Amazonian Tribe Understands ‘Time’ Unlike The Rest of the World

StopwatchI thought Pink Floyd had a good idea but these Amondawa folks are on the Money. Jason Palmer reports for BBC News:

The Amondawa lacks the linguistic structures that relate time and space — as in our idea of, for example, “working through the night”.

The study, in Language and Cognition, shows that while the Amondawa recognise events occuring in time, it does not exist as a separate concept. The idea is a controversial one, and further study will bear out if it is also true among other Amazon languages.

The Amondawa were first contacted by the outside world in 1986, and now researchers from the University of Portsmouth and the Federal University of Rondonia in Brazil have begun to analyse the idea of time as it appears in Amondawa language.

“We’re really not saying these are a ‘people without time’ or ‘outside time’,” said Chris Sinha, a professor of psychology of language at the University of Portsmouth. “Amondawa people, like any other people, can talk about events and sequences of events,” he told BBC News.

Read More: BBC News

30 Comments on "Amazonian Tribe Understands ‘Time’ Unlike The Rest of the World"

  1. Anonymous | May 23, 2011 at 4:23 pm |

    Uch for misleading titles, they understand time differently than the rest of the world as opposed to having some inside secret on time.

  2. Uch for misleading titles, they understand time differently than the rest of the world as opposed to having some inside secret on time.

  3. Voidthought | May 23, 2011 at 4:24 pm |

    These people already have a concept of time; it is the natural rise and fall of the sun and moon. I wonder what their dreams are like..  I think it is facinating that people far from the “civilized” societies, tend to be more sane than we are today running about having to work under a stratified system of social “order” which pities the low man and praises the high man, whether he be born into it or not. The construction of the consumer society and economic order are artificial and superficial but necessary in our reality because we are learning to deal with our psychosis/neurosis; necessary because the scientific mind of man, the no-god mind of man is willing it. By no-god, I mean man without a certain degree of mythology and magic in their lives(lies). I think far more people are insane, or unsane, today than ever. With the release of the new book The Psychopath Test, one could only figure as much. As we gain more and more technology and information, we will have to increasingly deal with the burden of that knowledge. Maybe that’s why “God” didn’t want Adam(man) and(or) Eve(woman) eating from the tree of knowledge; I’m not a religious man but the analogy fits! It is almost undeniable that we are heading towards a new adaptation in consciousness, whether we survive it is another question/answer.

    Joseph Campbell – “I don’t believe people are looking for the meaning of life as much as they are looking for the experience of being alive.”
    “Life is without meaning. You bring meaning to it. The meaning of life is whatever you ascribe it to be. Being alive is the meaning.”
    “Myths are public dreams, dreams are private myths.”
    Educate yourself for life!

  4. Voidthought | May 23, 2011 at 12:24 pm |

    These people already have a concept of time; it is the natural rise and fall of the sun and moon. I wonder what their dreams are like..  I think it is facinating that people far from the “civilized” societies, tend to be more sane than we are today running about having to work under a stratified system of social “order” which pities the low man and praises the high man, whether he be born into it or not. The construction of the consumer society and economic order are artificial and superficial but necessary in our reality because we are learning to deal with our psychosis/neurosis; necessary because the scientific mind of man, the no-god mind of man is willing it. By no-god, I mean man without a certain degree of mythology and magic in their lives(lies). I think far more people are insane, or unsane, today than ever. With the release of the new book The Psychopath Test, one could only figure as much. As we gain more and more technology and information, we will have to increasingly deal with the burden of that knowledge. Maybe that’s why “God” didn’t want Adam(man) and(or) Eve(woman) eating from the tree of knowledge; I’m not a religious man but the analogy fits! It is almost undeniable that we are heading towards a new adaptation in consciousness, whether we survive it is another question/answer.

    Joseph Campbell – “I don’t believe people are looking for the meaning of life as much as they are looking for the experience of being alive.”
    “Life is without meaning. You bring meaning to it. The meaning of life is whatever you ascribe it to be. Being alive is the meaning.”
    “Myths are public dreams, dreams are private myths.”
    Educate yourself for life!

