Feeling Time Although there wasn’t much to see through the darkness, I was looking out from the backseat window up towards the moon shining on me. Tired from the day, the three sat in silence. Just after a few seconds of staring up at the seemingly static light source, I broke the silence by crying harder than ever before and feeling as though all the nerves in my body were being tied into a knot. My dad pulled over. My mom came to sit in the back with me. I could barely get words out to explain what was going through my mind.
Only recently have I been able to decipher what I was really thinking in the car that night—after unintentionally summoning the thought back a few times over the years since and reaching a level of maturity where I could control my physical response when doing so. I had initially pinned it as a paralyzing fear of death, however, I’ve realized that there are more complexities to it than just feeling the end of my existence.
Based on whatever scientific information had influenced me up until that point, I had looked up to the moon from the car that night and thought if that thing is really that big and that far away from me, then that means I’m that small. I was able to understand my physical existence on a scale greater than I had ever conceptualized before. Not only did I realize my universal proportions, but also how miniscule my presence is on the timeline of the universe. The time I have here is inconceivably shorter than the time before and after that. And because of that contrast in duration, my lifetime is basically no time. To have this thought, I involuntarily assumed an out of body perspective where I could view the entirety of my life. A lifetime that extended beyond one I had yet to experience. As if I knew what the next couple of decades had in store for me. How could an object have made me realize all this?
The moon is an object. It does many things. It is safe to say that it’s main function is to maintain a gravitational pull on the Earth which creates our oceans’ tides. The moon does this. Has always done this in some capacity. And, as far as we know it, will continue to do this. In my moment of panic, I was not thinking about the moon’s gravitational pull. I saw the moon in terms of my personal relationship with it. In terms of how small I am in relation to it. In terms of how far away I am from it. In terms of how unknown I am to it. The moon didn’t mean to make me feel small. It was my own consciousness analyzing the moon’s presence alongside my own which made me feel the way I did.
“Feeling” is very personal. We can feel what happens to or within only ourselves. We cannot feel for someone else. We can sympathize and empathize but we cannot truly feel the way they do because we are not them, inside their mind and body. We can use our languages to communicate a feeling, but that translation will only ever be an interpretation. I had attempted to describe that feeling to my parents in the car but I was having difficulty verbalizing it, causing them to have trouble comprehending me.
Just as we use language to describe intangible experiences, we tell time. We think we know how to manage time because we’ve defined it in terms of other things we know. We talk about time without actually talking about what it is. Time is common domain in which we all move in tandem through. We tell time with measurements—minutes, hours, weeks, months, years, decades, centuries, and so on that all amount to numbers. This helps our society operate. We tell time by recording our movements—ago, from, until, since, different tenses of verbs, and so on. This helps us keep track of the narrative of our lives. The things we use to talk about time aren’t really “things” because they aren’t physical. They’re ideas that help us relate to each other. But you can’t coexist with time when you tell it. You can only coexist with time when you feel it.
No new objects need to be created for this to occur. “Feeling” is inherently physical. We “feel” through our sense of touch—what we come into contact with. Even just the prospect of “touch” makes something physical. Feeling time requires us to re-evaluate our personal relationship with an object. For me, that object was the moon. I won’t ever touch the moon, but the fact that I could makes the moon physical to me. I was able to analyze my spatial and spiritual relationship with this object to induce the feeling of time, my time. Understanding my place in the universe compared to this object led me to understand time on a personal level, one that only I could feel. It was an overwhelming, stifling, and constricting feeling. A feeling that I do not want to feel all the time. A feeling that led to temporary existentialism. A feeling that made me forget how to tell time because it made me worry about time in a different way. One that I didn’t have the vocabulary for because I didn’t yet have the experiences to reference. I wasn’t worried about how long the rest of the drive home that night would be. I wasn’t worried about how much time we had been sitting in the car to help calm my crying. I was worried about the time of my life.
Our digital world is getting better at keeping track of time for us. We are approaching a level of reliance where maybe we’ll never have to worry about telling time, or even feeling it. More human experiences are becoming less physical. And without objects to manifest time through, we will be unable to feel the time of our existence. And without understanding how we spend our life time, we run the risk of wasting it.