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My Time, Your Time

Updated on August 23, 2018
Deepa damodaran profile image

Deepa is a freelance researcher and journalist. She has worked in various print and television media.

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Time is a Plural

We think of life primarily in terms of time. This is so because we all are mortals existing in a restricted time frame. Can there be still different versions of the experience of time? We know there can be many personal versions of time- that is, if we are doing something enjoyable, time flies and if we are bored, time lags on. In lieu of being static and not realizing how amazing the concept of time as held by us humans is, let us do some ‘time travel’ to see how different people experienced time differently.

Incas Who walked from the Future to the Past

We usually think we are free from the past and the future. People of the Inca civilization of Peru used to think that the past and the future are having an impact on any moment in the present. The Aymara people of the Andes even now perceive time just the opposite of us- for them past is ahead and future is behind.[1] They talk about the past as if it is something in front of you and will describe future as something that has already happened. This is so because, for them, time begins in the future and it is an incessant current flowing through the present into the past. As we live on, time flows back. So obviously you have your back to the future and the past is up ahead.


[1] Spinney, L. (February 24, 2005) How time flies, theguardian.com, Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/science/2005/feb/24/4

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Linear or Cyclical?

All over the planet, the tribal people can be the most patient lot because they have a very different notion of time than ours. For the Hopi tribe, of the US, time is not linear at all-they do not differentiate between the past, present and the future.[1] It is understandable that if one does not believe that time is moving, there is no rush; there are no deadlines and there is no death as such.

The Hindu religion of Asia has a cyclical view of time. It is the non-stop cycle of creation and the destruction of the world and hence every life form gets reborn as many other life forms. What such a belief implies is that after death one will be reborn and one will have to pay the price of lives lived in his/her past lives. This entire process is imagined as a wheel and what ideally one thrives for is to stop the wheel, that is, to stop re-births and become one with the universe (which is called ‘Moksha’). Such a perception of time affects the life decisions of each and every individual. Everyone has to live on keeping in mind one will be answerable to the deeds of this life in another life. There is no need to hurry because it is all an endless cycle.


[1] Time in different cultures, (n.d.) exactlywhatistime.com, Retrieved from http://www.exactlywhatistime.com/other-aspects-of-time/time-in-different-cultures/

Warm Time, Costly Time

There is an economics to time. When an economy is growing faster, time becomes a valuable commodity. This is why agrarian communities are slower than industrial ones. “Hotter places are slower”, said social psychologist Robert N. Levine (2008) in a book he wrote on time experiences of different geographic locations and the people there. [1] The reasons for this could be diverse; no one is sure. Some say in warmer climate, life is easier as people can live without cold-proof houses, clothing etc. and hence the slow pace. Some other reasons cited are to preserve energy which is already waning, as one is living under a hot sun, and also the simple psychological effect of warmth on people, making them slow. One can agree with all the reasons cited above because it is true, as by noon time, everything comes to a standstill in tropical climate and people either stay indoors or even sleep when they can afford it.


[1] Levine, R.N. (2008) A geography of time: On tempo, culture and the pace of life, London: Hachette UK.

A Prayer Lamp from Another Time

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Strange Times

Is it good to live always in a linear notion of time? Wise people say, no. There has been so much discussion going on about living in the present moment. In 14 BCE, the Pharaoh of Egypt, Akhenaton observed that “he who neglects the present moment, throws away all he has”[1] Arctic being the land of the midnight sun, time played an entirely different role there. This is why, in Old Norse language, there is a word, ‘eykt’, which is “an eighth of the 24 hour long day”.[2] Eykt, which is 3 hours, became one of the basic units of time for the Norse people because they experienced time in terms of solar motion.


[1] Surya Das, L. (2011), Buddha standard time, California: Hay House Inc. p.7.

[2] Vilhjalmsson, T. (1997), Time and Travel in Old Norse Society, Disputatio, 2, pp.89-114.

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Science Time

Isaac Newton, who can be considered as the pioneer in explaining the physical universe for science, believed in a linear time that is universal and is not changed or impacted by anything in the entire cosmos.[1] However Einstein’s theory of relativity suggested time has some level of flexibility.[2] Time again became relative as in ancient mythology, but this time with a scientific basis. Once again, we could say time is in the eyes of the observer as beauty is. The recent discovery of gravitational waves has put the debate on time back into limelight. In simple words, gravity can bend space and obviously that will have an impact on linear time too. Let us wait and see what new discoveries on time, will time bring us.


[1] Davies, P. (2006), About Time: Einstein’s Unfinished revolution, London: Penguin UK.

[2] Davies, P. (2006), About Time: Einstein’s Unfinished revolution, London: Penguin UK.

© 2018 Deepa

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