Tag Archives: time

Editor’s Letter

By Jane Bauer

“Einstein’s 1905 paper came out and suddenly changed people’s thinking about space-time. We’re again in the middle of something like that. When the dust settles, time – whatever it may be – could turn out to be even stranger and more illusory than even Einstein could imagine.”
Carlo Rovelli

This month our writers explore the concept of time and space. When I was in grade 5 the teacher gave us an exercise in which we mapped out our life on a timeline which looked like a straight line stretching horizontally across a page.

Storytelling was divided into befores and afters. During high school a teacher pointed out to me that in my fiction writing I struggled with tense, she seemed to suggest that perhaps I hadn’t been taught my verbs in English properly which was/is probably true since I went to school in French and only spoke English at home.

As I got older I often wrote two versions of the same story- one in the present and one in the traditional narrator’s past. What I came to realize is that I don’t struggle with verb tenses- what I actually do is lose myself in time. What I mean by this is that when you are telling a story about what happened in the past you are usually recalling it as you narrated it to yourself back then, in which case the present tense would make sense for a narrative voice, whereas if I am telling a story with the wisdom incurred since the event, then using the past tense feels logical. If you are not an avid reader or writer chances are you don’t spend a lot of time worrying about your verb tenses.

We are taught time is linear but now as we enter a world where what was once science-fiction is now just science, it is likely that time is constantly folding over itself and our experiences and inner world are floating between dimensions, like flotsam and jetsam.

Julia Mossbridge, a cognitive neurophysicist, has been doing studies on precognition that support the idea that you can increase your skill to see the future (Although it isn’t really necessarily the future but could be a slip of the past that may have already occurred). I think every one of us has had the feeling that something would happen and then it did.

Have you ever met someone and disliked them immediately for no reason? Some future transgression that you are aware of on a deeper level perhaps? Carlo Rovelli, physicist, and author, posits that Time is “part of a complicated geometry woven together with the geometry of space.”

Perhaps the next thing to divide us will be whether we are string theorists or quantum loop theorists? Maybe the thought of several versions of you living in different dimensions seems ridiculous. Maybe you have never experienced the knowing I referred to and you live your life tight-roping it across a clear line from ‘before’ towards ‘after’ with logic and rationality.

Or maybe you are like me and find yourself doing things without knowing the logic of why.

See you sometime,


Mind-Bending Movies that Explore Different Facets of Time

By Kary Vannice

Humans have always been fascinated by the concept of time. Scientists study it, philosophers contemplate it, artists try to depict it, and directors make movies about it. Here are eight mind-bending movies that explore different facets of our understanding of time.

Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022) explores the “many-worlds” theory that proposes that every life choice creates an alternative timeline, thus creating many parallel universes. Martial arts action star Michelle Yeoh plays Evelyn Wang, a laundromat owner who discovers she can move between these parallel timelines and tap into the talents and skills of her alternative selves. Because of her special abilities, she is tasked with saving the entire multiverse from eventual doom by a version of her daughter, who has evolved on a different timeline. As she enters different versions of herself, Evelyn can see how different life choices on other timelines lead to different outcomes in her personal relationships, prosperity, and even her personality. If you’ve thought about what your life might have been like had you made a different choice at a crux moment, this movie will fuel your imagination!

The Jacket (2005) also focuses on the idea of timeline jumping. However, it sticks to one universe and has the main character, Jack Starks, played by Adrian Brody, jumping between past and future in a fractured and frantic attempt to save his own life. After returning home from the first Gulf War, Starks is wrongfully accused of killing a police officer and, because of his claims of innocence, is sent to a mental institution. While incarcerated, he is forced to undergo brutal sensory deprivation treatments inside a morgue drawer after being bound in a straightjacket and injected with experimental drugs.

Over the course of these terror-inducing “treatments,” Jack’s mind fractures as he desperately tries to ground himself in memories of the past, one memory in particular, that of a young girl he helped shortly before he was institutionalized. His attachment to the memory is so strong he “jumps” to 15 years in the future and finds her where she tells him of his death a few months later. With each new treatment, Jack jumps from future to past, convincing key people of future events and persuading them to make different decisions to change the outcome of their future lives, all the while trying to figure out how to use his time-traveling abilities to change his own future and save his own life. At the film’s end, however, one wonders if Jack was truly traveling timelines or if it was simply his tortured consciousness creating comfort where his body could find none.

