Why to Move to a New Place: It Slows Down Time

Steven Johnson, author extraordinaire, is moving from New York to the Bay Area (at least for a little while). Here's one of his reasons:

And then there's the passage of time. Another old friend — my oldest, in fact — wrote an email to me after I told him the news of our move. We've both been in New York for two decades, and we are both watching our kids growing up at lightning speed. "Change like this slows down time," he wrote. When you're in your routine, frequenting the same old haunts, time seems to accelerate — was it just four years ago that our youngest son was born? But all the complexities of moving — figuring out where to live, getting there, and then navigating all the new realities of the changed environment — means that the minutes and hours that once passed as a kind of background process, the rote memory of knowing your place, suddenly are thrust into your conscious awareness. You have to figure it out, and figuring things out makes you aware of the passing days and months more acutely. You get disoriented, or at least you have to think for a while before you can be properly oriented again.

So that is why we are moving: for the natural beauty, yes, and the climate, and the Bay Area tech scene, and the many friends out there we haven't seen enough of over the past twenty years. But more than anything, we're moving to slow down time.

10 comments on “Why to Move to a New Place: It Slows Down Time
  • I’m about to move out of DC, and this resonated with some of my motivation in doing so. I have a fortune cookie script pinned to my corkboard that reads: In order to remain young, one must change.

  • An recent article in the New Yorker described the work of David Eagleman, who’s been studying exactly this phenomenon of time slowing down.

    “One of the seats of emotion and memory in the brain is the amygdala, he explained. When something threatens your life, this area seems to kick into overdrive, recording every last detail of the experience. The more detailed the memory, the longer the moment seems to last. “This explains why we think that time speeds up when we grow older,” Eagleman said—why childhood summers seem to go on forever, while old age slips by while we’re dozing. The more familiar the world becomes, the less information your brain writes down, and the more quickly time seems to pass.”

    Read more http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2011/04/25/110425fa_fact_bilger#ixzz1NDMiMfv9

  • A rolling stone
    its moss-gathering
    as a slow process,
    and thus claims to
    gather no moss
    at all.

  • this resonates with me as well, I often think that eliminating my attachment to the outer world with things like tv, radio, and internet, and allowing my brain to escape for a while, seems to slow life down a bit. Time is relative.

  • I’ve been a Possibilian for a long time and didn’t even know it. The scientific search for the soul, indeed.

    “This explains why we think that time speeds up when we grow older,” Eagleman said– why childhood summers seem to go on forever, while old age slips by while we’re dozing.

    Fascinating as the subject of those perceptions and Eagleman’s hypotheses are, I’m mildly surprised there was no mention of one unexotic fact:

    One year of a ten-year-old’s life is a tenth of his existence outside the womb, and naturally would seem like a much longer time to him compared to the other nine than a year of a centenarian’s life would seem to that person, compared to the other ninety-nine.

    A study of changes in the perception of time induced by the ingestion of certain drugs that affect neurotransmitters in the brain should be productive.

    Eagleman says, “Reality is a tape-delayed broadcast, carefully censored before it reaches us.”

    Some of osedrugs which change consciousness, especially psychedelics and empathogens, allow intrepid psychonauts a glimpse of a less brain-censored picture of reality.

    In my experience, MMDA seems to have the strongest time dilation effects, metaphorically speaking, and seems to mitigate the “honky offset”.

    I do not believe, however, that the DNA in my sperm has deteriorated too much with age.;-)

  • Really? Slows down time? I must have really stretched out my life: across 3 continents, several countries and over a score cities. No, I wasn’t moving to slow down time but trying to pack as much as I could in my life time. :-/

  • This past year I moved across the country and I have experienced that. It seems like I’ve been here much longer than I have. I’ve done so many new things and have so many new memories.

  • I’ve moved a lot and although I miss my “people”, I’ve made new friends where ever I’ve gone and my life is so much richer for it. Ironically, I’ve had more quality time with my family since I moved. Instead of seeing them for dinner once in a while, now they come and stay for a week and we really get to reacquaint in a meaningful way.

  • fantastic post, very informative. I wonder why the other experts of this sector do not notice this. You should continue your writing. I am confident, you have a great readers’ base already! Angry Birds Go Hack

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