We have things to learn from nature, and often the simplest. How to find peace in a world impoverished by lack of it, is one. The blue heron, finished fishing, unfolds his wide wings with unchanging pace and cadence. He gathers air under them, pulls himself to height, lifts his gangly body to graceful flight. He knows peace, because he does not hurry, dart or flutter, moves slowly, no worry, waste, or clutter. He is unhurried; we can be too.
On a serious note, Einstein was also an observer of nature. His “thought experiments,” or ways of explaining things he imagined, were based in real life. He thought a lot about time, and how it shifts “relative” to what does not shift, namely the speed of light.
Simply speaking, Einstein made a shocking deduction about time, to resolve a major contradiction. Newton described speed as relative, changing based on how fast we move compared to things around us. Maxwell proved the speed of light – 186,000 miles per second – never changes, no matter how fast we move relative to it. So, how can that be?
If you think about the problem, you may be able to come to the same conclusion Einstein did. If Newton was right about how we look at things, that anything travelling the same direction and speed seems not moving, but Maxwell was also right – that the speed of light never changes relative to us, what gives? How can that be? The only answer is – time must give.
What Einstein deducted is that time slows. It is a variable that changes as we approach the speed of light. In his 1905 paper, he wrote: “No matter how fast you are moving, the speed of light will always be the same. This means that if you are moving close to the speed of light, time will appear to slow down for you.”
Einstein called this “time dilation.” The faster you move through space, the slower you move through time. The key is this: We will not moving at the speed of light, not in this life, but time is not absolute, nor are our perceptions of time.
So, jump rails with me, and ask yourself – in your own life – if you have not experienced something similar, a bit of time’s relativity, changes in peace and the pace of time’s passage based on your choices – aiming to use it well, or just letting go the reins.
When you are most at peace, doing what you choose, in a place you choose, deliberately slowing yourself to be in the “flow” – like that heroin – do you not feel more control over time?
When you are stressed, moving faster, multitasking, not consciously consuming the time you have, do you not feel less control? Do you not feel the accelerating pace of life – and want to stop it? Maybe you can.
Everyone’s life is different, but – as life’s pace accelerates – an argument exists for taking back the reins, “whoa!” to the horses, slowing time with our choices, being “in the moment,” taking cues from nature.
The point is, this can be done, despite the all-consuming pressure not to, 24-hour news, social media, political recriminations, cross-allegations, inducements to stress, hype, panic, and media-driven hysteria.
The laws of physics still apply, and always will. Streams still flow at the rate they have, wind blows hot and cold, a billion flakes remake a mountain, and clouds gather in mighty towers, little puffs, mare’s tails, and mini-nebulas. No sunset is ever the same, no sunrise ever wasted on your eyes.
We have the power to assert some control over time, whether it really slows or we just reassert control over what we do with it. Key is that we resolve not to waste what we are given, and time is a big one.
We have things to learn from nature, and often the simplest – how to ignore what deserves ignoring, appreciate what is worth our time, and when work is done, unfolding our wings with measured cadence, turning to the sky with peace, doing like that heron, rising at our own pace, turning gangly to grace. The heron is unhurried, by disposition and choice; we can be too. That is how we slow time.
Robert Charles is a former Assistant Secretary of State under Colin Powell, former Reagan and Bush 41 White House staffer, attorney, and naval intelligence officer (USNR). He wrote “Narcotics and Terrorism” (2003), “Eagles and Evergreens” (2018), and is National Spokesman2 for AMAC.