An interesting survey of the measurement of time around the world.
While most modern cultures rely on the clock, many others regulate
their days - and the whole tempo of their lives - according to the
rhythmic features of the natural world around them. Thus African
cattle farmers, for instance, may measure time by the grazing
patterns of their cows. An intriguingly original perspective.
In this engaging and spirited book, eminent social psychologist
Robert Levine asks us to explore a dimension of our experience that
we take for granted--our perception of time. When we travel to a
different country, or even a different city in the United States,
we assume that a certain amount of cultural adjustment will be
required, whether it's getting used to new food or negotiating a
foreign language, adapting to a different standard of living or
another currency. In fact, what contributes most to our sense of
disorientation is having to adapt to another culture's sense of
time.Levine, who has devoted his career to studying time and the
pace of life, takes us on an enchanting tour of time through the
ages and around the world. As he recounts his unique experiences
with humor and deep insight, we travel with him to Brazil, where to
be three hours late is perfectly acceptable, and to Japan, where he
finds a sense of the long-term that is unheard of in the West. We
visit communities in the United States and find that population
size affects the pace of life--and even the pace of walking. We
travel back in time to ancient Greece to examine early clocks and
sundials, then move forward through the centuries to the beginnings
of "clock time" during the Industrial Revolution. We learn that
there are places in the world today where people still live
according to "nature time," the rhythm of the sun and the seasons,
and "event time," the structuring of time around happenings(when
you want to make a late appointment in Burundi, you say, "I'll see
you when the cows come in").Levine raises some fascinating
questions. How do we use our time? Are we being ruled by the clock?
What is this doing toour cities? To our relationships? To our own
bodies and psyches? Are there decisions we have made without
conscious choice? Alternative tempos we might prefer? Perhaps,
Levine argues, our goal should be to try to live in a
"multitemporal" society, one in which we learn to move back and
forth among nature time, event time, and clock time. In other
words, each of us must chart our own geography of time. If we can
do that, we will have achieved temporal prosperity.
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