Monday, March 15, 2010

Slinking Through Time

Why is it that when you're a kid, everything close seems far away, but when you become an adult, everything far away seems close?

When I was a kid, World War II seemed very far away, even though my father and most of my friends' fathers had fought in it. Cars with fins seemed positively ancient, mostly because there had been a profound shift in design principles in 1961, when seemingly every single car manufactured in Detroit got lower and shorter.

I remember watching Some Like It Hot (1959) on television as a child, a movie that took place in 1929. I was horrified by the wanton destruction in the opening scene of what I considered to be antique automobiles. I realize now that they were only 30 years old at the time. When I see cars from 1980 today, they don’t strike me as valuable antiques; they look like candidates for wanton destruction.

But now I can watch movies from the 80s and not consider them dated at all. Movies from the 30s and 40s, not so much. I think it's because I lived through that era; having experienced it, it does not seem distant (that doesn’t explain the thing about the fins, though, because my father owned a 1960 Chrysler Imperial that had two of the most massive fins Detroit ever devised).

This is why I feel perfectly comfortable hearing Beatles tunes coming out of in-store music systems. It only strikes me as odd when I look at the people behind the counter and realize that the music is frequently older than they are. Did in-store music systems play Big Band music from World War II thirty years ago? Will they be playing Eminem and Larry Platt in thirty years?

In trying to understand this phenomenon, I ran across an entry in the online Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy called The Experience and Perception of Time. To be honest, it gave me a headache trying to understand it. I really just wanted an answer to the question I stated at the top of this entry, but I found myself knee-deep in concepts such as A-theory and B-theory and even the Special Theory of Relativity. Heavens to murgatroid.

Since I couldn't grasp those philosophical theories, I've developed my own theory: the AM and PM theory. Anything that came After Me (AM) is familiar and comfortable, and remains so even as I age. My temporal perspective just keeps expanding like an infinite Slinky, and I keep gathering memories that seem like they happened yesterday. Everything what was Previous to Me (PM) just might as well be sitting at the wrong end of a telescope, perhaps close but still appearing distant. I think this is a much simpler theory to grasp.

And they call Baby Boomers self-centered.

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