  5. Anonymous | May 23, 2011 at 4:31 pm |

    I don’t think they are doing the Amondawa any favor by sharing our deeply flawed understanding of “time” with them. Time is nothing more than the “space” things move through. Time is movement. The concept of time as we know it is an abstraction of the reality we see as motion.
    For instance, Mathematics are useful to describe or extrapolate things in our world, but an apple is still an apple whether or not you assign it a number. The apple is the reality, the number is the abstraction, just as movement is the reality and time is the abstraction. 
    The universe is not quantifiable, because assigning abstract concepts to reality -changes reality into something abstract and not consistant with the actual thing itself.

    In this same way, we apply these same abstractions to ourselves, each other and everything else. With these abstractions we judge everything and see nothing but projections of our own minds thoughts.   

  6. GoodDoktorBad | May 23, 2011 at 12:31 pm |

    I don’t think they are doing the Amondawa any favor by sharing our deeply flawed understanding of “time” with them. Time is nothing more than the “space” things move through. Time is movement. The concept of time as we know it is an abstraction of the reality we see as motion.
    For instance, Mathematics are useful to describe or extrapolate things in our world, but an apple is still an apple whether or not you assign it a number. The apple is the reality, the number is the abstraction, just as movement is the reality and time is the abstraction. 
    The universe is not quantifiable, because assigning abstract concepts to reality -changes reality into something abstract and not consistant with the actual thing itself.

    In this same way, we apply these same abstractions to ourselves, each other and everything else. With these abstractions we judge everything and see nothing but projections of our own minds thoughts.   

    • Ageofscience | May 23, 2011 at 1:02 pm |

       Im not trying to be contrary, just want to understand your point. If our understanding of time is deeply flawed then what you have just explained, regarding time, is also deeply flawed as your explanation is precisely the way we have come to understand time. 

      • GoodDoktorBad | May 23, 2011 at 2:32 pm |

        My only real point is pointing out the different between perception and reality (what actually happens).
        It’s not something most people give much thought, thus the use of the word “our”. The concept of time is a fundamental and prime example of the lack of distinction between abstraction and reality.
        Our fanatical adherance to things like the incremental movement of watch-gears, the calendar, “birthdays” etc. ties us to abstraction and divorces us from the reality of NOW. The future and past don’t really exist yet -or anymore. We move time, time doesn’t move us…maybe.

         

    • Tuna Ghost | May 25, 2011 at 6:21 am |

      I more or less agree with your comments regarding “our” (westerners) main-stream understanding of time, in that it is flawed insomuch that it is attempting to explain things as they appear rather than how they are (the classic rift between physics and metaphysics).  Be that as it may, “our” understanding of time does rather lend itself much more easily to scientific pursuits and thus is integral to how our sciences are performed and studied.  Obviously the Amondawa have been doing fine without it or us and our sciences for quite some time, and if history is any judge contact is just the first step in the dissolving of their culture, but they’re allowed to make that choice themselves.  I’ve often wondered if its even possible for a society like the Amondawa’s to survive in the modern world even without whitey’s attempts at exploitation.  Sure the Amish manage it somehow, but there’s not a great track record for it.  

      • GoodDoktorBad | May 25, 2011 at 9:39 pm |

        “… it is attempting to explain things as they appear rather than how they are (the classic rift between physics and metaphysics). ”

        That’s a nice dip in a deep well. Keeping such a fundamental thought in mind might help “science” go beyond its present preconceptions and abstractions. The problem with science is that its just too “physical”, in line with “[things] as they appear”.

        As I see it, dealing with the problem of relying so heavily on abstractions to explain things is the single biggest conundrum any scientist faces. The use of abstract tools like math both facilitate, hinder (and taint)
        the experimental process. For all the effort, it’s not likely they will ever explain existence itself, merely observe and manipulate the things within it. The universe might as well be made out of alphabet blocks, all we can do is play with them and spell dirty words. lol

        • Tuna Ghost | May 26, 2011 at 11:49 am |

          As I see it, dealing with the problem of relying so heavily on abstractions to explain things is the single biggest conundrum any scientist faces.
          Well, that and the idiots pushing for creationism being taught in science class and denying climate change.  Still, that’s probably better than the Catholic Church dropping you in an obelisk for claiming the earth revolves around the sun.  

          Keeping such a fundamental thought in mind might help “science” go beyond its present preconceptions and abstractions. The problem with science is that its just too “physical”, in line with “[things] as they appear”.

