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'Uvatiarru': Past and future all around us

Authors on the past, present and future.

Charles Rowan Beye:

One wants to sort out the details of the past, but often it is like going through yesterday’s wardrobe, surprised by the irremediable damage and wastage of so much lying in those drawers next to undeniable treasures. It is not what one had expected.

Douwe Draaisma:

Thinking back about an event that has made a great impression on us, we tend to underestimate the time interval separating us from that event. Such illusions have their counterparts in psychiatry. Traumatic events are repeated in flashbacks, memories that penetrate the psychological present and that cannot be removed from it at will.

Rainer Maria Rilke:

The future enters into us, in order to transform itself in us, long before it happens.

Carl Honoré:

In some philosophical traditions – Chinese, Hindu and Buddhist, to name three – time is cyclical. On Canada's Baffin Island, the Inuit use the same word – uvatiarru – to mean both "in the distant past" and "in the distant future." Time, in such cultures, is always coming as well as going. It is constantly around us, renewing itself, like the air we breathe.

Alan Watts:

The partisans of historical culture seem to congratulate themselves on having escaped from cyclic into linear time, from a static into a dynamic and "on-going" world order — failing to see that nothing is so cyclic as a vicious circle. A world where one can go more and more easily and rapidly to places that are less and less worth visiting, and produce an ever-growing volume of ever-less-nourishing food, is, to cite only the mildest examples, a vicious circle. ... The sudden outburst of history in the last five hundred years might strike one as more of a cancer than an orderly growth.

Sam Keen:

The second mode of time, kairos, is organic, rhythmic, cyclical, intimate, and bodily. In the right moment, in the kairos, a woman gives birth, a man dies in the fullness of his years, winter yields its icy grip to the soft breezes of spring, grief gives way to gratitude, anger runs its course, and forgiveness blossoms.

* * *

It is within the leisurely movement of kairos that we learn the lessons of dreams, mark the passages from one stage of life to another, and measure the growth of faith, hope, and love. In the New Testament, kairos refers to the moments in which God breaks into history, making an appearance through the prophets or Jesus. In a wider sense, it is any moment when an ordinary event becomes an epiphany.

Eric Rhode:

Intuitions in the consulting room recall these birds. They are tokens of a new life. The ancient Greeks had no category for time. Cyclical time is a modern concept. It is we, and not they, who believe in a return of the seasons. In their thought there was return in space and not in time: there is an eleusis, an anados, seasons come “from below” and not from “yesterday.” The perpetual movement of the universe depends on rhythm and not time, as in a dance [...]. The rhythm is always one-two, one-two (Daraki, p. 166).


Charles Rowan Beye. My Husband and My Wives: A Gay Man’s Odyssey. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012. [Kindle Edition] p. 4.

Douwe Draaisma. Why Life Speeds Up As You Get Older: How Memory Shapes Our Past. (2001) Translated by Arnold and Erica Pomerans in 2004. Cambridge University Press, 2005. p 205.

Rainer Maria Rilke. Quoted in Sam Keen and Anne Valley-Fox, Your Mythic Journey: Finding Meaning in Your Life Through Writing and Storytelling. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1989. p. 74. (This is a revised version of Telling Your Story, originally published 1973.)

Carl Honoré. In Praise of Slowness: Challenging the Cult of Speed. New York: HarperCollins, 2004. p. 29.

Alan Watts. Nature, Man, and Woman. (1958) New York: Vintage Books, 1991. p 19.

Sam Keen. In the Absence of God: Dwelling in the Presence of the Sacred. New York: Harmony Books, 2010. p. 38.

Eric Rhode. On Hallucination, Intuition, and the Becoming of O. (ESF, 1997) Amazon Digital Services, 2014. Posición 653.


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