Walking is… time

This’ll blow your socks off: time passes more slowly for your feet than it does for your head!

I read this recently in Carlo Rovelli’s timely new book, The Order of Time: “If our feet adhere to the pavement, it is because our whole body inclines naturally to where time runs more slowly – and time passes more slowly for your feet than it does for your head.”

If I’ve understood him right (and correct me if not as I’m no physicist!), in Rovelli’s world of post-Einstein quantum theory, time is relative (every point in space has its own time) and a mass like the Earth “slows down time around itself” so that, however tiny the difference, someone living at sea level ages more slowly than someone living at the top of a mountain. (This has even been tested with precision timepieces!) Hence time for our feet passes more slowly than for our heads.

I wonder if this is why Street Wisdom is drawn to walking as a form of knowing and problem solving?:

Firstly, it’s no surprise that our heads experience time more quickly than our feet. Our clever brains are always dashing around with their thoughts, aren’t they? Our feet intuitively know that slow is where we grow.

Secondly, given our feet effectively have less time than our heads, I don’t think it’s a quantum leap to say our feet are younger, fresher, more innocent than our clever old, seen-it-all-before brains. Beginners’ mind starts with the sole.

Thirdly, I think the relative slowness of time at our feet is why Street Wisdom trusts walking so much as a practice. It means our feet are our compass (they can always find our North): we just need to let them do the walking.

Fourthly: in everyday language we say “time passes” but at a quantum level time doesn’t actually pass because it’s not linear. Instead, all time just “is”, past, present and future; there is an infinity of events happening all at once. This might even explain some of the wonderful, strangely meaningful coincidences that occur for people on Street Wisdoms.

Finally, quantum theory aside, “time passes” is a lovely everyday phrase for us. It’s as if – with our everyday hat on – time is just like us, a passerby. A fellow walker! And what if time doesn’t just pass by… what if it stays and walks alongside with us? Could Street Wisdom help us befriend our relationship with time?

by Philip Cowell

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