The Geography Of Time

Jun 17 2012 @ 4:54pm

Citizens of western nations think of the future as in front of them and the past as behind them. That isn't always the case:

[T]he Aymara of the Andes profile the primacy of vision, where things known and seen are in the visual field (front) and things that are unseen and unknown are outside of the visual field (behind), which leads to a striking conceptualization of time as future-is-behind and past-in-front. 

Raymond Tallis likewise contemplates humanity's relationship to time: 

While all beings (pebbles, trees, monkeys etc) are in some sense ‘in’ time – immersed or perhaps dissolved in it – we humans are alone in timing what happens – including (or especially) timing what happens to our very lives. We portion time into days, and number days, and parts of days, and know that our days are numbered. One striking illustration of this is that of all the occupants of the Solar System – rocks, trees, lemurs, etc – we alone use the relative movements of the Solar System’s components to organise our own commitments. What a delicious piece of cheek to appropriate the rotation of the Earth round the Sun to instruct us when to do what – for example, when to have our Christmas dinner. To vary a saying of Douglas Adams: “Time is mysterious; tea-time doubly so.”