This is Anti-pattern—thoughts on programming and whatnot by Brandon Weiss.

The Fountain of Youth

March 15th, 2012

I, and many smarter people before me have noted that time is the only truly limited resource. Everything else we can get more of, but time we can never get back. We’re using it literally all the time, and one day we’ve used it all up and we’re gone. As someone with a never-ending list of things to do that will surely extend beyond my alotted time, I find this rather unfortunate.

Many would argue that this is the natural order of things and the way it should be. That it is time’s limited nature that makes life so great, and that death is a necessary, natural change agent. I’m inclined to agree, but still, no one wants to die, and given the option, most would surely stave it off for as long as possible. Hence humanity’s nearly-eternal search for the fountain of youth—in whatever form it might take—in order to gain more time.

Personally I consider it a noble endeavor, and I’d like to join in the pursuit, but I’m no Spanish Conquistador, and despite being a programmer my science aptitude is tenuous at best, so those avenues are kind of out. But there is another way that seems to be largely unexplored, or at least I’ve never heard anyone else mention it. And that is using time’s relative nature to alter your own perception of it. It’s something we do every day, albeit unintentionally. The speed at which we perceive time ebbs and flows, and we notice it—we even point it out to other people after it’s happened—but we never really seem to pinpoint why it happens. In order to do that, we have to look at when.

The most obvious example is childhood. When you look back on it, you remember growing up seeming to take eons, but as you get older time seems to accelerate exponentially. This could of course just be something about the way children perceive time, which I think is the common wisdom. But there are times when adults perceive time the same way, most notably when on vacation. You can even just go away for the weekend and it can seem like you’ve been gone for two weeks. The only real common denominator between the two is new, or varied experiences. For children, everything is new all the time. As they get older, things become more familiar and repetetive, until finally they’re just doing the same thing day in and day out until they die. Which is why time seems to accelerate as you get older. The longer you do the same thing over and over again, the quicker time will fly by. Vacations are little pockets of varied experiences that interrupt the normal pattern of your life, which is why they seem to last way longer than they actually do.

So what that means is that in order to slow down time, all you have to do is mix it up every single day; have lots of different experiences as often as you can. New restaurants, new clothes, new friends, new cities, new jobs. You don’t have to give up the old, but make sure you get a healthy dose of the new. You’re going to come off as a little eccentric, but so does everyone that’s trying to live forever.