Time Is Not A Line

Time is not a dot on a line.

It is not the line.

It is not linear at all.

It is a fractal dimension – fractal curve. 

But what is a fractal, you may ask? It is an irregular structure of repeating patterns of similarly irregular, but progressively smaller, dimensions. Here’s an example: the Mandelbrot Set.

Mankind didn’t always think of time as linear. Rather, many ancient cultures saw time as an endless circle-a repeating cycle. As a matter of, a repeating of cycles within cycles, within cycles, etc. The concept of time as an unwound never-ending, non-repeating line has always been a construct of the western culture.

So why did it change? Language.

“A language is always closely connected to the culture of the people using that language. This is not only true for different languages, but for different cultures using the same language. We can never assume people from one culture will always understand a people from another culture in the same way.” (The Culture of the Hebrew Language )

Like the Hebrew culture, the Hopi Indians of North America, did not have same perspective of time as we do in the West. If you look at their language, you will find they did not use past, present and future tenses. Just two tenses exist: one for a complete action and another for an incomplete action.

For a person speaking the Hopi language, time is viewed quite different than the average western speaking person.

But what happens when you require that Hopi-speaking individual to adopt a western language—like for example, in the 1800’s, when the United States government forced the Native Americans to adopt the English language? What happens, as it did for the Hopi, is that the original cultural perspectives are lost and replaced with modern western perspectives!

In this case, the idea of time being circular, or cyclical, was replaced with a linear construct, or timeline.

In short, western culture disconnected itself from ancient understandings of time by forcing a change of language, and the circular ideas and frameworks were lost to generations and generations of people, forcing them to live on a timeline because their language trapped them there.

What is more, the way back is shut. Why?

How can you depart from a construct of thoughts and ideas where there is no language to support an exit? Or, how can you decode a cipher when the key is missing a number? No matter how hard your efforts may be, you will never arrive at your desired end. (By the way, this is why I no longer spend much time in western translations of the bible any more.)

Time is not Linear. It is Fractal.

But as long as we continue to use a linear language, we never will be able to understand the beauty of circular time and it’s fractal nature, let alone experience the freedom of the living moment, or what I call the “Now”.