Let’s talk about relativity.

For every observer, things seem slightly different. From a physics point of view, you do not occupy the same location in space as anyone else, and you might be moving at different velocities, and so on.

This is why using astrology for anything other than entertainment seems silly to me. Constellations don’t physically exist. A group of stars that from the Earth seem to form the shape of a bull could in reality be millions of light years apart and share no relationship with each other whatsoever. They only form the shape of a bull from where we’re looking.

If I were the citizen of a third world nation, it probably wouldn’t piss me off when someone insisted on driving slow in the left lane of the freeway. There might not be a freeway. And in any case I wouldn’t be in a hurry to get to the golf course.

I’ve written blogs in the past about people who refuse to leave a one-stall buffer when they join you in the bathroom. If I were homeless, I probably wouldn’t worry about something so insignificant.

But something that seems insignificant to me could be important to you. Something that hurts you might not faze me.

Experience is relative.

My grandparents endured the Great Depression and for most of their lives didn’t have a lot of money. I remember my grandmother would rush me off the phone when we were talking long distance…even after rates had dropped to seven cents a minute. She couldn’t get her mind around the idea that a long distance phone call could be cheap.

I don’t even think in terms of distance when I make a phone call. If it’s overseas I have to buy a calling card, sure, but the cost to me seems negligible. Six cents a minute to the UK? Whatevs.

Recently I’ve had some bigger things in my life to think about, and the minutiae that I sometimes obsess over sort of disappeared from my radar.

Comfort affords you the luxury to worry about things which in reality are pretty insignificant. And yet who can judge the significance of anything when it concerns someone else?

You look at a famous actress, an NFL star quarterback, a person born into money. You might wonder, What do these people have to worry about? They seem to have everything they could ever want.

But whatever they perceive their problems to be, to them they are difficult. The most intense emotional pain you’ve ever felt in your life is all you know. How can you compare it to someone else’s?

You can’t. Not really.

But we often think we can. We make judgments about each other, we assume we know how someone else feels, what they are thinking.

Right now I’m 37,000 feet above the earth, cruising along at a ground speed of 550 mph or so.

Did you know that time for me is passing at a different rate than it is for you? Really, it is. This is an outcome of the relationship between space and time.

Imagine you’re on a road trip. There are two primary directional types you can travel: north-south or east-west. If you’re traveling northeast, it means you are going a little bit north and a little bit east. The more north you go, the less east you can go.

Time and space are like that. When you move through space, you take away from your movement through time. So the faster you travel, the slower time passes for you.

Cool, huh?

It’s useful to remember that observations are relative.

We all see things just a little bit differently.

And would we have it any other way?

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RICHARD COX is the author of The Boys of Summer, Thomas World, The God Particle, and Rift. He can be reached on Facebook or at his personal web site, www.richardcox.net.

38 responses to “Does Time Really Fly When You’re Having Fun? A Bit of Relativity in Your Daily Life”

  1. Gloria says:

    I linked to you in my recent post and, upon reviewing my posting and validating my links, I stumbled over here and found this. Which is fascinating. It’s three years old. I didn’t even know you three years ago. How have things changed for you in that time? How is life different? What have you learned? How is this still relative to you?

    Also, I think it’s all interesting. This is the type of conversation I could picture having over a few beers or a rippling bong hit. Not that it’s not fascinating in its own right – it just strikes me as that kind of conversation.

    I also think the stuff about each person’s experience being their own and how none of us can share it is especially apropos to me right now, I just can’t say why.

    Very interesting.

    • Richard Cox says:

      You did know me three years old, you just don’t remember. And you were playing a character on MySpace. See how that works? It’s all relative.

      Life is quite different from when I wrote this post, but the ideas are more relevant than ever. I wrote a whole novel about them. And the writing of the novel influenced my real life in unforeseen ways.

      Everything influences everything, right?

      Time to take another hit?

  2. dwoz says:

    I’m not going to go out on a limb with this, yet, but I think you may have come up with the answer to why drummers are always late.

    • Gloria says:

      it’s all relative, dwoz

      • Richard Cox says:

        Late to the show? Or they can’t keep time while playing?

        What about one-armed drummers?

        • dwoz says:

          one armed drummers are like one-armed bandits. It’s a game of chance.

        • anytime anyone brings up one armed drummers I’m compelled to bring up the fact that my dad saw Def Leppard when their drummer was two armed.

          They were opening for Bon Scott era AC/DC though, which I find more interesting/awesome.

          I read a massive feature in a rock magazine about Rick Allen. I don’t get all the Def Lep hysteria* but the story about him learning how to drum again was pretty amazing. I have a lot of respect for him.

