Am reading this intriguing book called ‘The Fourth Turning’ by Neil Howe and William Strauss. This was written in 1996, yet is very relevant not just today, but I guess throughout time.
On time, the authors write about three concepts of time.
“Over the millennia, man has developed three ways of thinking about time: chaotic, cyclical, and linear. The first was the dominant view of primitive man, the second of ancient and traditional civilizations, and the third of the modern West, especially America.”
In chaotic time, history does not have any path, but events follow seemingly randomly, without any connection or meaning. This is how life and time appear to a small child.
Cyclical time emerged when our ancestors first linked naturally-occurring cycles of planetary events (revolution around the sun, rotation of the earth, lunar cycles etc.) to related cycles of human activity (sleeping, walking, birthing, agriculture etc.). This brought about a sense of moral accountability in the form of karma, and Indian philosophy still follows this principle.
Then came linear time – a progressing story with an absolute beginning and an absolute end.
“The Persian, Judaic, Christian, and Islamic cosmologies all embraced the radically new concept of personal and historical time as a unidirectional drama. Time begins with a fall from grace; struggles forward in an intermediate sequence of trials, failures, revelations, and divine interventions; and ends with redemption and reentry into the Kingdom of God.”
The authors go on to define generations – A generation, in turn, is the aggregate of all people born over roughly the span of a phase of life who share a common location in history and, hence, a common collective persona. And four ‘turnings’ of around 20 years each, forming a cycle of 100 years each, or a century. Basically, patterns repeating and hence a chance to look back and learn from history.
This kind of also answers the question that most schooling children (and many adults) have – why do I need to learn history, which is traditionally seen as a dead subject…Well, if one analyses history and the socio-economic context that lies within these timelines, a definite pattern emerges, one that helps predict where mankind will lead in the years and decades to come.
Doesn’t this remind you of the yugas (cycles of time) and ashramas (cycle of human life) in Indian philosophy? Ironical that the very Western philosophy that many of us want to mimic, is itself discovering the subtle (and not so subtle) concepts of the East?
I recommend a reading. Here is the link.
And by the way, this is the 1000th post:)