It’s the equator, there is no time.
Bahasa Indonesian is one of the most spoken languages in the world. It was standardised to bridge the understanding amongst the wide-spread isles of Indonesian archipelago and its numerous tribes. Indonesia has 922 permanently inhabited islands… and about 17,000 other ones. It has at least 200 different languages being spoken on those islands, and some, like Java, has four languages alone.
That’s a lot of languages. However this isn’t the most peculiar part. It’s the fact that Bahasa Indonesian has no time in verbs. The way we identify that we have done something, or we are still doing it — there is no such distinction here. For simplicity purposes time is acknowledged with other words like “today”, “yesterday”, “two months ago”. When I found out about it, it clicked. Here time flows in a unhurried way and it made me wonder whether it is impacted by the fact, that sun rises at the same time every day of the year and there are only two seasons — wet hot and dry hot. They don’t feel the need to KNOW what time exactly it is, as long as they have a ballpark understanding.
A farmer planted rice three months ago, and in one month, she will harvest it and then sow it again. She doesn’t think about it as months though, but she goes and checks to see when it’s ready. Why add more unnecessary detail? Why create a concept of detailed time?
My hypothesis is that time has gained its prominence (think Swiss watch) because of the constant requirements of agriculture and capricious natural forces that shaped farmer’s effort. Especially so in Western hemisphere, North of the 40th parallel — where lies majority of modern Europe. And we all know that farmers and manufacturers were what the noble society relied upon to fund their (pointless) conquests. And where the society structure was different, people built a different relationship with time, in turn, reflected in their language.
Language shapes culture, and it shapes something more than that: our thinking. This article by Lena Boroditsky explains it in much greater detail.
For as long as I could remember my adult life, I was always rushing, stressed for time, late… until about four months ago I took off my watch and decided to take time as it is. And surprisingly, it worked. For the most part, I was ahead of schedule, I wasn’t rushing, I wasn’t stressed, neither I was trying to squeeze in a ton of things in that last minute before I needed to leave. Time has always fascinated me as a concept, I loved the perpetual 5-o-clock in Alice in Wonderland and how fast it goes when we are happy and how slow it does, when all we want is to leave.
And then, to those of you who watched Arrival (no spoilers here, but you must watch it!) — how cool the concept was?
So, what if using our own languages we abandon the chase of time for a week? Or maybe until we are ready to put on that watch again? That would call for reliance on how we feel, rather than what time or day of the week it is. Whether it’s taking off our watch, or stop scheduling in 15 minute time intervals —try and see what happens.
Of course, I must tell you that my hypothesis is most likely very wrong, because local Balinese language does have a concept of time, but nevertheless I think there could be something more to it.