Yellow belts, and a brief theory on the perception of time

“This class is lasting forever.”  - Owen Chandley

“This class is lasting forever.” – Owen Chandley

By Jeff Keeling

My grandson, the ebullient Owen, bowed to the sensei and received his yellow belt during Monday’s karate lesson at Memorial Park Community Center. As I stood watching and taking photos, it struck me that it seemed just yesterday his daddy, the creative multi-instrumentalist Zach, was a nipper progressing through his belts.

Recognition of the quick passing of time led me to reflect on one of my favorite personal theories. (Don’t skip ahead – I’ll get to it.)

Watching Owen, who at age 5 has begun his martial arts experience several years younger than Zach did, was a hoot, I must say. Barring some savant-like aptitude for forms and no small amount of coordination, the average kindergartener is unlikely to display the most precise repetitions of crescent kicks, hammerfist strikes and high blocks. Let’s just say Owen is the average kindergartener in this respect.

Karate, and other enriching activities for kids, should be more about a child’s overall development into a well-rounded person than about perfect execution. I remember Zach’s relative diligence as he ascended as high as junior black belt status before moving on to other pursuits at around the age of 12.

We were proud of him for his work, of course, but my memories of his approach to fellow students bring me much more pride, and gratitude for the kind of person he was becoming and has become. Small, wiry and well-coordinated, Zach had the potential to be a formidable sparring opponent. But forever in Zach’s makeup has been an aversion to hurting another person, and so his sparring always came with a tinge of hesitancy. I can only pray that Owen will exhibit a similar approach to life as he grows from a little boy into a man.

But let’s return to what’s really important: me, and my theories.

I don’t remember exactly when this one popped into my head, though it seems like only yesterday. It’s difficult for me to imagine no one else has propounded something similar, though I’ve not seen any evidence.

Here is how it works. Every year, not to mention every month, week, day and even hour, represents a fraction or percentage of a person’s life lived up to that moment in time. And every year that passes in a person’s life represents a smaller fraction or percentage of his life than any year that had passed before.

Take Owen, for instance. I consider it highly likely that the 17 days of his first Christmas break from school seemed almost interminable to him. For his parents, they probably slipped by rather quickly, and for the lovely and talented Angela and I, given our codger-in-training status, those 17 days veritably flew by.

Here’s my space-time, voodoo algorithmic formula for that. Owen was approximately 1,950 days old when his Christmas break arrived. Therefore, those 17 days represented 0.872 percent of his conscious existence to date. Zach is approximately 9,400 days old, so those same 17 days represented just 0.181 percent of his conscious existence to date. I am approximately 18,550 days old – those 17 days represented just 0.092 percent of my conscious existence to date.

I have roughly twice as much conscious existence, experiences and memories embedded in my mind than does Zach – and nearly 10 times as much as Owen. Ergo, each block of time and the experiences, memories and data it contains seems to pass by at a rate in inverse proportion to the percentage of my life to date that it represents.

I recognize, of course, that this theory may be the utter malarkey that the lovely and talented Angela tells me that it is, but it’s still fun. And given my tendency to beat a point to death, let me put it in easier-to-relate-to time blocks.

When the spritelike Emmarie turns three in September, her previous year will have represented 33.3 percent of her conscious existence to date. When Owen turns six in August, his year will have represented 16.67 percent of his existence. When Zach turns 26 in March, his year will have represented 3.85 percent of his existence. And when I turn 51 next month, my year will have represented 1.96 percent of my existence.

Per my theory, my year should seem to have passed roughly twice as fast to me as Zach’s year should seem to have passed to him. It should seem to have passed 8.5 times as fast as Owen’s should seem to have passed to him. And it should seem to have passed a full 17 times as fast as Emmarie’s should seem to have passed to her.

But it’s all relative, of course. E=mc2 and all that.



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