Somewhere in Time (1980) may have you questioning whether time is just a mental construct and whether one can time-travel through autosuggestion alone. The stars of this romantic drama, Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour, are separated by nearly 70 years of time and space, but that doesn’t stop the pull and passion of true love. After falling in love with the photo of a turn-of-the-century actress, Christopher Reeve’s character learns how to self-hypnotize so he can travel back in time to find a woman he swears he had a brief encounter with eight years before, when she was in her 80s. Convinced she is the same woman as the one in the photo, he uses tape-recorded suggestions to hypnotize himself back to 1912, he finds his love and embarks on a mission to convince her they are meant to be together and, in fact, have been before, or will be, depending on whose timeline you’re working from. She’s eventually convinced and allows herself to fall in love with him, only to be robbed of him when a 1979 penny he finds in his pocket breaks his hypnotic suggestion and sends him back to his own time. But don’t worry, as classic romance movies of this time almost always do, the story eventually brings these two lovers back together again in the afterlife.

I Origins (2014) plays on the idea that the afterlife is just another life, and another, and another, and that we carry one unique characteristic with us into each new incarnation, the irises of our eyes. The movie begins with a Ph.D. student who’s researching the evolution of the eye at a costume party where he meets a masked woman, Sofi, with unique and beautiful eyes. At the end of the night, she abruptly leaves, and all he is left with is the memory of the irises of her eyes. Fate, however, leads him to her again one day on the train. They begin a passionate, albeit tumultuous, love affair, which ends tragically with her death not long after. Seven years later, when his first child is born, he discovers that his son has the same iris signature as a man who had recently died in Idaho. Spurred by the hope that this could connect him to lost loved ones, he runs a scan of Sofi’s eyes. He finds a match in India, but the records are for an orphan girl with no known address. He goes to India and spends weeks searching and putting up billboards with photos of Sofi’s eyes, hoping to reconnect with the memories of his past love.

In Time (2011) takes place in a future where the currency is time. Everyone on the planet stops aging at 25 years old. From that point on, they must earn time to stay alive. They must also spend time to stay alive. Time is used to buy food, take the bus, even have a beer. Most people live day to day, earning just enough time to stay alive until tomorrow. But there are wealthy businessmen who bank time and live for decades, centuries even, in luxury.

In the ghetto, people steal time, trade for time, and even kill for time. Will, a lowly factory worker played by Justin Timberlake, has a chance encounter with one such “wealthy” man who is tired of living but has over 100 years left on his “clock,” which is digitally displayed on his forearm. The man gives Will all but 5 minutes of his time and “times out,” making Will a target but also emboldening him to take time back from the immortals and give it to the common man. This movie is a fast-paced Bonnie and Clyde meets Robin Hood, and will have you thinking of the term “time is money” in a whole new way.

The Map of Tiny Perfect Things (2021) is a new take on the old Bill Murray classic Groundhog Day (1993). Mark, a teenage boy, is stuck in a time loop, repeating the same day over and over again. After many iterations of the same day, Mark can anticipate the movements and actions of others and begins to help them in in tiny, subtle ways, only to get up the next day and do it all over again. One day, however, he meets a girl, Margaret, who also seems to be living the same loop. Mark and Margaret live endless days together, sharing their dreams and hopes for the future, but the future never comes. Each day is the same as the last, and Margaret frequently and frustratingly disappears after receiving mysterious text messages, leaving Mark wondering what part she’s playing in the loop. Mark eventually discovers where Margaret’s disappearing to, and that there are some things worth living the same day over and over for, and that not all futures are full of hope. Some are full of heartache.

Safety Not Guaranteed (2012) is the warning on a classified ad placed by a grocery store clerk looking for someone to travel back in time with him. The ad also reads, “This is not a joke. P.O. Box 91 Ocean View, WA 99393. You’ll get paid after we get back. Must bring your own weapons. I have only done this once before.” A Seattle Magazine reporter and two interns, each with an ulterior motive of their own, set out to find the man who placed the ad and find out if he truly believes he can travel through time. This movie is less about time travel and more about the exploration of regret, making plans to right wrongs that happened in the past, and how pain can cause us to rewrite our history to alleviate our current suffering.

Primer (2004) is a little-known, low-budget film that depicts what developing time travel might look like if one applied the laws of physics to everyday objects as a “side project” to a regular 9 to 5 suburban job. You’re bored already, aren’t you? Well, you shouldn’t be. This is probably the most realistic movie about how actual time travel might come about, as well as what humans might do with the power to travel back in time. Written and directed by Shane Carruth, a former engineer with a degree in mathematics, who also stars, this film doesn’t “dumb it down” and also doesn’t “glam it up.” It won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance film festival and has gained a cult following. Its popularity is not so much due to the science behind time travel, but the exploration of how average humans might grapple with the power of being able to alter and manipulate the past, present, and future.

Now and Then: The Modern vs the Zapotec Concepts of Time

By Brooke O’Connor

When I started researching the concept of time in the Zapotec culture versus the idea of time today, there were many changes happening in the world – one of which is the first public availability of AI, or artificial intelligence. New technologies will change the fabric of how we live our lives, as well as our perception of time.

