“Time is viewed differently in different cultures. In some places, people live by the clock, by the calendar. In America, if someone says they will be at an appointment at 7 am, they should be there at 7am (or earlier). Of course, this is true in general. It’s not that simple.

In other places, people don’t care so much about clock time. Someone could say they would meet you at 7, and they might be there much later. In America, this kind of lateness is often considered rude. In some places, it’s just the way people live. In some European countries, I believe, time is considered very important. In others, not so much.

Here’s a good perspective to start with.

There was a paper written on time and culture by Kosiu, Troncy, and Golhauser. It was called “Time Perception in France, Germany, and Poland.” It is about time in different places.

One thing they look at is “time orientation.” They define people as either past-oriented, present-oriented, or future-oriented. If you’re past-oriented, you think a lot about the past. It’s really important to you. Think for a moment about yourself. Which one are you? Do you think most about the past, present, or future? Which one is most important to you?

They represented these ideas with circle diagrams in the paper. Look at the board.

Draw one of these diagrams for yourself. If the past is very important to you, make it a big circle. Make the size of the circles based on how important each of these areas is.

Think about where you live. Draw three more circles for your culture. If you are from Thailand, think about Thailand. If you’re from China, think about China.

Notably, these folks also studied how this changes over time. For instance, young people may be more future-oriented. However, they can become past-oriented as they get older. Old people may like to think about past events, past successes, failures. Of course, most people don’t want to think about death (and as you get old, death seems to get closer).

Ok, back to the book.

They talk about the body again.

This is something people are thinking about a lot these days! (Actually, since the 1960’s in West, I think, but these days too!) Remember, we talked about health and body responses and facial expressions.” Nonverbal Notes


That was a pretty long excerpt. I had to put in the last few lines, since the bodily angle of this field interests me a lot, and is something I actually managed to teach reasonably well in that class.

I think the idea of time is handled in a pretty clear and simple way, too. It’s a good starting point, maybe. You could think about “time orientation,” both in terms of yourself personally, and “your culture.”

Then there’s separating them out, if this is possible.

How is one individual’s perception of time, and usage of time, different from the culture they are in? What culture is “someone in”?


“‘All the ‘timed’ connections within situations are pervaded with space. Every part of our interlocking world may be discovered to be full of gaps or discontinuities- which allow us to depart from ordinary procedures so that we may enjoy a bit of nonstandard control.”

I’ll try to wrap up. In the above quote, there is the dance of masculine and feminine, time and space. There couldn’t be time without space, because time moves, and for that movement to happen you need space. There’s one kind of “interlocking.”  It seems like as we move up through the levels, more space is being introduced, up to the point in third level time at which time becomes very “spacey.” There are two other interesting points: gap, and control. First, gap is a teaching familiar to most people who’ve studied Trungpa Rinpoche. This relates to the bardo. Control is something I don’t hear about a lot in the teachings I study. It is definitely a theme in second level time: progressing in certain ways, being able to do things differently based on experience and practice.” Intro to TSK

This quote follows a little section on timing. Timing is, I think, for hardheaded folks, who wouldn’t normally time to be anything special or magical, something that could open out into more “transitional” views.


About jakekarlins

Aspiring writer and artist, dharma practitioner, yogi.

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