          It does get results, though.  I’m reminded of a line from Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle: “Science is magic that works.”  The whole point is to provide results that can repeated anywhere at any time, so long as the easily understood and communicated conditions are present.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m an occultist and frequently does things that would earn ridicule from my friends in the hard science fields, but I think mystics (myself included) often forget that this is exactly what science is trying to do.  

          Of course, it should be mentioned we’re approaching a time when the classical newtonian perspective is starting to fall short of being able to explain even how things simply appear, and your line about science needing to focus elsewhere will start becoming more and more popular I imagine.  When you’ve reached the limits of reason, you’re going to have to start making leaps of faith into territory that defies logic as we know it.  But y’know, that isn’t the first time its happened.  That’s pretty much how we came to have non-euclidean geometry, when people started with assumptions that flew in the face of reason but found they couldn’t actually disprove them, and all their efforts ended up crapping out hyperbolic geometry.  

          • GoodDoktorBad | May 26, 2011 at 8:48 pm |

            Not to be a complete party pooper but science hasn’t really discovered much thats really new lately, but it has refined and enhanced the work of a relative few visionary minds of the past. I’m sure there are exceptions, brilliant spots exist.

            The greatest discoveries were made by people who were able to go beyond group-think norms and look into new worlds. We need some “mad” scientists…   

        • Tuna Ghost | May 26, 2011 at 11:51 am |

          Ha!  Look at us, having a civil conversation.  Seems like just last week we were telling each other to eat shit and die.  

          …upon further reflection, I believe it was actually two weeks ago we were doing that.

          • GoodDoktorBad | May 26, 2011 at 8:05 pm |

            Well, I didn’t eat any shit or die and apparently you didn’t either. Glory be, perhaps the past is as abstract as I said. Dead fish bake in the sun and lose there taint -at least until it rains…huh?

  7. Ageofscience | May 23, 2011 at 5:02 pm |

     Im not trying to be contrary, just want to understand your point. If our understanding of time is deeply flawed then what you have just explained, regarding time, is also deeply flawed as your explanation is precisely the way we have come to understand time. 

  8. Anonymous | May 23, 2011 at 6:32 pm |

    My only real point is pointing out the different between perception and reality (what actually happens).
    It’s not something most people give much thought, thus the use of the word “our”. The concept of time is a fundamental and prime example of the lack of distinction between abstraction and reality.
    Our fanatical adherance to things like the incremental movement of watch-gears, the calendar, “birthdays” etc. ties us to abstraction and divorces us from the reality of NOW. The future and past don’t really exist yet -or anymore. We move time, time doesn’t move us…maybe.

     

  9. But perception creates reality.  Ask any quantum physicist.  Perhaps “reality” for the Amondawa is just as real as ours is for us.

  10. But perception creates reality.  Ask any quantum physicist.  Perhaps “reality” for the Amondawa is just as real as ours is for us.

  11. Anonymous | May 24, 2011 at 9:41 am |

    It sounds to me like they just don’t use artificial devices such as clocks and calendars.  In other words, they don’t measure intervals of time shorter than the natural units: the day; the lunar month; and the year.
    I’m sure “working through the night” is an odd concept to them. Why would anyone want to work in the dark?
    The whole article sounds ridiculous and I suspect it was written by someone whose life is so constrained by time-clocks and deadlines they can’t imagine using anything else.

  12. Anonymous | May 24, 2011 at 5:41 am |

    It sounds to me like they just don’t use artificial devices such as clocks and calendars.  In other words, they don’t measure intervals of time shorter than the natural units: the day; the lunar month; and the year.
    I’m sure “working through the night” is an odd concept to them. Why would anyone want to work in the dark?
    The whole article sounds ridiculous and I suspect it was written by someone whose life is so constrained by time-clocks and deadlines they can’t imagine using anything else.

  13. Tuna Ghost | May 25, 2011 at 10:21 am |

    I more or less agree with your comments regarding “our” (westerners) main-stream understanding of time, in that it is flawed insomuch that it is attempting to explain things as they appear rather than how they are (the classic rift between physics and metaphysics).  Be that as it may, “our” understanding of time does rather lend itself much more easily to scientific pursuits and thus is integral to how our sciences are performed and studied.  Obviously the Amondawa have been doing fine without it or us and our sciences for quite some time, and if history is any judge contact is just the first step in the dissolving of their culture, but they’re allowed to make that choice themselves.  I’ve often wondered if its even possible for a society like the Amondawa’s to survive in the modern world even without whitey’s attempts at exploitation.  Sure the Amish manage it somehow, but there’s not a great track record for it.  

