Time passes so fast that our past becomes a hazy blur. But have you ever wondered how time might appear when viewed through a different lens?
If you’re old enough to remember VCRs, you’ll know those clunky machines that brought our favorite Blockbuster movies to life on VHS tapes. Yeah, I know, I’m showing my age…
Anyway, those machines had a fast-forward button. Hit it, and the movie would whiz by on the screen. A two-hour film would zip through in just a few minutes.
Sometimes, I feel like that’s exactly how life goes. When I’m alone with my thoughts, gazing at the sky, I can’t help but think about that fast-forward button.
Imagine if someone was watching us through a lens right now and pressed that button. Our lives would look like those mesmerizing time-lapse videos of plants growing. Starting as a seed, sprouting, grappling with the elements, and eventually withering away. All captured in a mere minute.
In a similar way, our lives would be condensed into tiny video clips, most of which would be indistinguishable from one another.
How different would human life look in a time-lapse video?
I don’t think it would vary much from person to person, at least in America.
However, it all depends on the zoom level of our lens. If you zoom out too far from Earth, you wouldn’t notice any change. You’d just see Earth’s atmosphere transforming.
But zoom in a little more, and humans would all resemble bacteria scurrying about. It would be like observing cars on highways or people strolling on sidewalks.
Zoom in even closer, and you’ll see the same routines repeated day after day. These mundane activities would consume a huge chunk of every person’s day:
Speaking of sitting, there would be different types of “sitting” in our footage, like:
- A couch potato binge-watching TV all day long
- Sitting outside on a rocking chair, soaking up nature
- Sitting in an office, tackling engineering problems, or raking in millions of dollars
The point is, the activity during sitting doesn’t matter. When you press the fast-forward button, the footage looks the same.
How would human dreams, beliefs, and passions appear in the footage?
When you fast forward through a movie, everything becomes a blur, and life is kind of the same. If you take a step back and look at the big picture, the footage of our lives wouldn’t capture any of our individual dreams, beliefs, or passions. Harsh, I know.
But there are exceptions. Think about Steve Jobs and his impact on Apple. Thanks to him, most people now spend a good chunk of their day glued to their phones. But, interestingly enough, you wouldn’t trace that back to him if you watched the footage without audio or context. Everything in the footage looks the same!
It’s like my “sitting” example. Whether it’s Steve Jobs brainstorming iPhone development or a local banker assisting customers, it’d look no different. Wild, huh?
Even if Steve Jobs never founded Apple, people would still be fixated on their phones. It just would’ve happened 5 to 10 years later.
So, does it really matter in the grand scheme of things? If you keep pressing the fast-forward button, individual accomplishments vanish, and humanity morphs into one massive evolving entity. What’s meant to happen for humanity will happen, regardless of individual efforts. It’s as if humanity has its own momentum when it comes to technological advances.
Now, let’s fast forward to the distant future. The names of our favorite athletes, scientists, and entertainers will be long forgotten. Colonizing Mars and curing cancer won’t be discussed, just like how you don’t think about where our power and water come from today. It’s just something that exists, thanks to the collective effort of millions of people.
Of course, I’m assuming we continue to advance as a species and don’t get wiped out by a natural disaster (fingers crossed!).
In the end, it’s a reminder to savor the present moment and not take ourselves too seriously. Leaving behind a legacy is a futile effort.
What’s the point of comparing life to a VCR fast-forward button?
As you grow older, time seems to fly by faster and faster. It’s like life is one big blur!
But let’s do a little thought experiment to show why living in the present is so important. Many people like to plan out their lives, decade by decade, with a clear idea of how each stage will unfold.
Now, imagine someone hits the fast-forward button and transports you three decades into the future. You’re handed a report card that shows where you stand in life. You might feel happy or sad depending on whether you achieved your goals or not.
However, for the most part, you wouldn’t be surprised by what you see. You would have landed where you had planned to be, because that’s just how life works. By taking a good look at your life right now, you can make a pretty accurate prediction of how it’ll turn out.
