Shae:  I am inspired by the many wonderful works that are being published at the moment. Currently my reading relates to frameworks, for thinking with and thinking through. And as is my passion, I tend towards the temporal aspects of life. Our relationship with time can be so subtle, we don’t tend to think much about it. The tendencies of modern life towards speed and a focus on only the immediacy of our own lives and satisfaction shortens our experience of time.

I know there is encouragement to focus only on the now. To live in the present moment. I appreciate that as a spiritual practice, but it can erase time in a strange way, move us out of time as a long-term phenomenon. And I think this can contribute to the psychological problems we see. I am reading The Long View by Richard Fisher. It has the byline Why we need to transform how the world sees time.  Whilst I don’t agree with everything he says, as he leans very much into time as a linear construct, and I have a much more complex view of time, his logic of longtermism is spot on! We need to understand ourselves as integral within many generations, all the way backwards and all the way forwards, as well as all the way sidewards (sideways?), as integral within the generational rhythms of all of the other species on Earth, and Earth itself. 

I think that a complex and longterm temporal cognition, or mindset if you like, is really important. So, I am shaping the frameworks for an educational curriculum that includes temporal complexity and longtermism.  What are you reading at the moment? 

Alexander:   Do you like science fiction?

Shae: I have a confession to make, I’m not reading much fiction at the moment. My research is getting all of my attention, so I am reading mostly non-fiction. 

Alexander: Ah, I see. In terms of time, Bela H. Banathy (who was a colleague and good friend of mine, a guiding light) was big on science fiction.  He believed it was essential for systems science thinkers, and particularly social systems designers, because it augments our ability to move into the imaginary domain. Not the imaginal, which is a term describing the liminality of the evolutionary frames that undergird the connection between the cosmos and the universe through what David Bohm and Karl Prigram termed the holoflux, but the imaginary, which is unfettered but can also be well-grounded in science.

Dan Simmons has a series of books out, the Hyperion Cantos series, and Endymion is one of them. They are all based on Greek poets and the poetry of Yates. They are awesome!  In one of his books, he gets into time, and he talks about Time Fields. The fields of time in these books are so interesting because of the metaphors he constructs. Simmons writes about eddies, currents, and tides, but they are all eddies and tides of time. In his stories, there are certain areas of the universe where the time tides are particularly strong, and when you go there, they can pull you in, like getting caught in a temporal riptide.  Such analogies between how the ocean works and the behaviour of time in different places is very provocative, don’t you think? 

Shae:  What a brilliant set of analogous concepts as a way to think about time! I’ve used the metaphors of the life cycles of a fruiting tree, together with weather and all ecological conditions in my work. And I know of a river as a metaphor for time, but that’s the first I’ve heard of such oceanic analogies!

Image by Egin Akyurt. [Royalty free by unsplash]

  • Fisher, R, (2023). The Long View: Why we need to transform how the world sees time. Wildfire.
  • Simmons, D (2011). Hyperion, Orion.