Objective time in autobiographical writing


4 years old and watching the sun dial at the summer house, 1951.

One interesting aspect of writing autobiography / memoir — one that I haven’t thought much about before — is the difference between objective (measurable) time and subjective (experienced) time.

The archive unfailingly invites me to think in terms of objective time. Almost all my letters and diary entries are dated, and the calendars from the last 45 years give me a detailed chronological framework for the account. So from the point of view of objective measurable time, my life has developed over well-identifiable years, months, weeks, days, and sometimes even hours. All important events can be put on a time graph.

I say time graph, not timeline, because I don’t visualize time linearly. For me, time is ondulating, on all scales. On the largest scale, my life graph moves upwards from 1946, peaking in 2000. On the scale of decades, it peaks in 1950, 1960, 1970 etc. On an annual scale it peaks at New Year’s Eve. And so on and so forth. It’s ondulations all the way down to the microseconds.

Until today, Tuesday 19 February 2016, I’ve experienced 3605 weekends, and seen night turn into day 25.238 times. In even higher resolution, I have lived some 605.700 hours (36,3 million minutes). That’s more than two billion heart beats.

If I’m lucky I’ll have another 300-400 million heartbeats left to finish this project.

(I’ll get back to subjective time in a later post.)

The calculation of number of weeks, days and seconds (heartbeats) was made by the help of timeanddate.com.