#9 how to think about your time as ‘Territories’

How to think in territories of time

This issue has been made into a short video. You can watch it here.

Hello!

Welcome to The Makers and a very warm welcome to new subscribers joining us this week. You can read all previous issues here (scroll to bottom of the page). 

The aim of The Makers is to share ideas to help you engage more positively and purposefully with the future. 

It accompanies the YouTube channel Ours For The Making which explores “how to get ‘future-fit’ in an age of short term thinking and uncertainty.”

Today I want to talk about:

  1. How to think about time in a more manageable way, using an approach I call “Territories of Time”.
  2. Future jam today: And what of the present?
  3. This week’s video introduction

1. Taming your tomorrow with territories of time 🗺️ 

You choose: You can read the article below OR watch the video.

The future is vast, so where can you begin to make sense of it? Where should you begin to engage with it? 

Here I introduce a way to cut time into more manageable chunks. I call this approach ‘territories of time‘.

It reveals something interesting about time that I discuss below.

Traditional concepts of time

Let’s first consider the traditional concept of time: an arrow that’s fired from the past, through the present and into the future. Time marches onward in a linear fashion. 

Traditional concept of time
A familiar illustration of time with three ‘territories’: past, present and future

Now, let’s consider the traditional concept of your time. You can see below that it is bookended by your birth and your death, featuring three territories of time: Past You (your life up until this point), Now You (your life in the present) and Future You.

Traditional concept of your time
A familiar illustration of your time

Now let’s expand your view… 

Extended concept of your time

Let’s consider an extended concept of your time. Here we add a fourth box: Legacy You. This represents what you’ll leave for others, to future generations after you’ve gone. Your ideas, songs, writings, stories, films, art, perhaps a little money, your family history, your values. The list goes on…

Extended concept of your time
An extended version of your time

‘Long Player’ concept of your time

Now, let’s expand the idea further to include a fifth box (Inheritance You) to signify your inheritance: your genes, your home and family environment that you were born into…

The 'long-player' concept of your time
An even more extended version of your time

Up to this moment, we’ve focused on you, on your time. 

Territories of time draws inspiration from an idea in the excellent and thought provoking book “This could be our future” by Yancey Strickler, the Cofounder of Kickstarter. 

Strickler challenges you to expand what you consider to be valuable beyond yourself in the present (represented here by Now You) and to purposefully consider yourself in the future (Future You). 

But, more than that, he also asks you to include others (represented here as Our Now and Our Future). These four boxes become what Strickler calls “the Bento Box”. 

An entire movement, with a 30-year mission, has sprung out of this book called the Bento Society (which I know some of you are already familiar with). I really recommend you take a look and explore how the Bento can be used as a powerful decision-making tool in everyday life.

‘Long Player’ concept of our time

So, let’s apply this idea of including others to our Territories of Time model. Let us now expand time upwards along the vertical axis to include not only you, but also others. This gives us ‘the long player concept of our time’:

The 'long player' concept of our time
Expanding our concept of time to include others

This extra dimension captures our collective experience of time. It includes everyone who is alive today, from the youngest new born to the eldest, most senior members of our families and communities. 

Our Inheritance represents what previous generations have gifted us: language, culture, art, systems of government and commerce (good and bad). Our Past is our collective experience of life up to this point in the present. Our Future is our common future, the one we are shaping and creating today. Our Legacy is what we’re collectively leaving to the next generation. 

But, we won’t stop here.

‘Long Player’ concept of planetary time

So far, our focus has been just us, humans. Our past, present and future. But what about the natural world around us? What about the planet as a whole? 

This takes us to a different level of time with timeframes stretching out not across centuries and millennia, but across millions and billions of years, and beyond. 

The ‘Long Player’ concept of planetary time

‘The Long Player concept of planetary time’ captures the birth of our planet some 4.5 billion years ago; its past, present, future and even its legacy to the cosmos. 

It also captures the flora, fauna and geology of the natural world. 

In the past, what happens at a planetary level would seem to be completely independent from our activity. However, the advent of the anthropocene (the unofficial unit of geologic time in which humans are the dominant factor shaping the climate and the environment, considered by many scientists to be the age we’re living in right now) underscores the clear link between how we act now and the future fate of our planet.  

The arrow points to a cycle

One last point. We often think of time as being linear. An arrow fired from the past, through the present and into the future. 

But as I look at the columns for inheritance and legacy, it’s hard not to be struck by their similarities. 

A cycle of gifts, ideas, systems, structures, challenges and questions handed down from generation to generation, some adopted and refined and passed on to the next generation, and so on it goes. 

And just take a glance at the territories of time at the planetary extremities: Inheritance and Legacy. Earth was formed out of heat and light and dust. Which will mirror its legacy to the cosmos in billions of years to come. 

A cycle of inheritance and legacy

2. Future jam today 😋 

Books, articles and resources broadly on the subject of time and how we think about it…

Here in The Makers, I talk a job lot about time. The future, the past, up the track, down the road, along the path ahead, etc. I trade in the coinage of minutes, hours, years and eons. 

But, what about the present? How long is the present, or your experience of the present? According to Paul Bloom in this fascinating article for the New Yorker:

The duration of felt experience is between two and three seconds—about as long as it takes, the psychologist Marc Wittmann points out, for Paul McCartney to sing the words “Hey Jude.” Everything before belongs to memory; everything after is anticipation.

(Paul Bloom)

Just let that out and let that in for a moment…

3. This week’s introduction 🤝

As mentioned above: this week’s introduction is a short video about Territories of Time (as discussed above). Take a look and join the conversation.

Thanks 🙏 

Thanks for reading, watching, subscribing and being a Maker. I really appreciate it.

Until next time…

Best wishes,

James

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