Time, Understanding, Reaction – Our Other Dimensions of Distance

Time, Understanding, Reaction – Our Other Dimensions of Distance

We’ve talked about physical separation at length, but this is really just scratching the surface of our complicated relationship with distance. There are several other types of separation we regularly negotiate, as well. We also deal with gaps of time, meaning and action. In terms of Time, we are constantly distinguishing between “now” and “later”. In terms of Meaning, we’re always in a process of going from “not knowing” to “knowing”. And when it comes to Action, we always experience lags between when we first encounter something – an idea, a person, an object – and when we respond to it.

These three kinds of distance are so much a part of our lives, we really do take them for granted. Although they’re not physical separations, we still think of them in terms of distance. We may not be literally separated from them, but that’s the sense we get. Here are three

When we know we’re going to be working on something for a while, we say we’re “nowhere near” being done with the job. Six weeks before the official end of winter, we think about spring being “a long way off”. Those are examples of “Temporal (Time-related) Distance”.

When we’re figuring out what to do, we talk about “approaching” a decision. And we talk about estimates being “not even close” to correct. Those are types of “Conceptual Distance”.

We are keenly aware of “Reactive Distance”, too. When your partner is so absorbed in their own thoughts that they don’t hear you asking them to carry a bunch of boxes into the other room, they’re “a million miles away”. When they start helping but aren’t finishing the job as quickly as you’d like, they tell you, “I’m getting there.” You both get it. Because you’re thinking of the process as a kind of distance to cross.

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