Math was not my favourite subject in high school, but I was proficient with the material presented. Decades later a modicum of what I learned is hardwired for my general use, but don’t ask me to explain an advanced concept and please save me from anything that has to do with calculating probabilities.
One formula that has stuck with me is d = rt or distance (d) equals the rate of travel (r) multiplied by time (t). And while familiarity with the relationship between these three factors comes in handy for planning, lately I’ve been thinking about the formula’s applicability in a different way.
Because I think the distance we travel daily contributes to the feeling we have that life is hurtling by us at breakneck speeds.
On days when I teach, for example, the 25 kilometre journey to SFU’s Burnaby campus takes me about thirty minutes each way if traffic is flowing smoothly. That’s nothing compared to those who may commute in to Vancouver from the Fraser Valley or drive down each day from Squamish or ferry over from the Sunshine Coast.
Compare that to the daily distance my Grandmothers would have travelled as young women, my paternal Grandmother in rural Lebanon and my maternal Grandmother in rural Jamaica. Until they married, their circle of travel likely extended no further than 10 kilometres, by foot, over the course of a day.
We have extended the distances we travel dramatically and not just for essentials. How many consider a drive to the Bellis Fair Mall, a three-hour roundtrip from the Lower Mainland depending on border waits, a simple excursion? Or consider how cavalier we have become about booking vacations requiring hours if not days of travel?
So if the distances we traverse have become more extensive, and if you accept that our time is fixed (not just in the sense of 24 hours a day, but in the finite sense of our mortality), it would seem that the factor which has changed the most with regard to our day-to-day is r, the rate.
And that may help explain why it feels like we are living at a faster and faster rate, one which increases with each passing year.
Is it any surprise then, as we’re preparing to celebrate the arrival of the new year, that many of us wonder what happened to the old one? How is it that we are celebrating graduations when it seems like just yesterday we were celebrating the births of the children in our families?
And nothing drives home the finite nature of time as much as the loss of those around us, whether people we’ve known and loved, young and old, or strangers from far away whose images fill the news.
That’s why it’s vital to recognize, sooner rather than later, in our instantaneous 140-character world, that we do not have another now.
And unless we take control of the speed of our life, it will pass by in a blur.