful Einstein’s Dreams. (It was a Kindle Daily Deal just over a month ago, and the best 99p I’ve ever spent.)
For most of its course, the book is a series of miniature thought experiments (the eponymous ‘dreams’), which literalise some of Einstein’s most outlandish thinking on time. The dreamscapes present worlds where counter-intuitive temporal orthodoxies are embraced and followed through to logical conclusions: time passing slower when moving faster; cause and effect being reversed; time freezing altogether.
The book has really got under my skin – not only tempting me to create my own topsy-turvy-time-worlds, but to reflect on those weird properties of time that are actually apparent to us.
Unquestionably the most noticeable, at this point in my life, is the sensation of time passing faster as I get older. I appreciate this is just a perception – explained by a bit of relativistic logic – but what is any grasp of time, if not subjective? The sensation is real, and pressing. It’s apparent when I seethe second hand tick round on my watch; it’s apparent when I watch a football match, and it’s apparent – more apparent than ever – when I try to grow a beard.
Beards grow faster as you get older. This, I realise, is quite possibly true biologically, but it is definitely true empirically. Few things are more intimate than letting hair take over your face; few habits more intractable than constantly monitoring it. All of which means never have I felt more keenly the acceleration of time than now, as I once more allow facial hair to overwhelm me – no faster in calendar terms, yet so much faster in real terms. The beard connects me to the strangeness of time, and I am its servant.
This is no dreamscape. This is real. This is now.
Welcome to Beardtime.