On time perception and boredom

Here is a little post that was inspired/initiated by Mark and Emiel. It does not make a lot of sense but it’s nice little story that I like to tell people. I wrapped this up with time and boredom concepts but really it is just a little silly story… 

Time is not real. It exists but it does not really. You know that when you get in the zone, nothing appears the same. Time is flexible concept because it is just what your mind perceives.

The idea of time flexibility happened to me when I was 15. Before that I believed time was a long linear boring thing, which was indeed boring. I was visiting my great-uncle who was living in Ivory Coast at the time. I spent a month over there. We traveled accross the country, visited small villages where he had friends. I experienced wonderful things, met incredible people. Let’s put that in context: my only goal in life when I was 15 was to get a Playstation. That’s it. Afetr travelling to Ivory Coast that Playstation need disappearred. If you have annoying teenagers, now you know what to do.

At some point of our your I did what everybody told me not to do whatever the reason: I drank some water out of a plastic bag that someone was selling in the middle of nowhere. Now that I see that written it seems even stupider than it really was. Of course I got sick with heavy stomach pains and diarrhea. Fortunately we met a nurse in the small village we were visiting at the time. She told me to get some  acetaminophen at a pharmacy.  We travelled hours on a bumpy road and finally got to a pharmacy. The pharmacist gave me the strong acetaminophen of the medication which worked good. This night I ate some of my dinner (my digestive system was still feeling weird but I already starting to feel better) and I went to bed early. And this is where this story gets interesting: this night lasted for a month. Ok… let me be clear, there was a trick. What I did not know (and you don’t know yet either) is that when you ask for extra strong acetaminophen in Ivory Coast, they give the codeine version. I read on wikipedia that it is good in to cure diarrhea. That must be the reason the pharmacist gave me some. I just wish he warned me of the side effects, like losing perception of time.

I remember getting up and going back to sleep several dozen of times that night. I walked in circles for days. I got bored. I also remember music, some kind of ceremony outside with a lot of singing that lasted for hours/days but I could be wrong. Perhaps it was only a couple of minutes, I can’t tell. Anyway this trance music and frenetic rhythms did not help my condition. After a while (or several days) I started panicking. For some reason, the idea of going out of my room and looking for help did not occur. I think this is the first time I sat down and started meditating on purpose. It was not a pleasing experience but I clearly remember trying to navigate into my mind and find the origin of what was happening to me. Some lizards and geckos entered the room (like every night) except I could not do anything about it as we were clearly not living in the space-time continuum. I just remember them slowly moving across the room. The situation was really getting worse as I started to accept to be stuck in time. That’s all I can remember. I wish I had a video of what happened to me. Was I hallucinating the whole time. Did I really get up? Was I dreaming… it really feels like a dream except I’m sure it was not.

Eventually daylight appeared and I got up earlier than usual somewhat refreshed from my month-long night. Except I still had diarrhea, but we’ll skip that part.

This experience offered me a new perception of time. Like if something had been unlocked in my brain. I am sure you too perceive time differently depending on what you are doing and you certainly don’t need codeine for that. But I always refer to this experience as the starting point of this realization. It helps me consider how much tasks I can accomplish in an hour or a day. Or how much time I need by myself doing nothing.

I have been sick since Sunday morning and I took yesterday afternoon and this morning to rest. I know I can push myself and do work but I generally end up being even more sick. So I take it easy, I watched grandma’s shows on TV, I had several naps and I stayed sit thinking of how the light intensity was slowly decreasing in my living room.

I just read Mandy’s post  about boredom. Like Mandy, I don’t get bored often. Time seems to go so fast that I always have a billion of ideas emerging from nowhere and stuff to do. But then I remember that I can alter my time perception. I can get bored if I want to. I have a need to get bored. And I know I need it because this when I get bored that creativity is refuelled.

Perhaps, just perhaps, taking a cold as an opportunity to get bored is the right choice. Right now, it sure does seem right.

  • This reminded me of something I’d seen on tv, ‘peyote spirit walk’.

    A drug induced spiritual journey into the mind. well worth a google

    • I just looked it up. Very interesting. It does sound a lot like what Manu experienced. 

    • Yes it looks like it. Perhaps if I have been warned of the effects I could have taken this as a spirit walk. But honestly it felt more like the music from outside was trying to haunt my mind.
      Now I must say that this peyote thing sounds interesting. I’m going to continue reading about it :)

  • “I can get bored if I want to.” I love this freedom you extend to yourself (and me). I love how you’ve taken boredom from being a “bad” thing to just being. Why, you even call it an opportunity. It’s one state of many that we move through in all that ebbing and flowing of life. Much like the state of your cold, which could not be helped. I also love how you speak of time. You make it seem infinite and always enough, pliable under our fingertips. Reminds me of this poem that someone shared with me just yesterday. Read how May Sarton speaks of time: http://www.breakoutofthebox.com/now.htm

    • Yes boredom is quite important. If you think of it we, homo sapiens, spent most of our history as hunter-gatherers living in caverns. Can you imagine how much time our ancestors had to get bored? I went to watch ‘2001 a space odyssey’ at a local theater the other day (well worth the watch on a big screen btw) and I’m still amazed by the time the camera takes to film the first humans just sitting down playing with rocks and plants. Boredom is emptiness and it will be filled eventually.
      And thank you for the poem! It’s exactly what I feel about time.

      • Have you seen Tree of Life? Parts of it were this “empty” that you describe here. I love how you’re making me think.
        And glad you liked the poem. It was a great gift to me. I’m happy to pass it on.

        • I did not see Tree of Life. I love Terrence Mallick movies (particularly The Thin Red Line). He’s one of the only director who does not try to fill his movies with as much material as possible but rather just let the camera roll. Thanks for the recommandation…

  • Thanks for sharing the full story Manu! 
    Time is indeed a flexible thing. When you stop being busy and get bored, time seems to slow down. It says: “Hey, let me get bored with you.”
    Time doesn’t make sense, does it? 

    • you’re right… it does not make sense. But we still try to make a lot of sense out of it.

  • Anonymous

    interesting story!

    When I look at little animals, like humming birds, I think they must have a totally different perception of time to us.

    • True and they probably don’t worry about time as much as we do!