Time Scales of Life

Life is ruled by time. Though some people get more and some people get less time in their lives depending on how early they die, the reality is that everyone gets equal number of hours everyday and this number gets reset every 24 hours. In words of Arnold Bennett

We never shall have any more time. We have, and we have always had, all the time there is.

I got this idea that the time a person has can be divided amongst different time scales and what scale one uses as the primary scale defines the kind of life one has. Though I also guess this is like a chicken and egg problem, the kind of scale a person chooses depends a lot on that person, and vice versa.

Short Time Scale #

The person using this scale thinks only a few minutes in the future, lives impulsively and looks for instant gratification in almost anything he does. Other people are stupid for him, gadgets too slow, a delay in flight sends him to a state of panic. He wants everything to be done instantly, thinking about life is boring, so is introspection. If he is alone, access to TV or facebook is paramount, girlfriend taking time to get ready is painful. Eric Cartman came to my mind, who transported himself to the future in order to get his hands on Wii. While this pattern is visible in me sometimes, there are others I know who make it visible on a regular basis. Such people move too fast for life because they are moving forward with the speed of thought which is infinite, while the life moves ahead a moment at a time. Years keep on flowing, and the realization that life largely has passed often comes too late.

Medium Time Scale: #

These people think in weeks at a time, they do have goals but also the realisation that most the of the things do not happen in instants and hence their goals are spread over time. Office going people might fall in this category since they know that a big project cannot finish in a week; there are far too many variables and loose points to consider and realise to go ahead with the implementation. People who have undertaken the task of learning something new, especially which is artistic (and not logical which our life is sadly filled with these days), like singing, instrument or drawing also understand (or soon realise) that fixing the foundation takes time and it’s only after completing that one can move forward. A person living on a short time scale will throw away the instrument he’s trying to learn because it’s taking time, a person using this time scale at least gets his fundamentals ready.

Long Time Scale: #

This time scale spans decades and covers a lifetime and for people in this group, small setbacks do not matter. A person living in this time-scale realises that even though his favourite cup was broken by his maid, this is not going to affect his tomorrow; even though he was insulted in front of a group of people, this is not going to be remembered five years from now; a small financial disaster isn’t going to kill him, there is enough time remaining to earn a bit more. Person living in this time scale usually comes to understand that there are only a few things which are necessary in life and everything else is superficial not adding to the quality and happiness of life. Life becomes his best friend, always present, teaching him the essentials and this friend is usually just a thought away. Person of this group knows that it takes more than a few years to make who he is, and he has the realisation that it will take his whole life to be what he wants to be – the best version of himself.

Infinite Time Scale: #

Just realise that more than 90% of people who ever lived are dead, and ever since humans became intelligent enough to start civilizations only few million people (a figure I pulled out of thin air) have been famous, which means more than 99% of people left without making their mark. I might have taken this Woody Allen quote out of context, but he explains the infinite time scale so beautifully:

It’s just an accident that we happen to be on earth, enjoying our silly little moments, distracting ourselves as often as possible so we don’t have to really face up to the fact that, you know, we’re just temporary people with a very short time in a universe that will eventually be completely gone. And everything that you value, whether it’s Shakespeare, Beethoven, da Vinci, or whatever, will be gone. The earth will be gone. The sun will be gone. There’ll be nothing.

Often people don’t live in this scale, and I guess they shouldn’t on a regular basis, but realization that such scale exists and death is as much real as life gives a clearer outlook on life itself, for instance life stops being a race and becomes a journey. It helps to care about things which really matter and gives the confidence to do things which one would never have done before.

I find it impossible to be always using only one scale. From what I know, the best returns in the investment of life come from sometimes using Infinite time scale; mostly using the Long and Medium scales and staying away from using the short time scale as much as possible.