Friday, May 3, 2013

Different Time Perspectives

Does that make cyclical cosmologies more accurate than the others we’ve just considered?  Is the circle the true shape of time?  It’s hard to see any way in which those questions could mean anything. What I’ve called the shape of time is an abstraction, a convenient model that sums up the way that events seem to unfold from the standpoint of particular people in a particular historical situation.  Abstractions of this kind are tools, not truths—you might as well ask if a hammer is factually accurate. It’s nonetheless true that different tools are better suited, more adaptive, to different situations. If you live in a society struggling to endure in the wake of cultural and ecological collapse, Hesiod’s vision may be your best bet; if you live in a society that has a stable relationship with its bioregion but very few resources on which to fall back in time of trouble, the Dreamtime cosmology will likely be a better choice; if you live in a society that has a literate historical tradition, and want to use that resource to help you duck some of the troubles that overwhelmed earlier societies, the cyclical approach is the tool you need. Other situations have other tools better suited to them—the handful of shapes of time I’ve outlined here are only a few of the many options that have been tried, with more or less success, over the span of recorded history. John Michael Greer

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