I Finally Understand Circular vs. Linear Time

A photo with the sky in the background and in front, a circle with little sticks coming out of it, sort of like a drawing of the sun.
Photo by Miguel Henriques.

I have been hearing people talk about circular vs. linear time for ages, and to be honest, I've never fully understood it.

All I knew was that, apparently, seeing time as circular was more feminine and/or Indigenous and seeing it as linear was more masculine and/or colonial. But no one ever talked about what it means for time to be circular, so despite being a woman and thus, theoretically, more circular in my thinking, I had no idea how it was supposed to work.

Untillll NOW!

Now I have actually received an EXPLANATION of what it means to live in more circular time (thanks to Jocelyn K. Glei in her Hi Fi course) and it makes SO MUCH SENSE.

Here's the basic idea: if you base your thinking on things that are cyclical, like the seasons, then you see life as a sort of spiral, or repeating process of life, death, and rebirth. It takes away the sense of finality to each moment, day, or experience, because everything comes back up again.

(As opposed to linear thinking wherein you are constantly moving forward into something new, which means that you kind of have to progress/get it right because you'll never be back.)

Jocelyn was inspired to this philosophy in part thanks to this quote from Olga Tokarczuk's novel Flights.

Once we’re on the bus, she sets out her theory of time. She says that sedentary peoples, farmers, prefer the pleasures of circular time, in which every object and event must return to its own beginning, curl back up into an embryo and repeat the process of maturation and death. But nomads and merchants, as they set off on journeys, had to think up a different type of time for themselves, one that would better respond to the needs of their travels. That time is linear time, more practical because it was able to measure progress toward a goal or destination, rises in percentages. Every moment is unique, no moment can ever be repeated. This idea favors risk-taking, living life to the fullest, seizing the day. And yet the innovation is a profoundly bitter one: when change over time is irreversible, loss and mourning become daily things.

(Pssst: I still have no idea why this is inherently a feminine way of seeing things, except maybe that many women's bodies are ruled by a monthly cycle? I'm sure someone would say something to do with circular time being more generous and gentle or something like that, to which I say, can we stop with labelling some character traits as masculine or feminine???)

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