Sunday, January 02, 2022

Picturing Time

(The image above is a line maze, you follow the solid line from alpha to omega. Lines are permitted to overlap, but only connect at the black junction point squares.)

Below is a sketch of my mental model for the 20th century. Think if it as looking at a flat plane from an angle above, with the early 2000s in the foreground and the beginning of the 20th century in the background. The previous centuries wind their way backward into the distance with the same general shape as the 20th.
The jog in the middle of the curve, representing the 1960s, is probably present because those were my formative years, having been born in 1957. Note also how the years seem to scale in different proportions; the early 1900s seem bigger than the middle of the century, for example.

Below is a rough sketch of my mental model for an entire year. It's not exactly round, more like squarish with rounded corners, and the months scale differently, the spring and summer months, in the distance, seem shorter than fall and winter. December seems like turning the corner from November, toward the end of one year and beginning of the next.
Regardless of what time of year it is, I always seem to view the year from this perspective, the shape never rotates or turns.

Finally is my mental model for a week. I seem to be looking at it from the perspective of the middle of the week, with the weekend on the opposite side of the rounded shape, that's supposed to be roughly oval. The two weekend days loom larger in size than the weekdays. Monday and Friday are turning the corners along the side, between work and play, evidently. And, as with the yearly cycle, the shape doesn't rotate, I'm always imagining it from this perspective.
I didn't consciously sit down one day and decide to form a mental construct of how time is organized. It's just something I discovered I held in my head, in the form of these various shaped circuitous lines, since I was very young.

On rare occasions I've mentioned this concept to other people and have gotten two kinds of responses. One response is a blank stare, they haven't the foggiest idea what I'm talking about, which then necessitates a lengthy description of my mental model, and an attempt to slowly tease out of them their own mental picture of time.

The other kind of response is immediately recognition, though their specific model might differ somewhat from mine.

I wonder if the differences between the two responses might be attributable to the theory that some people are more visually-oriented thinkers than others. It's their natural response to form a mental model in visual form; in this case the term "visual" is in reference to one's "mind's eye," which term I take for granted most people understand what I mean -- but is it possible that some people don't have a mind's eye, or haven't consciously identified it?

Think of your inner voice, that voice you have in your head when reading to yourself. It's also that inner dialog one has with oneself, part of one's thought-life, that can become as real as if someone were standing next to you in conversation. Alternatively, think of some piece of music, or distinctive sound. There's this memory of that sound you can play back in your head. It's not the same experience as actually hearing the sound, it's more like being played back with less fidelity through a mushy tape.

The analogy of remembered sounds is a different way to describe the experience of beholding my inner visual model of time. I don't know how common it is to have not only an inner voice of oneself, and an inner playback of remembered sounds, but also an inner geography of visual scenes, or made-up ones like my mental models of time. And I don't know if it's anything like yours, or know of any way to determine so, unless we talk about it, because our inner subjective experience is so unique to ourselves.

Typecast via Olympia Reporter. Sketches via the Pentel brush pen.



Blogger Bill M said...

Wonderful post, Joe.

3:28 PM  
Anonymous Gregory Short said...

I think I'm gonna be sick from all those loopty-loops! Yet this will go down as one of your best posts. Now, pardon me while I--

11:08 AM  

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