The theory of relativity showed us that time and space are intertwined. To which our smarty-pants body might well reply: Tell me something I didn’t already know, Einstein.

Researchers at the University of Aberdeen found that when people were asked to engage in a bit of mental time travel, and to recall past events or imagine future ones, participants’ bodies subliminally acted out the metaphors embedded in how we commonly conceptualized the flow of time.

As they thought about years gone by, participants leaned slightly backward, while in fantasizing about the future, they listed to the fore. The deviations were not exactly Tower of Pisa leanings, amounting to some two or three millimeters’ shift one way or the other. Nevertheless, the directionality was clear and consistent.

“When we talk about time, we often use spatial metaphors like ‘I’m looking forward to seeing you’ or ‘I’m reflecting back on the past,’...we...take an abstract concept such as time and show that it...manifested in body movements.”
Over the past month, we have seen little improvement in Ethan being able to comprehend, or adapt to Michael being gone. Though there was turmoil occasionally when they were together, clearly Ethan is incomplete without Michael. That incompleteness equates to a lack of peace, and that results in anxiety. Since Michael left, Ethan has hated sleeping in his own room, or even in his own bed for that matter, choosing ours over his - but that is a topic for another blog all by its self.

Initially we tried explaining how he will be 17 years old when Michael comes home, thinking that will give him something to look forward to. All that did was produce a simple groan.

My wife tried a different approach the other day, and described what took place in a letter to Michael:
At breakfast this morning, I had Ethan and Emma write notes to you. Ethan sat there for a minute and asked how many days until you get home. When I said about 700, his eyes got big, and let out a kind of anxiety-like groan I have yet to hear before. As you remember, during the school year, he asks how many days of school left each week and then in his head he does whatever he has to do to cope through the rest of the week. He loves Fridays at school because that is the last day of the week, obviously, he knows that he can do one last day of school that week and be okay. At the end of the school year last year, when he was on burn out, when I would say only 36 or whatever days of school left, and he would freak out, I would say, I can find a school that can take you for a hundred more days, it freaked him out. So this morning when I said 700, it sent him into overdrive . . . like his brain can't understand that amount of time, knowing that only 5 days can be a long time to him! 700 seems unimaginable to him.
My wife said Ethan sat at the table for the longest time, his brain trying unsuccessfully to grasp 700 days. Finally, after a few minutes, he said,
'We are all spreaded out - the six of us!'
For him, the abstract thought of time misses the mark. It doesn't compute, at least not like it does for you and I.
“How we process information is related not just to our brains but to our entire body...We use every system available to us to come to a conclusion [to] make sense of what’s going on.”
For Ethan, it appears, time is comparable to a physical distance. If something is nearby in proximity, then time is short. If it is far away, say over 40 days, it is far away. If it is 'spreaded out' by years, or hundreds of days, it is equal to an eternity in distance from him, and that is overwhelming to him. For now, Ethan's happiness {E} is based on his relationship with Michael {M} and is affected by the length of time he is away from him {C}, which happens to be two years {2}.

When I got home from work my wife shared the events from that morning with me. That night, Ethan said the family prayer. It was a modification of the standard prayer he says every day. The first modification depends on the day, or the time of day and whether he says, 'Bless us at...'

a) '...school,'
b) '...home,'
c) '...sweet dreams,' or

He then concludes with, 'bless Michael that he'll make good choices on his mission, and that he'll be safe...' But then he paused. I looked out of the corner of my eye and caught him as he leaned back, his face tightening with anxiety. He sat there for just a second and then said, '...in 700 days,' followed by a whisper of a groan.

At breakfast the other day he again asked my wife when Michael will be home. Going back to her earlier method, which seemed to inflict less frustration, she said, 'he will come home when you are 17 years old.' Ethan sat there quietly for 5 or 6 seconds, and then asked,
'Then we will always be together?'
Depending on our relationship to the subject, each of us sees time as either immaterial or as everything. 'When you are courting a nice girl,' Einstein said, 'an hour seems like a second. When you sit on a red-hot cinder a second seems like an hour."

Taking a page from Einstein, relatively speaking, this might be a long two years around this place, but after that we have all eternity together...

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