A Bright Future Behind You: An Opposite View of Time
Solveig S. | Wednesday, December 30, 2015
For the Aymara people, time flows in the opposite direction. You stand with your back to the future, facing the past. What does this mean for their New Year's resolutions?
Image by Leah Jones: Turning the World Upside Down
[CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
As we approach the New Year, we often hear about Janus, the two-headed Roman
god of of transitions, portals and doorways. He is often depicted as simultaneously looking back at the old year and forwards into the new. But what
would our perception of time be like if we were really facing backwards? Rather than facing the uncharted future, with our past fanning out behind us, we would stand looking at our pasts opening up to become clear before
our eyes with the passage of time; as we gain more knowledge of the world and ourselves.
This is the case for the The Aymara people of the Andes region of Bolivia, who have a completely unique perspective. The future flows behind them, and the past in front; opposite to all other documented languages. Their word for eye or front
is nayra , meaning past and qhipa,
the word for behind or back translates to future. Naya mara
means last year but translates to front year.
The distinction between the seen and the unseen is an integral part of the Aymara lingual structure, which values evidence highly. Making New Year’s resolutions would seem purposeless; as we know no facts about the future, what worth would there be in fretting about it? For most of the rest of the world, and in the western hemisphere in particular, resolutions are a common annual feature.
Why do we make new year’s resolutions?
Throughout our lives we learn and accumulate habits; some good, some less so. It’s often easier to assume that we are rigidly set in our moulds rather than attempting to change, which requires a lot of effort. The new year stands as a formal structure onto which we can project a better self. “Learning a new language” is always on top of the list of things we want to improve; to push ourselves to understand more and communicate better. As politician and philosopher Tomas Masaryk eloquently phrased it: “The more languages you know, the more you are human”
Image by Leah Jones: Turning the World Upside Down [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
How can we make sure that we are among the ten percent that manage to stick to our resolutions? The best advice is to be as specific as possible about your ambition. Would you like to be able to discuss politics, hold a casual conversation, read academic texts or work as a psychiatrist in that language?
OISE have a wealth of new perspectives to offer you in 2016. A range of innovative courses designed specifically towards a profession, skill set or a particular exam, and each includes classes tailored for the expansion of your cognitive ability and self-expression. Our new courses enable you to not only learn a language; but also to thrive.