We’ve probably all experienced an AI “chatbot” – the online conversations that you have when you want to “talk” some kind of customer service. Lately, these text-generating chatbots have moved on to writing entire essays. So … just for fun, I typed my topic into ChatGPT, an advanced chatbot released in November 2022 by Open AI, a nonprofit artificial intelligence research laboratory. This is what came out.

The Zapotec culture, indigenous to the southern state of Oaxaca in Mexico, has a unique and complex understanding of time. The Zapotecs have long held a cyclical view of time, in which the past, present, and future are interwoven and constantly influencing one another. This view is deeply ingrained in their daily lives, religious practices, and social structure.

One aspect of the Zapotec perception of time is the belief in the power of ancestors. For the Zapotecs, the spirits of their ancestors continue to play an active role in the present and are often called upon for guidance and protection. This belief is reflected in the Zapotec calendar, which is based on a 260-day cycle, in which the days are named after various deities, natural phenomena, and ancestors. Each day has its own unique characteristics and significance and is believed to be influenced by the spirits of the ancestors associated with it.

The Zapotecs also have a strong connection to the land and their environment. This connection is reflected in their agricultural practices, which are closely tied to the cycles of the sun, moon, and stars. The Zapotecs use these astronomical cycles to determine the best time for planting and harvesting crops. For example, the Zapotecs believe that certain days are better for planting certain crops, depending on the phase of the moon.

Another important aspect of the Zapotec perception of time is the concept of “tequio.” Tequio is the Zapotec word for community work or service, which is an integral part of Zapotec culture. Tequio is typically done on a voluntary basis and is done for the benefit of the community as a whole. It can take many forms, such as building a community house, repairing roads, or planting crops. The Zapotecs believe that tequio is necessary to maintain balance and harmony in the community and that it helps keep the ancestors’ spirits happy.

Religion also plays a big role in the Zapotec perception of time. In Zapotec culture, gods and goddesses are believed to have a significant impact on the perception of time. They are seen as the creators and guardians of time and are responsible for the cycles of the seasons and the passage of days and nights. These deities are also associated with the passage of time in the human life cycle, such as birth, adulthood, and death. For example, the god Xipe Tótec is associated with the planting and growth of crops, and rituals are performed in his honor at the beginning of the agricultural cycle to ensure a bountiful harvest. Similarly, the goddess Cocijo is associated with the rainy season, and rituals are performed to ensure that the rains come at the appropriate time for the crops.

Additionally, the gods and goddesses are also associated with different stages in the human life cycle, such as birth, adulthood, and death. For example, the god of childbirth, Pitao Cozobi, is invoked to ensure a safe delivery, and the goddess of death, Xoxo, is honored to ensure a peaceful transition to the afterlife.

One of the most important ceremonies is the Guelawe, a celebration of the dead that takes place annually, usually in November. During this ceremony, the Zapotecs believe that the spirits of the dead return to the living world to visit their descendants. The Zapotecs believe that the spirits of the dead have the power to influence the lives of the living and that it is important to keep them happy through rituals and offerings.

However, it’s worth mentioning that Zapotec culture is diverse and there are variations between different regions and even towns. There are many different practices, beliefs, and expressions of their culture. Also, the Zapotec culture has been in constant change over the centuries and is still adapting to the present day, thus, this article presents a general view of the Zapotec culture’s perception of time.

In modern times, the perception of time has been largely shaped by advances in science and technology. The invention of the clock in the 14th century revolutionized the way time was measured and perceived. The development of mechanical clocks, and later quartz and atomic clocks, made it possible to measure time with an unprecedented level of accuracy. The widespread use of clocks and watches has also led to the standardization of time across the world, with time zones being established to account for variations in longitude.

In physics, time is not an absolute but relative to the observer, and in theories such as special and general relativity show that the perception of time can change depending on the observer’s velocity and gravitational field.

In modern Western cultures, time is often perceived as a scarce and valuable resource. People are constantly racing against the clock, trying to fit more activities into each day. This has led to the development of time management techniques and tools to help people make the most of their time.

In conclusion, the perception of time has evolved throughout history and across cultures. The Zapotec culture had a complex understanding of time that was closely linked to their religious beliefs, while in modern Western cultures time is often perceived as a scarce and valuable resource. Advances in science and technology have played a significant role in shaping our current understanding and perception of time.

Note: I had to fix some grammatical errors, but then, when I asked how I should tell people this article was written, it responded, “This article was crafted by the deft hand of artificial intelligence.”

One thing is clear in our modern age; time stands still for no one, and if we don’t progress along with the technology we will be left behind.