We walk backwards: A nice interpretation of time

What is time? This can be a very deep question which can get a wide range of answers. But most importantly, how do we interpret time?Depending on our environment, and how we have been raised, we can have different answers. In my case, I have been educated to think in the future.

Go to college, get a career, save money, make plans, etc., all of these statements are thought for the future. I do not regret this way of conceiving time. I think it is very helpful and pays off. I also believe that this is an important part of the development and progress of our societies. But, how do other cultures interpret time?


I recently heard a nice story of the people of Papua New Guinea. They conceive time in a different way: we walk backwards. Let me explain. Unlike our culture, where we envision the future, under this conception, we can’t see the future. We move towards it, but it is unknown. We can only see the past because it is the only thing we are sure of. We move away from it, but we see it all the time.


In my country, there is a cliché when it comes to get over bad experiences: “Dale tiempo al tiempo”. Which basically means that you need some time to recover (especially for a broken heart). If we walk backwards, then this phrase makes a lot of sense. The more we move to the future, the farther the past things are; hence, they are more difficult to see, and we think less of them.


I think it is important to envision the future, but we can’t forget or deny the importance of past. We are past (memories, experiences, mementos) projecting into the future (expectations, plans, hope).

I heard this story from Ramiro Diez, a person worth to hear. You can listen to him here. His program is in Spanish, but it is easy to understand if you have a basic knowledge of the language.