You imagine different scenarios, both good and bad, and see which one is most likely given your personality. So, what’s meant to unfold will. The point is, you should focus on what you want in life, not what others want for you because life will fly by regardless.
As the saying goes, “life is about the journey, not the destination.” You don’t want to live with regrets, so make the most of each moment and enjoy the ride.
Watching life with the fast-forward button pressed
Take a moment to think about your past. You can recall a whole bunch of memories, both good and bad. But try to piece those memories together to form a clear, vivid picture. It’s tough, isn’t it? No matter how hard you try, the memories remain a big blur.
This blur is like pressing the fast-forward button on a VCR. When you look back 30 years from now, you’ll have more of these blurs to reflect on.
That’s why it’s essential to chase your dreams because you genuinely want to. If you despise every minute of what you’re doing, what’s the point?
Because, in the future, all of the following will look the same on our VCR – they’ll become a big blur:
- Trillions of dollars in your bank account
- Appearing on a 30-foot screen (like a movie star on the theatre screen)
- Millions of followers and fans who hang on your every move
- An endless list of credentials
- The number of homes and cars you own
Important Note: I get that sometimes you need to do things you don’t enjoy to make a living. Working a job you don’t like from 8 to 5 to pay the bills is an example of this.
However, there’s a point when you’re only doing things to fulfill your insecurities, and that’s when things become a slippery slope.
For instance, sacrificing your health to go from having ten million in the bank to one hundred million. The only goal is to add an extra zero to your bank account and impress people you don’t even like. It’s crazy!
What happens at the end of our lives using the VCR fast-forward thought experiment?
You know how looking back on your past can be like trying to watch a blurry movie? No matter how hard you try, it’s tough to fit all those memory puzzle pieces together.
So, here’s a little reminder for you: focus on doing what sparks joy in your heart right now. Live the life you want to live. And remember, those who are decades older than you aren’t aliens – they’re just like you!
They’ve got the same thoughts and dreams, but they’re now only living in aging bodies. Before you know it, you’ll be in their shoes, with your past all fuzzy in your mind.
Humans are but a blip in Earth’s timeline
Let’s kick our VCR thought experiment up a notch! Like I’ve said before, we humans are just a teeny, tiny speck in the grand timeline of the cosmos.
But let’s get playful and imagine a colossal being – one who has lived for over a billion years – watching over us. If the universe had eyes, this titan would be it!
In this thought experiment, we’d be even less significant to this giant than a mayfly is to us. Mayflies live for just one day, transforming from egg to adult in the blink of an eye. That’s how fast time flies for them on Earth. And guess what? The giant would think the same thing about us!
We’d be the ones on fast-forward. We’re born, grow from a child to an adult, age, and eventually say goodbye.
The key here is perspective. It’s essential to step back and appreciate the big picture – it’ll give you a fresh outlook on life!
I love this thought exercise – it’s a great reminder of how quickly time passes!
Not only is it humbling, but it also gives you a fresh perspective on how to lead a fulfilling life. In just ten years, your life will have fast-forwarded a whole decade, and most of what you experience during that time will become a big blur, whether you like it or not.
That’s why the present moment is so crucial – it’s the only true reality you have. You should focus on living in the present and setting goals that bring you joy.
In the end, the fast-forward button doesn’t discriminate – we’re all affected by the passage of time. It’s like there’s a massive room somewhere filled with endless VHS tapes. And, for the most part, the footage on each tape will look almost identical…
Do you ever think about how time passes so fast? How do you try to live in the present with all your daily responsibilities?
Featured Image Photo Credit: Rod Long (image cropped)
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Koosha started Engineer Calcs in 2020 to help people better understand the engineering and construction industry, and to discuss various science and engineering-related topics to make people think. He has been working in the engineering and tech industry in California for over 15 years now and is a licensed professional electrical engineer, and also has various entrepreneurial pursuits.
Koosha has an extensive background in the design and specification of electrical systems with areas of expertise including power generation, transmission, distribution, instrumentation and controls, and water distribution and pumping as well as alternative energy (wind, solar, geothermal, and storage).
Koosha is most interested in engineering innovations, the cosmos, our history and future, sports, and fitness.