As a runner and cyclist and hiker, I think about time a lot. I am forever doing math, calculating times to destination or distance, estimating how long I’ll be away from home for my wife, etc. But I also torture myself with time a bit. I judge myself based on times, or I get discouraged by how long efforts are taking. Most of this is misguided thinking.
Enter Carlo Rovelli and a small book called The Order of Time.
Rovelli is a theoretical physicist whose work is focused on loop quantum gravity. Don’t worry. I don’t really know what that is either. For people like you and me, Rovelli’s best trick is taking a complicated subject, e.g. the nature of time, and moving our simple understanding forward in ways that are meaningful.
Once you open yourself to the infinitude of time, you realize how meaningless most of what you do and think is, and that’s freeing, at least for me. It helps me get back to the moment I’m living in, the feeling of being alive. It also helps me draw closer to moments and people from my past, who were just here in the grand scheme.
The book is broken up into short chapters, which makes digesting each point easier. I read them one-at-a-time, went away, thought a bit, and then took on the next one. The prose is economical, too. He doesn’t allow tangents to distract from the main points. I’m recommending this book because I walked away with a deeper sense of the way I relate to my life and its inexorable passage.
My adventures will be over in a blink. This is true in the geological sense, but also in the experiential sense, in that, once a run or ride is done, I feel as though I just did it, AND that it only took a brief time. I rode trails for 2 hours yesterday. What I remember is a few snapshots of struggle, but mostly just gliding through steadily, like it was nothing. That’s not how I felt in each moment, mind you, but that is my experience of it retrospectively.
I brought this book up once on The Paceline, because it genuinely moved me and changed my relationship to the sometimes-hard work of riding bikes hard, but I’m not sure I did it justice then. Hopefully this capsule review convinces you to give it a shot, especially if you’re the sort to be puzzling over the curious ways time stretches and bends when you’re out on your bike.