Presupposition # 18 – Time

‘The Meeting at 12 00 was moved forward three hours’. Does this mean that the meeting starts at 09 00 or at 15 00?

In general almost all people on the planet look at time as if you have the future in front of you and the past behind you. A very common analogy for that is the time line. We use the time line as if we as humans travel along the time line – towards the future. But what if the time line is moving and you are just a passive observer to time? Depending on your presupposition the outcome will be very different.

Researchers have found that the Aymara people in the highlands of Bolivia have a notion of time opposite to the rest of the us, so that the past lies ahead of them and the future behind. The tongue is spoken by about 2 million indigenous people in South America. The Aymara literally walks backward into the future. The direction forward is the source of what’s known and what they have seen with their eyes i.e. what has happened in the past (the past ahead). The future is literally behind – where they can’t see.

Another intriguing way of looking at time is also from South America and the Amondawa people in Brazil. They have no age, no watches or calendars. They don’t even have words for week, month or year. They use the patterns of day and night and the rainy and dry seasons. To solve the age issue, they change names depending on which stage in life they are. Some might argue that they enjoy a certain freedom…

But what about the English language – do we always look at time as if the future is in front of us? When we say that we’re 30 minutes ahead of time we indicate that we are at an earlier point in time. You can say that we – just like the Aymara people – put the past in the front.

So, what about the meeting, does it start at 09 00 or 15 00? Depending on how you look at time and if you’re picturing yourself as being in motion relative to time or if you look as time itself is moving (how you presuppose) – you will either be there by 09 00 or by 15 00 and no one; has done anything wrong!

Finally, we might also think of why humanity is the only species that speak in past and future tense. All other species communicate (what we know at the moment) just in present tense!

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