Time in The Apocalypse — A Telescope
Time slogs when you watch in [insert what you feel here] as idiots attempt to take over the world. On Wednesday January 6th 2021 I was glued to news streams in the same way I was glued to news streams on Tuesday November 3rd 2020 and the week that followed which felt like its own month as it was happening. And, of course, I would be remiss to not mention how time took forever to pass from mid-March 2020 to [time] and the rest of 2020. What happened and is happening? Why does the Apocalypse take so GD long? Movies tell us it happens in an instant. Time telescopes. More later…
Time perception is not a fully understood phenomena in the sciences. In the abstract of their paper “The influence of social stress on time perception and psychophysiological reactivity” Kathryne van Hedger et al. explain that
…[C]hanges in time perception were largely unrelated to psychophysiological reactivity to social stress. These findings are in line with some other studies of time distortion, and provide evidence for the interoceptive salience model of time perception.
My best summery of that jargon, which is not of any of my academic fields, is that from their scientific measurements using medical instruments, the data they collected suggests that there does note seem to be a significant relationship between time-perception and the body’s physical or psychological reaction to stress. Rather, their findings support a model that describes time-perception as interoceptive. From Wikipedia, Interoception: “Interoception is contemporarily defined as the sense of the internal state of the body.” Simplified, it refers to the state of the body’s internal systems including the cardiovascular system, respiratory and chemoreceptive system, gastrointestinal and genitourinary systems, nociceptive system, thermoregulatory system, endocrine and immune systems, and soft touch. Clearly, this is all very complicated and has plenty of research in its future.
Where are we at now? We know from science that there is a connection between stress and time perception. We know the Apocalypse is stressful. Let’s go from there. And let’s throw in that Time Telescoping I referenced earlier.
I read the first three volumes of the amazing, beautiful, and deeply terrifying manga “Barefoot Gen” by Nakazawa Keiji recently. The story follows the titular character Nakaoka Gen and his family up to and after the atomic bomb was dropped on their hometown of Hiroshima, Japan. For a sense of how raw, passionate, and terrifying this book is, let’s hear what Art Spiegelman, author of Pulitzer prize winning graphic novel Maus (based of his father’s experience as a Jewish man in the Holocaust), has to say:
“Gen haunts me.”
Similar to Maus, Barfoot Gen is a semi-autographical account based off the author’s personal experience with the atomic bomb. Go to your library. Read it.
Spoiler alert: the atomic bomb is dropped at the end of the first volume. Fact: the series is 10 volumes long. Synthesis: the Apocalypse is a telescope. It starts in an instant that feels like forever and ends years later without one even noticing, with a middle-time that drags. For a visual and scientifically accurate account of time dilation — telescoping as I am calling it in the philosophical sense — check out MIT’s simulation. Time drags because the Apocalypse is stressful and fails to end until after it’s been done for a while.
The effects of an instant live on for eternity. One guy got sick with Covid-19 in an instant, and now we are living through this apocalyptic event for however long, years? Hateful people with big bombs got tired of their current apocalypse (war) and decided in an instant to subject a generation to a life of grief and radiation poisoning, passing of the apocalypse. An idiot with a title and the mental capacity only for the moment incited a mob to attempt a coup over results verified 1/6th of a year ago. How long did the Cold War last? Some say 45 years for official purposes. If you remember, think how long it felt like. If you’re young, ask an elder. I know elders who went to bed feeling the deep dread that they would never wake up — every night. Nothing happened, in a sense. No military action, no real war, no missiles shot. And yet: eternity.
So what’s the lesson? Fair question. I think we need to remember that things that feel like the end of the world feel like forever in the moment. Sometimes they are. And that’s hard. But often times we make it through, though not unscathed. The Hegelian point (no worries if you’ve not read Hegel) is that we are the sum of our history. Those scars matter so we can keep a calendar or diary of our life. That calendar cannot be altered by anyone else. That’s ours and ours alone. The existentialist point (no worries again) is that we own it and take it as eternally important, precisely because it is ours. The Apocalyptic point? It’s never over. Keep fighting — even as the clock slows — because as if in an instant, the telescope will collapse, and you will be through the toughest part.