"I know that you know as well as I do how fast thoughts and associations can fly through your head. Youcan be in the middle of a creative meeting at your job or something,and enough material can rush through your head just in the littlesilences when people are looking over their notes and waiting for thenext presentation that it would take exponentially longer than thewhole meeting just to try to put a few seconds' silence's flood ofthoughts into words. This is another paradox,that many of the most important impressions and thoughts in a person'slife are ones that flash through your head so fast that fast isn'teven the right word, they seem totally different from or outside of theregular sequential clock time we all live by, and they have so littlerelation to the sort of linear, one-word-after-another-word English weall communicate with each other with that it could easily take a wholelifetime just to spell out the contents of one split-second's flash ofthoughts and connections, etc. – and yet we all seem to go aroundtrying to use English (or whatever language our native country happensto use, it goes without saying) to try to convey to other people whatwe're thinking and to find out what they're thinking, when in fact deepdown everybody knows it's a charade and they're just going through themotions. What goes on inside is just too fastand huge and all interconnected for words to do more than barely sketchthe outlines of at most one tiny little part of it at any given instant. The internal head-speed or whatever of these ideas, memories, realizations,emotions and so on is even faster, by the way – exponentially faster,unimaginably faster – when you're dying, meaning during thatvanishingly tiny nanosecond between when you technically die and whenthe next thing happens, so that in reality the cliché about people'swhole life flashing before their eyes as they're dying isn't all thatfar off – although the whole life here isn't really asequential thing where first you're born and then you're in the criband then you're up at the plate in Legion ball, etc., which it turnsout that that's what people usually mean when they say 'my whole life,'meaning a discrete, chronological series of moments that they add upand call their lifetime. It's not really like that. The best way I can think of to try to say it is that it all happens at once, but that at once doesn'treally mean a finite moment of sequential time the way we think of timewhile we're alive, plus that what turns out to be the meaning of theterm my life isn't even close to what we think we're talking about when we say 'my life.' Words and chronological time create all these total misunderstandings of what's really going on at the most basic level. Andyet at the same time English is all we have to try to understand it andtry to form anything larger or more meaningful and true with anybodyelse, which is yet another paradox.
"…the whole my whole life flashed before me phenomenonat the end is more like being a whitecap on the surface of the ocean,meaning that it's only at the moment you subside and start sliding backin that you're really even aware there's an ocean at all. Whenyou're up and out there as a whitecap you might talk and act as if youknow you're just a whitecap on the ocean, but deep down you don't thinkthere's really an ocean at all. It's almost impossible to."
--David Foster Wallace, "Good Old Neon"