Flexible Focus #42: Time Lapse as a Mandala Movie

by William Reed on February 24, 2011

A framework for time

The 3×3 framework of the Mandala Chart lends itself well to showing the relationship of the frames as a visual Gestalt, a whole which is greater than the sum of its parts. The bird’s eye view gives you a 3-dimensional perspective. But what about the 4th dimension, that of time?

Most discussions about the 4th dimension focus on its abstract geometry, trying to visualize what it would be like to be 90-degrees perpendicular to the 3rd dimension, in effect looking at the transformation of a 3-dimensional object over time. This is not so difficult to imagine if you look at the effect you get in time-lapse photography, where you can watch a flower grow, or see a full day of cloud transformations in the span of a few minutes. Time-lapse in real time – it is even closer at hand than that, because we all experience transformation moment to moment.

Putting time in a new perspective

One of the major benefits of the Mandala Chart is that it can take you out of the conventional experience of time, and give you a different perspective on your experience. Hungarian Biochemist Albert Szent-Gyorgyi, 1937 Nobel Prize Winner said that, “Discovery consists of looking at the same thing as everyone else and thinking something different.” Looking at time from a different perspective can trigger creative insights, just as looking at paintings gives us a different perspective on everyday objects, faces and places.

People who live in a city pass by the same places everyday with the same eyes, often missing the freshness of it all in the moment. David Michaud captures the City of Tokyo with fresh eyes in his Tokyo Safari, the other Japan, a brilliant video montage of Tokyo in time. Music is quite compatible with time-lapse photos and video, because music exists in time.

In Geological lapse time, even mountain ranges and continents heave and swell like a turbulent ocean. A glacier may appear stationary, when it is actually flowing at about an inch per hour. A rock made of crystalline granite may appear to be solid, when in fact it is still cooling down from its original molten igneous state. The ground beneath us appears to stand still, but in reality the earth spins on its axis at the equator at a speed of 1670 kilometers/hour (1070 miles/hour)! All of these movements occur in time, though on a scale that is undetectable to our five senses.

Your sense of history also changes when you see it from the perspective of historical lapse-time. Swedish medical doctor, academic, statistician, and public speaker Hans Rosling shows a brilliant lapse-time view with an animated graph of 200 countries over 200 years in 4 minutes. This lapse-time view of improvements in health and wealth in the world’s nations over time shows you that despite the proclamations of the pessimists, things have actually gotten considerable better for most of the world’s population in the last 200 years.

Practical applications of the time-lapse perspective

There is a well-developed system in place for putting your life into lapse-time perspective. We have already seen in a previous article how you can put your life in the grand perspective of a 100 Year Life Span. A calendar is really just a matrix for time, and there is a practical way to apply the Mandala Chart to your own calendar with the Mandala Business Diary.

Storyboards is another way to look at events in time through frames. Storyboards were developed by Walt Disney Studios, as an effective way to visualize a story before creating the expensive animations. For a good look behind the scenes, see the video on Finding Lady: The Art of Storyboarding. Although Storyboards are a tool used in film production, they are also a good way to plan a slide presentation, as developed by Cliff Atkinson in Beyond Bullet Points, as a revolutionary approach to PowerPoint. Here you can download Storyboard Templates on Printable Paper, and experiment with creating your own illustrated time-lapse sequences.

Cartoons also illustrate events over time through stories. What goes into the frames are significant events and images, mostly containing dialog or showing emotion, all connected in a sequential time-lapse of events. Japanese Manga are a highly evolved approach to telling a story in visual form, as described in The Magic of Storyboard. You can read my own story in Manga form, designed in an 8 frame form, much like a Mandala Chart.

So as you create and use Mandala Charts, try to see them from the perspective of the 4th dimension, time and transformation. It will add a new dimension to your enjoyment of flexible focus

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