Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Relativity of Time

Shortly after arriving in Arizona, Elder Bennett and I went to go see the film Interstellar.  In the movie, we get peek of the world at some point in the future when the earth is in decline.  It never really gets specific about what went wrong.  But it is clear the environment has become toxic.  Nearly all the crops have failed.  The population is radically reduced.  The world is on the brink of becoming unable to support human life.  So a super secret branch of what remains of the old NASA organization plans an exploration to seek other worlds that may offer a brighter future.  They shoot a series of crafts through a wormhole that allows explorers to go to another galaxy to check out potential new worlds for establishing a human colony.  And then a bunch of stuff happens.  (No spoilers here!)

One of the interesting concepts that this movie plays with is the relativity of time.  As the explorers get closer to a black hole, time shifts.  Those who go down to a planet on an exploratory excursion come back to the main ship in what feel to them like a matter of hours.  To the crew member who had been left back on the ship, however, the experience has been of many years passing.

According to Albert Einstein's theory of relativity
time and space interact in some interesting ways.   The closer one is to a source of gravity, the slower time passes.  So, if time speeds up away from gravity, being in free space would make someone get old faster than if they stayed on earth.  However, if they get close to a black hole, which is the mother bear of gravity sources, time will slow way, way down.  (Photo credit- From article "Albert Einstein and the Fabric of Time"  For full article click  HERE

Back here on earth the passage of actual time may not change, but my perception of it certainly does.  The past six weeks seem to have literally flown by.  It seems we barely arrived and now in just two days we will be leaving to enter the MTC.  It hardly seems possible.

Will it feel like this when our two year mission is over?  Will it feel like this when my whole life is over?

Years ago I read the book Einstein's Dreams by Alan Lightman.

 From Amazon.com:  A modern classic, Einstein’s Dreams is a fictional collage of stories dreamed by Albert Einstein in 1905, when he worked in a patent office in Switzerland. As the defiant but sensitive young genius is creating his theory of relativity, a new conception of time, he imagines many possible worlds. In one, time is circular, so that people are fated to repeat triumphs and failures over and over. In another, there is a place where time stands still, visited by lovers and parents clinging to their children. In another, time is a nightingale, sometimes trapped by a bell jar.

Sometimes I wonder how time appears to eternal beings.  Are perceptions linear?  Or do all things - those we consider past, present and future, or even potential possibilities, appear together?

When my creator is aware of me, is it as I am NOW, in this moment, or is it as I have always been and may yet become?

When I look at my children I most definitely relate to them as the adults they are now.  Yet my perceptions of them are also very much colored by the experiences I had with them when they were children.    When I dream of them it is most often of them as little kids.  When I look at myself in the mirror think I do see the 57 yr old woman I am today.  But when I close my eyes how I think of myself is usually younger.  I expect that gap to grow exponentially as I continue to age.  The photographer Tom Hussey has captured a
See more of Hussey's work HERE
series of pictures to illustrate that split between how older people appear to others and how they think of themselves.

According to an article in USA Today,  "Overall, 60% of those age 65 and older say they feel younger than their age. Almost half of those age 50 and older say they feel at least 10 years younger than their chronological age; among ages 65 to 74, one-third say they feel 10 to 19 years younger than their age."

Sometimes when I consider entering the mission field as a "Senior Missionary" I don't feel like I'm all that senior.  But as we prepare to enter the MTC next week, I AM feeling very ready to be a full time missionary.   After all these weeks of talking about it, thinking about, preparing for it, I am every so ready for my badge.

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