Hall (1984). Culture’s Clocks: Nuer, Tiv, and Quiché Time. (The dance of life: The other dimension of time.)

Hall, E. T. (1984). Culture’s Clocks: Nuer, Tiv, and Quiché Time. In The dance of life: The other dimension of time (pp. 78–90). Garden City, NY: Anchor Press/Doubleday.

“Nuer time was fixed as a channel through which kin and groups moved. … The Nuer realized that time moved, in a sense, but for their purposes it was necessary to treat it as though it did not — for them only the generations moved.” (p 79)

“The Quiché Indians, descendants of the Maya and occupants of highland villages in Guatemala, inherited the Maya calendrical system, one of the most advanced in the world at the time of the Spanish conquest of Mexico and Latin America. The Maya recorded the lunar and solar cycles, calculated eclipses, as well as the orbits of Venus, Mars, and Jupiter, with an accuracy equal to and sometimes superior to that of their conquerors.” (p 81)

“Following the tradition of their ancestors, the Quiché have two calendars, one civil and the other religi0us (sacred-divinatory). Composed of 18 twenty-day months, the civil calendar year totals 360 days with 5 days remaining. There are 260 days [page break] to the religious calendar, which has no months but is an assemblage of 20 combinations. These two calendars interlock like two rotating gears to produce the Calendar Round, which only repeats itself once every fifty-two years.” (p 81-82)

“… Tedlock provides convincing evidence that the Quiché 260-day calendar, like the wheel which it resembles, has no beginning and no end.” (p 82)

“The very nature of the calendrical system and people’s relationship to it forces them to ponder each day to decipher its sacred message, a message relating to each life in a different way. Mayan calendars are structured in such a way as to direct people’s attention not only to interpreting the significance of the various combinations of names and numbers but also to [page break] what these combinations mean in different contexts. The context in which the message is set in this way becomes part of the meaning. Need I add that the Quiché are a highly contexted people?” (p 82-83)

“The Quiché calendar and what goes with it represent a mental environment in which the people spend their entire lives.” (p 83)

“Words, after all, are symbols, and while it is the symbols that are used to describe what the people do, somehow in this process the symbols and the story they tell take on a life of their own.” (p 83)

“Compared to cultures like the Quiché, ours seems unusually self-centered because our time system keeps reminding us that we are the only ones who can fill those containers. Our own unwritten rules tell us other people cannot help. Time itself is seen as neutral and its only value is that it is relentless and unfeeling; it waits for no man.” (p 84)

“Why? Because we pay so little attention to what it means to live right. In our part of the world, living is something that is taken for granted. It’s done automatically. Living has a lot to do with filling those containers — with meeting objectives.” (p 85)

“The AE group has trouble coming to terms with anything different. As a consequence, there are strong, deep currents of proselytization very close to the mainstream of all AE cultures. We are the ones who send missionaries not just in religion but in virtually every aspect of life. Americans more than most seem dominated by the need to shape other people in our own image. This drive to clone our own culture is accompanied by the implicit conviction that culture is something that one dons and doffs like a suit of clothes. Unlike many other peoples on the globe, we don’t experience our own culture as something that penetrates every cell of our bodies, which is the source of all meaning in our lives. Since culture is seen by Americans as something superficial which can be shed without disturbing what lies underneath, we are frequently blind to the disastrous consequences of our addiction to proselytizing.” (p 86)

“According to Tedlock, the Quiché treat time as a dialectic which means, in her terms, that ‘at no given time, past, present, or future, is it possible to isolate that time from the events that led up to it and which flow from it.’ … [page break] … Also, whenever anything new is incorporated or adopted — a belief, a life-style, or even a spouse — there are deep, unconscious patterns that make us feel we must automatically disavow the old. In disavowing our past, we fragment history and in the process manage to break the few remaining threads that bind, stabilize, and give unity to life.” (p 86-87)

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