After some insomniac-driven and admittedly stoned contemplation, it appears to me that my confusion with respect to time as I have been reading about the subject lately stems from the word time itself, which appears to be taken to mean three different things, to refer to three different clocks interchangeably. Perhaps someone out there reading this would care to help clarify any misunderstandings displayed here; hopefully, they do it kindly, because I’m apparently quite a sensitive fuck.
1) Cosmological Time.
The first sense in which the word time is used is cosmological time, the cosmic clock. The cosmic clock is the “arrow of time” that gives events their forward flow.This references an externally experienced world where moments in 3D space are organized in a causal manner from its initially highly ordered state towards the very heights of entropy along the 1D temporal dimension. You cannot traverse these splices at a speed exceeding the 671 mph limit set by light. You cannot divert course from the fixed temporal sequence defined by entropy and experienced as causality. You can only alter the rate at which you do so, accomplished by means of speed or gravity, which brings us to another use of the word time: relative time.
2) Relative Time.
We always have the experience of moving forward in Cosmological Time, even as we time travel into the future — or, presumably, the past, which exposes another kind of time we talk about, Relative Time, or the time of our body-clock. Our body-clock always ticks the same for us, the hands all moving in a single direction. Speed alters the rate of our clock relative to clocks of slower people, but neither you nor they experience a slowing of the rate of your respective ticks from your perspective. As we travel faster through space we move slower through Cosmological Time relative to the clock of some poor sap sitting down motionless on the ground, but all clocks share their unidirectional quality. It would presumably be the same way at every step if you were somehow able to time travel to the past: that is, you would experience the world before, during, and after your travel into history in the same forward-moving manner.
3) Time Perception.
The third form of time is what we call Time Perception. It is the time of our mind-clock. Altered states of consciousness have no influence on the cosmological and relative clocks, but they certainly can with respect to the perceived duration of time.
Scattered, broadened or broken attention leads us to perceive time as going slower outside of us due to our decreased reliance on autopilot programs. This comes about as a result of the presence or anticipation of changes or dangers for which our trusty autopilot has no prepared habit patterns. New information is to be processed. If one takes the time to think about it, time slows down during a car wreck for very good reason, and it is the same reason that “a watched pot never boils.” Fear stimulates our attention so that all hands are on deck with respect to dealing with the perceived danger so as to resolve that fear. Impatience and constant distraction causes us to continually divert and reboot our attention to potential new stimuli that will resolve that impatience or multitask maelstrom. Our attention is intensified and broadened. As a consequence, we’re stuffing more experience in the space betwixt the ticks of the clock. Time perception slows down; a minute by the body-clock’s measurement is experienced as an hour. Time seems to stretch on forever the more we deliberately think or attentively sense betwixt the ticks of the clock. This is why mindfulness meditation, with its focus on Here and Now, moment-to-moment attentiveness, leads to the sense of time slowing, to over-estimations of elapsed body-time.
Ordered, narrowed or fixed attention lead us to perceive time as going faster than the rate of our body-clock, so we experience less time, a contraction of time perception between the ticks of the body-clock. There is an increased reliance on autopilot due to the reduction in new information requiring processing, and as a result: “time flies.” This is why time seems to speed up as we get older and why Ohio summers seemed so long in childhood yet now pass by like a fart caught up wind: we are receiving less new information and are increasingly capable of relying on autopilot, which we tend to do because we’re fucking lazy. It’s the same mechanism behind how time flies when we’re having fun, only it requires the investment of narrowed attention. In other words, though we are primarily relying on autopilot our attention is unerringly invested in building atop those “been there, done that” automatic programs, pushing the thresholds of implicit memory. This is what is often called the Flow Experience.
Again, there is no experiential reversal in the flow of time, merely alterations in the rate at which it flows. With personal time the rate of our clock changes relative to the clocks of others. With time perception our mind-clock changes relative to our body-clock…