          *this is a pun.

        • Gloria says:

          When I lived in Dallas in the summer of ’95, there was a radio station that had a segment called “One Arm or Two?” during morning drive time. They would play a Def Leppard song and you’d have to call in and tell whether Rick Allen had one arm or two arms when the song was recorded. You could win prizes if you were right. I always thought that was evil genius.

        • that is the best/coolest radio phone in thing I have ever heard!

        • Richard Cox says:

          That’s awesome. I could easily win a contest like that. I did one of those FB “guess this song” quizzes for DL and I answered faster than 99% of responders. Haha.

        • Richard Cox says:

          A little known bit of DL trivia is their producer, Mutt Lange, was perfecting his guitar and vocal sequencing production techniques during the recording of Pyromania. Rick Allen, back in the days of two arms, wasn’t able to drum precisely enough to keep the proper time with this type of production. So Mutt recorded Rick’s drum sounds and made samples and then applied them to a drum sequencer. Which means the drums on Pyromania were not really played by him. Even before he lost his arm he was already replaced by a drum machine. UF.

        • Zara Potts says:

          What does UF stand for?

        • Richard Cox says:


          It’s the short form of saying UFFJ, which means UnFortunate For Johnny. Johnny being anyone on whom misfortune has befallen.

        • Zara Potts says:

          Poor Johnny.

  3. Zara Potts says:

    This is so weird.
    I have just been talking about this precise thing on the phone to a friend.
    And now, it’s back on the boards after three years?
    What are the chances? Something spooky is going on here.

    • Richard Cox says:

      Well, you are in the future, ZaraPotts. You probably knew this was going to happen.

      • Zara Potts says:

        Oh that’s right, I did. I just forgot. By the way – you will have something nice happen at around 6.15pm.

        • This isn’t one of those chain things where if he links this post to 15 friends his crush will realise she likes him is it?

        • Gloria says:

          And if he doesn’t link this post to 15 of his friends, it’ll be like the butterfly effect and a kitten in China will die and the oil leaking into the Gulf will retroactively become all of his fault and responsibility.

          Don’t break the chain, Richard.

        • somebody has to take the flack for BP.

          I read somewhere apparently it’s *our* fault because the B stands for British, and the twat in charge is British.

          I can only apologize…

        • Gloria says:

          I should also point out that Zara is commenting from the future. So 6:15 PM on Monday, July 19th has already happened for her, so she knows what she’s talking about.

          Time is, indeed, relative.

        • Zara Potts says:

          I am in the future! I do know what I am talking about!
          6.15pm. It’s good.

        • Richard Cox says:

          Well I guess I better email this post to all my friends. Or else 6:15 PM will never come around for me.

          And that’s exactly one hour away. Better get crackin’. Kraken. Whatever.

        • Gloria says:

          It’s 3 hours away, Richard.

          Wait, Zara, did you mean 6:15 PM Central Time? Or did you mean Pacific? Mountain? There are too many options! Or is something awesome going to happen at 6:15 PM in every time zone? Oooh! Can we let that one be the truth?

        • Zara Potts says:

          6.15pm Texas/Tulsa Time.

          4.15pm Everybody else.

        • Zara Potts says:

          See, Richrob? What did I tell you??

        • Richard Cox says:

          You were spot on! What a miracle it is for you to live in the future. I really need some stock tips, as well. If that’s all right??

        • Zara Potts says:

          Sure, I can do that.
          What about horse races? I can see who comes in first and you could make a killing…
          This is perfect! They’ll never find us out!

        • Gloria says:

          Oh. My. God.

          That’s the best thing I’ve ever seen in my life. I want that doll so bad. I would put it in between my Barbarella action figure and my giant, plastic, wind-up vagina (the little legs move when you wind it up.)

        • Tawni says:

          @Gloria: I think I need to see a picture of you holding your giant, plastic, wind-up vagina. Kissing it, even. Does it have hair?

          P.S. Thinking too much gives you wrinkles. Let’s bake some cookies for the boys!

  4. Where does the flux capacitor fit into all of this..?

    • Gloria says:

      No, wait! Doc. Doc. The-the-the bruise – the bruise on your head. I know how that happened! You told me the whole story. You were standing on your toilet, and you were hanging a clock, and you fell, and you hit your head on the sink. And that’s when you came up with the idea for the Flux Capacitor… ~Marty McFly

  5. Simon Smithson says:

    Or of course there’s the Catch-22 theory on relative time…

    • Gloria says:

      Great. Thanks, Simon. I’ll now spend all day researching Catch-22 (which, like so many books, I’ve always meant to read.)

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