As we are about to enter the second year of the second decade of the 21st century (where did the FIRST one go????), it is good to get a little perspective. For example, will radio DJs now exhort us to listen to the hits of the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, and the “00s?” How will they say it? The “Zeroes?” These are the kinds of things I wonder about.

During one of those important decades, the 1970s, there was a famous “Counterclockwise” study done by social-psychologist Ellen Langer. In this study, Langer and her team created a historically accurate physical environment that was typical of the year 1959, and then got a group of elderly men to live in this controlled environment—exactly as if it was really 1959.

For a whole week, these men cooked, ate, slept, and lived in 1959, listening to 1959 music, using 1959 utensils and technology, and discussing the 1959 issues of the day.
In the study, Langer also had a different control group of men—who spent a week together only reminiscing about 1959, but not acting as if it really was that time.

This control group had a very lovely time together, but that was about it.

But—and this is truly amazing—the group of guys who put themselves into a 1959 state of mind experienced profound changes. Their memory, physical flexibility, dexterity, vision, hearing, and general well-being all improved dramatically.

Most important, after just one week of living as if they were younger, Langer’s Old Fellas showed improvements in finger length!

Yes!!! Shriveled arthritic fingers got substantially LONGER—as they released and embraced a younger, 1959 perspective.

By the way, this story about Langer’s Longer Fingers is soon to be a major motion picture starring Jennifer Aniston. (This is not a joke).

Well, if arthritis can be un-bent, then this “living as-if” technique holds tremendous—albeit complicated—promise for wrinkles in 2012.

Most everyone (in the Western world, at least) has surely heard by now that to live our best life, we should Be Here Now, be in the Power of Now, try to Live in the Now, and not worry about the past or the future. This just makes good sense, if you think about it.

The thing is, there really is no NOW.

I can prove it. Right now, take a moment to try to measure the RIGHT-NOW-THIS-VERY-SECOND moment you are currently experiencing. The instant you try to capture it—let’s say by looking at your watch—that moment has already vanished into the past. No matter how hard you try to catch the Now—breaking it down into smaller and smaller increments all the way down to nanoseconds—it has already passed by the time you try to grab it.

So I think we might need to have a serious conversation with Eckhart Tolle.

Because there really is no present, only the past and the future merging.

There is only trying to remember the kind of September when life was slow and oh so mellow (70s)—or worrying about whether I will see you in September or lose you to a summer love (60s).

Just smaller and smaller moments of future-then-past, future-then-past, future-then-past. And even those don’t really exist.

Because even though it seems like time is moving, what we’re really experiencing is one thing vanishing and another appearing. Our genius brains effortlessly connect these vanishing and appearing acts together, making us think and feel that time is passing.

But it’s just a brain trick.

Most of us have experienced the unique feeling that time has passed either too quickly or too slowly. For example, when I sit down to write, I struggle for awhile, but once the words begin to flow I lose all sense of time. Hours can go by, and it can seem like minutes. That happens all the time when we’re in The Zone, expressing our creativity, or loving what we’re doing.

On the other hand, time goes waaaaayyyy too slowly when I’m at the Dentist’s Office.

Human language is the main source of our feeling that time is marching forward in a linear way.

You’ve probably heard that in this modern world, we are mostly Human Doings instead of Human Beings. We say, “Yesterday I did this, tomorrow I’ll do that.”

With our human language, we’ve created:
the dreaded 40- (or 80-) hour work week,
the stingy 2-week vacation,
the rambunctious 5-minute speed date,
the 60-second microwave Pop-Tart,
and the “When I’m 64” Pop-Song.
As we’ve evolved and gotten all industrialized, we have lost our own inner sense of time, and replaced it with clock and calendar time.

The indigenous Aborigines in Australia, on the other hand, still experience time based on the natural rhythms of nature. Their time is more circular instead of linear. Their days are marked in “sleeps”.

For them, one hour might be measured by how long it takes to roast a Witchety Grub in the hot sand—a big, plump, yummy wormy morsel that I happen to have personally sampled. (I call this the “Witchetying Hour”). And if they don’t feel the need to roast the grub worm first, but instead just pop it—still wiggling—into their mouths, then that’s a Witchety Second.

In other words, the Aborigines have retained their essential sense of how time feels.

But really, their feeling time doesn’t exist any more than our clock time does.
Because actually, we live in Eternity.

We live in a river of time in which the source of the river (our past) and its final destination ahead of us (our future) exist simultaneously. That means that the events that have already happened must still be around, and events in the future must exist just beyond the river bend. Physicist Fred Alan Wolf puts it beautifully: “When we say time passes, we really mean that we pass. Time is an experience in itself that is, paradoxically, timeless.”

Or another way of putting it: “Diamonds are forever.”

This river of eternity that we live in can flow both ways. Most of us assume that every event that we can remember has already happened. And if we were asked why we don’t remember events from our future, we’d probably answer: “Duh, because they haven’t happened yet.”

But what if memory, like the river, goes both ways—and you can remember the future just as easily as you can recall the past? There are plenty of psychics on the Upper West Side of New York City who remember the future all the time, and would totally agree with me on this.

Animals, by the way, probably have absolutely no experience of time passing. They don’t have language—words that pin them to the past or future— and they probably “think” with just pictures. Animals just Are.

They are Animals Being.

Dr. Fred Alan Wolf says that probably the biggest thing that limits all of us in our time-traveling access to the future and the past is our illusion that we are each a separate, singular entity, an ego, or an “I,” living in a world of time and space.

A Human Doing.

Unlike animals, it’s our human Doing-ness that pins our mind in time rather than timelessness.

And that brings us back to Ellen Langer’s Finger-Growers, who were authentic Time Travelers. They didn’t have to GO anywhere to get somewhere else.

By the way, I think the Beatles were on to something timeless and quantum-y
(and maybe something drug-y) when they wrote one of my favorite songs from the 60s:

“Eight days a week, I lo-o-o-o-ove you (ba-dup)
Eight days a week, it’s not enough to show I care.”
(Human Being.)

Then there was Prince, in the 90s, who famously sang:
“Act your age, not your shoe size, mama.”
(Human Doing. Definitely.)

So, Mr. Dee-Jay and the rest of us, as we move through the “10s” (or the “Teens”?), here’s my suggestion: Don’t put Time in a Bottle.

Instead, pull a Long-Finger.

Ask yourself, “What if we didn’t know how old we are?”
Wouldn’t that change the way you live your life?

Keep reminding yourself that you’re not a Doing but a Being, and that you’re connected with everything, living in timelessness.

And try acting the age you feel, not the age you are.
Since you really, truly aren’t that age anyway.

It will probably do more to keep the spring in your step, the song in your heart, and the length in your toes than any other single thing you ever do.

Old is the new young!

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