Deep Time: The Lost Art of Contemplating Time

Cathy Presland
4 min readMay 27, 2021

How long is your timescale? And what difference does that make?

Photo by Nathan Anderson on Unsplash

How Long is Your Timeline?

Let me ask you this,

How long is your timeline?

The one in your head when you think about all the things you make decisions about? Shopping, buying / renting a house, choosing a career, a partner, a holiday?

For me it’s variable.

Sometimes immediate, mundane, regular,

When is my neighbour going to bed and when will that music go off?

Sometimes it spans weeks or months,

When will I next hug my son in Australia?

And sometimes I lose completely the sense of time and there is a thought without time,

I wonder what a world would look like if we de-coupled capitalism from individualism?

There’s no right or wrong here, but it occurs to me that I often forget that I’m part of a much longer timescale-one that spans millennia, and more than that, planetary evolution timescales that make my brain fuzzy to try and imagine, but that I can, just about, sense exist.

Deep Time…

I have a colleague who loves to talk about impact in the world (and I have no problem spending many hours on that topic with her!).

Usually she means it within her working career, sometimes within the next couple of years, but sometimes we stray into the territory of what I call ‘deep time’; that long, almost ‘forever away’ time horizon that take us into discussions far, far from anything personal and well into an imagined future humanity.

I love that space-the wonderings, the magic, the imaginary but yet also the tantalisingly solid.

Even though something may be far-away in my mind, I know that just imagining it makes it real somehow.

A Lost Art?

It feels a little as if we (or maybe it’s an “I”, I can only ever speak for myself after all) have lost the art of holding a timescale that spans a future for humanity, and even a future beyond.



Cathy Presland

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