  14. New York Times Sunday Magazine had a great story about similar topics last August: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/29/magazine/29language-t.html

    Our language might not control the way we think, but it does oblige us to think in certain ways. And we take for granted that all other languages operate the same way, when they do not.

  15. New York Times Sunday Magazine had a great story about similar topics last August: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/29/magazine/29language-t.html

    Our language might not control the way we think, but it does oblige us to think in certain ways. And we take for granted that all other languages operate the same way, when they do not.

  16. Anonymous | May 26, 2011 at 1:39 am |

    “… it is attempting to explain things as they appear rather than how they are (the classic rift between physics and metaphysics). ”

    That’s a nice dip in a deep well. Keeping such a fundamental thought in mind might help “science” go beyond its present preconceptions and abstractions. The problem with science is that its just too “physical”, in line with “[things] as they appear”.

    As I see it, dealing with the problem of relying so heavily on abstractions to explain things is the single biggest conundrum any scientist faces. The use of abstract tools like math both facilitate, hinder (and taint)
    the experimental process. For all the effort, it’s not likely they will ever explain existence itself, merely observe and manipulate the things within it. The universe might as well be made out of alphabet blocks, all we can do is play with them and spell dirty words. lol

  17. Tuna Ghost | May 26, 2011 at 3:49 pm |

    As I see it, dealing with the problem of relying so heavily on abstractions to explain things is the single biggest conundrum any scientist faces.
    Well, that and the idiots pushing for creationism being taught in science class and denying climate change.  Still, that’s probably better than the Catholic Church dropping you in an obelisk for claiming the earth revolves around the sun.  

    Keeping such a fundamental thought in mind might help “science” go beyond its present preconceptions and abstractions. The problem with science is that its just too “physical”, in line with “[things] as they appear”.

    It does get results, though.  I’m reminded of a line from Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle: “Science is magic that works.”  The whole point is to provide results that can repeated anywhere at any time, so long as the easily understood and communicated conditions are present.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m an occultist and frequently does things that would earn ridicule from my friends in the hard science fields, but I think mystics (myself included) often forget that this is exactly what science is trying to do.  

    Of course, it should be mentioned we’re approaching a time when the classical newtonian perspective is starting to fall short of being able to explain even how things simply appear, and your line about science needing to focus elsewhere will start becoming more and more popular I imagine.  When you’ve reached the limits of reason, you’re going to have to start making leaps of faith into territory that defies logic as we know it.  But y’know, that isn’t the first time its happened.  That’s pretty much how we came to have non-euclidean geometry, when people started with assumptions that flew in the face of reason but found they couldn’t actually disprove them, and all their efforts ended up crapping out hyperbolic geometry.  

  18. Tuna Ghost | May 26, 2011 at 3:51 pm |

    Ha!  Look at us, having a civil conversation.  Seems like just last week we were telling each other to eat shit and die.  

    …upon further reflection, I believe it was actually two weeks ago we were doing that.

  19. Anonymous | May 27, 2011 at 12:05 am |

    Well, I didn’t eat any shit or die and apparently you didn’t either. Glory be, perhaps the past is as abstract as I said. Dead fish bake in the sun and lose there taint -at least until it rains…huh?

  20. Anonymous | May 27, 2011 at 12:48 am |

    Not to be a complete party pooper but science hasn’t really discovered much thats really new lately, but it has refined and enhanced the work of a relative few visionary minds of the past. I’m sure there are exceptions, brilliant spots exist.

    The greatest discoveries were made by people who were able to go beyond group-think norms and look into new worlds. We need some “mad” scientists…   

  21. To me; According to quantum physics and number theory, time itself is simply the calculation of all other things. Remove time, and matter is static. Time is the act of the universe calculating the movement of the particles as waves. It doesn’t have to be uniform, as calculations on a page don’t have to be. And this is why we have relativity. certain things take longer to calculate then others. 

  22. To me; According to quantum physics and number theory, time itself is simply the calculation of all other things. Remove time, and matter is static. Time is the act of the universe calculating the movement of the particles as waves. It doesn’t have to be uniform, as calculations on a page don’t have to be. And this is why we have relativity. certain things take longer to calculate then others. 

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