In each moment, what we focus on stimulates us. We connect our experience of the sense data with any related previous experiences that our pattern-matching minds find.

The broader the set of experiences we have to connect with, the greater the context within which we can place / understand the new experience.

It’s easy to find yourself focused into a frame of reference that extends just a few days into the past and a few more into the future. Perhaps you “think long term” and have a context of a few years, decades or centuries.  In his outstanding book A Short History of Nearly Everything, Bill Bryson goes further:

If you imagine the 4.5 billion odd years of Earth’s history compressed into a normal earthly day, then life begins very early, about 4 A.M., with the rise of the first simple, single-celled organisms, but then advances no further for the next sixteen hours. Not until almost 8:30 in the evening, with the day five-sixths over, has Earth anything to show the universe but a restless skin of microbes. Then, finally, the first sea plants appear, followed twenty minutes later by the first jellyfish and the enigmatic Ediacaran fauna first seen by Reginald Sprigg in Australia. At 9:04 P.M. trilobites swim onto the scene, followed more or less immediately by the shapely creatures of the Burgess Shale. Just before 10 P.m. plants begin to pop up on the land. Soon after, with less than two hours left in the day, the first land creatures follow.

Thanks to ten minutes or so of balmy weather, by 10:24 the Earth is covered in the great carboniferous forests whose residues give us all our coal, and the first winged insects are evident. Dinosaurs plod onto the scene just before 11 P.M. and hold sway for about three-quarters of an hour. At twenty-one minutes to midnight they vanish and the age of mammals begins. Humans emerge one minute and seventeen seconds before midnight. The whole of our recorded history, on this scale, would be no more than a few seconds, a single human lifetime barely an instant. Throughout this greatly speeded-up day continents slide about and bang together at a dip that seems positively reckless. Mountains rise and melt away, ocean basins come and go, ice sheets advance and withdraw. And throughout the whole, about three times every minute, somewhere on the planet there is a flashbulb pop of light marking the impact of a Manson-sized meteor or one even larger. It’s a wonder that anything at all can survive in such a pummeled and unsettled environment. In fact, not many things do for long.

Perhaps an even more effective way of grasping our extreme recentness as a part of this 4.5-billion-year-old picture is to stretch your arms to their fullest extent and imagine that width as the entire history of the Earth. On this scale, according to John McPhee in Basin and Range, the distance from the fingertips of one hand to the wrist of the other is Precambrian. All of complex life is in one hand, “and in a single stroke with a medium-grained nail file you could eradicate human history.”

That sure broadens ones’ perspective.

Yet while earth’s 4.5 billion years stretch almost exactly a third across the 13.7 billion years since the big bang, it may represent just one 4 dimensional slice / plane / membrane / brane in 5th dimensional space.