• Katlyn Roberts

A Shift in Space-Time: How to Find Your Pace in a Pandemic

Why time flies when society comes undone.

Photo by Kevin Ku on Unsplash

This pandemic is shaking us to our foundations. It’s literally forcing us to reconsider both time and space.

  • We’re struggling to block out our time like we used to. We’re unsure if we’re spending it correctly. We can’t decide if it’s moving too fast or too slow. Wasn’t it just March? We’ve been inside forever.

  • The space between us is wider and yet we’re in constant contact with each other over Zoom, social media, etc. We’re trying to be there for each other, to stick together, but not physically.

If you’re feeling rattled right now, it makes total sense. These two concepts are key to our fundamental understanding of our world and yet we’ve taken them completely for granted. Or maybe we’ve taken for granted that society already decided our relationships with time and space. We didn’t get much of a choice in the matter. Now that the Coronavirus has caused cracks to form in the status quo… doesn’t it make you want to peek inside and see what’s underneath? I’m going to do three things with this article:

  1. Delightfully explain some scientific concepts you may or may not have learned in school.

  2. Give you some actionable steps to literally speed up or slow down time, whatever’s your prerogative.

  3. Help you feel better about your own life pace and the way you interact with the world.

It’s a tall order, I know, but I’ve got all the time in the world and not a drop to spare, so let’s do this.

A few weeks ago, Human Parts featured my story in which I compared these pandemic times to Joseph’s Campbell’s Hero’s Journey.

I’ve always been the type of person who thinks in stories and metaphors, not science and abstractions. But I was sick with Covid-19 for a long time and something about that brush with my own mortality shifted something in me. I’ve been doing a lot of stuff lately that I never would have done before. Like waking up early to go for a run (WTF?) and studying physics. This quote I referenced in my Hero’s Journey article is what made me curious:

The Hero’s Journey is a recognition of a beautiful design, a set of principles that govern the conduct of life and the world of storytelling the way physics and chemistry govern the physical world. — Christopher Vogler

It occurred to me that my way of seeing the world may have been a bit… incomplete. I suddenly found myself with an insatiable urge to bring my foundational understanding of how the world works into balance. Almost like my emotional and spiritual tendencies were being pulled by some unseen force towards the more physical and mental side of things.

In his lecture on The Great Courses, The Physics of Time, Theoretical Physicist Sean Caroll explains the connection between time and space. He asks us to imagine two arrows:

The Arrow of Time Shoots out and away from the Big Bang → from past to present to future.

The Arrow of Space Shoots out and away from the Earth → at least from our human perspective.

The point is that each concept has a genesis; the Big Bang and the Earth are our two launching-off points. The Arrow of Time expands (’cause of entropy) and the Arrow of Space contracts (’cause of gravity).

I’m asking you to think in a super abstract way and if that’s tough for you, don’t worry. I wasn’t used to that either before I dove into all this. I have a degree in screenwriting, not physics or metaphysics. But admit it, most of what you know about physics comes from the movies anyway. Who better to explain?

(To read the rest of this article, check it out where it was originally published in The Startup.)

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