For a long weekend getaway, I went to Luray Caverns in Shenendoah National Park in Virginia. It’s been a tourist attraction since it was discovered in 1898(ish). Not the largest cavern, but easily accessible for most people. I read that it took about 300 years for the mineral deposits to form one cubic inch. And these were massive structures, the largest of which was over 120 feet tall, 40 feet in diameter. Consider how long that took.
A human lifespan is but a blip to the Earth. Time means little to the planet. Or at least it moves much more slowly. Time is, after all, a human construct, a unit of measurement that suits our purposes. We feel its pressures, its speeding up or slowing down, and have pondered its nature for millennia, in terms of our finite existence.
Because our lives are relatively short, it can make time and tasks seem more urgent. “What do you want to do with your one precious life?” I saw a framed phrase in a bathroom that read “Choose joy.” Indeed, it is a choice. It comes down to where to focus.
The pandemic has had a profound effect on our perception of time and its passage. Researchers have found that about half of people feel like time has sped up, and half feel it has slowed down, with a few feeling as though nothing has changed. (I wonder about those last few especially!). The people for whom time appeared to speed up tended to be the busy ones. The people for whom it seems to slow down tended to be the bored ones. In a real sense, many feel as though the weeks, months, and past few years have simply evaporated, disappeared.
I realized that things that I felt like happened about two years ago in fact happened about four years ago—it's just that the pandemic happened in between. And we’re still in it as I write this.
The flow of life and the cues have shifted dramatically. It’s a real mind screw, collectively. Except everyone is experiencing it differently and relating to each other differently.
Seeing things in nature that physically show the passage of an unfathomable amount of time seems therapeutic—a reality check that none of it really matters, except to us in our short lives. We get to choose what matters to us; we give things meaning that otherwise lack any. It is as it is.
Having and cultivating a sense of wonder and awe is important. It comes naturally to children, for whom everything is new and exciting. Vacations are important, I think, for this reason: to give space and distance from the everyday, to give perspective. Hopefully, to learn new things, to refresh, to reinvigorate, to recharge, to reconnect. And to create memories (take pictures!) This is the stuff of life.