Wee Scoops

Measure for Measure

What shape is time when it is inside your mind, and how do your memories fit in it?

Don’t blame me for this one. Someone asked.

First of all, what shape is time to begin with? Personally I go for it being a one-sided loop. From everlasting to everlasting, and all that. And a big bang. Maybe that should have come first.

I like to think of time as a limited dimension. It’s like we are monopoly pieces (I am the hat) and we are going around our temporal board so we are in time. But from the perspective of the player we can see the eternal possibilities, the round and round. But, we are caught in the rat race.

So, inside my mind, that is what time is like: there’s a notional beginning BANG! There’s a notional end BANG! and together these make up the space-time continuum on which I am living. God, however, is everlasting to everlasting so can jump about the squares on the monopoly board as he sees fit. Actually he’s not generally on it. More transcendant, apart from during the incarnation.

So, my memories, I guess 1973 was “Go!” and the 70s were the brown and turquoise properties, the 80s are the burgundy and orange, the 90s are the red and the yellow, and the noughties are the green and dark blue. And then as 2010 hit, I was back around the corner (Hey, Life begins at 37!) for another Go! at it.

Memories in my brain are in a kind of association soup. If anyone starts with an anecdote, all my relevant memories start to bubble to the surface and I can then weed out the gems for a game of anecdote trumps.

One annoying thing about memories is how the real memories can be hijacked my memories of photographs or the actual photographs – and how all I can remember about an event is the bit that was photographed.

So saying, my memory is ridiculously good. Encyclopaedic, even.

I used to think of my memory system of being in Mac like folders, from when I had a Mac Classic II back in the dark ages. You could keep folders within folders. However, memories can have multiple triggers, so I reckon the internet is a better model for a memory structure. Someone throws me a memory trigger and I internally google memories.

So, what’s the relationship between my internal construction of time and my memories?

Some years and dates are kept of a time line and I remember it in a kind of linear way. For example I can remember 1997 for gazillions of reasons: trip to India, Diana and Mother Theresa died, I worked in a couple of random places and so on.

Other things are not on a timeline, probably because I have passed Go! on them before. For example there will be a cafe or a street or a place and layer upon layer of memories are associated with that place. It’s like zillions of translucent images going down and down.

OK. That’s half an hour of my thoughts on this topic.


And to the person who asked – this is my gift to you. You have to keep it FOR EVER.

Actually, I’ve just thought of the answer.

It’s all to do with how we access information. When I used a mac, my memories were kept in mac folders. Now I am internettastic, I use an internal google function. At one point I used to visualise a filing cabinet in my brain. And now I am a wife and mother, I use a boiling of soup as an image for memory storage…

So, where does the person access their info? That is how they will construct their memory retrieval system. I suggest that time will be a timeline with gaps. Or a Monopoly board.



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12 thoughts on “What shape is time when it is inside your mind, and how do your memories fit in it?

  1. My head hurts…

  2. Lorraine on said:

    Interesting topic Sandra. I use ‘Timeline Therapy’ to help clients overcome negative emotions and blocks – it is probably the most useful tool that I have for quick, painless removal of such emotional pain. Over the years I’ve heard many different descriptions of one’s timeline (where memories are stored) from an aeroplane runway right down to a daisy. Anything that allows you to visualise time in a meaningful way for you will also allow you to manipulate the way you have ‘coded’ memories and experiences in the past, and help you to set real goals in your future.
    I particularly like your Monopoly analogy, especially since you do actually pass Go! and head round again. What correlation, if any, do you have between first time round and now I wonder?….

    • Hey Lorraine, thanks for the comment. I was thinking that the second time around for me could be watching my kids going round for the first time. For lots of people it may be a new or second time round relationship. I feel blessed to feel that I have been round.

  3. I think that question is stupendous, what shape is time? Your descriptions of memory retrieval are very vivid, I used to think of it as filing cabinets too when I had control over the retrieval of memories. You treat these type of subjects so beautifully.

  4. civroc on said:

    Hmmm. What shape is time? Well, putting my old physicist hat on, I’d have to point out that while space and time are connected, space isn’t time and time isn’t space, so trying to give spatial characteristics to a temporal thing is fundamentally flawed. But having said that, if you can think of 3D space as a 2D disc, then I think of 4D Space-time as a globe, with the “big bang” being the South pole, and the “big crunch” (now disputed by physicists, but taught as ‘fact’ when I was a student) being the North pole.

    BUT. Your question was not what shape is time, but rather what shape is it ‘insde your mind’, which is somewhat different. In my mind, time appears to be accelerating. My rationalisation of this is as follows: the year 1980 was 1/10th of my life so it was perceived as being a long period of time. 1990 was only 1/20th of my life so seemed to pass by twice as fast. 2010, of course, was 1/40th of my life and whooshed past. These days I’m having a hard ‘time’ just keeping up with passing events, and they’re continually getting faster. This is why retired people frequently complain of having too much to do to fit extra things in – time is passing so fast for them!

    As for memories, I heard a fasinating interview with a psychologist a few weeks ago who specialises in consciousness. She always asks people “Are you conscious?” and points out that once the question has been asked, people do seem to be conscious, but that generally we are not, and are merely travelling through life putting memories in folders, much like you describe. When asked a question like ‘what did you do this morning?’ we actually appear to reconstruct a timeline of events out fo those memories, rather than storing the memories as a timeline in the first place. Which is why people ‘forget’ recent stuff, they never stored it in the first place and end up with a blank in the timleline they are trying to reconstruct. This also explains why witness statements generally have good observations, but widely diverge in sequence and timings – in general we retain individual ‘packets’ of memory but without the actual timeline. The difference comes when we are delibirately trying to remember a timeline – in that instance we can do it easily, or if we are doing something like a road trip – when the sequence of events can be associated with another sequence (geographical places), or eqivalent.

    Blimey. Didn’t mean to write that much… Oh well.

    • Cheers Civroc – I agree with the fraction of life theory as to why Christmas takes FOREVER to come when you are 7, but whips round and smacks you in the face with alarming regularity when you are me…

  5. Wow. I loved this!
    In Monopoly, I am the iron. Unless they ever include a mower in the game.
    I think of time, as in the comment above, as going too fast. And I’ve read that in the end, the days would be shortened or else we would not survive . . . 😉

    • Hi there Katharine 🙂
      I love the Monopoly pieces. Maybe I should blog on them…
      Thanks for stopping by.
      I was recently on your blog checking out the boil-an-egg instructions again for Easter. I am surprised I hadn’t made boiled eggs since last year though…

      • Ho, I noticed someone searched that topic lately. Never dreamed it was you! You have the instructions right on your sight, don’t you? Hmm! Oh well, please stop by any time you want! 🙂

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