Thursday, June 20, 2024

Pondering time

Because it's so damn hot, and turning anything on but a window AC unit or a fan on generates more heat than relief, Cookie has been pondering time. 

As a genealogist and historian, time is always present.  Usually, I am pretty good about bringing up factual explanations.  History for me is conversational, and connecting stories and people together. To do that I have to know where I am on a timeline, and my clients and audience also have to know where their own timeline is and what it looks like. 

This may sound pretty easy, but it isn't, because historical timelines look different in the minds-eye from person to person.  And this has to do with interest in history, or genealogy, and then your mind chooses how it views time. 

So let's do a little experiment. And there is no right or wrong answer.  A long timeline can take any shape, any direction, although they are taught in public schools as horizontal lines, how you see extended period of time is up to you.

Now, I am not getting into multiverses.  We are talking strictly from the human year 1500 to 2000.

What I would like you to do after reading this sentence, is close your eyes, relax, and imagine how a timeline from 1500AD to 2000AD looks to you. 

If you are reading this sentence, then you should have been doing some thinking about how a timeline looks to you.  

Was your timeline:

  • One contiguous line? 
  • Was it overall a horizontal line, or a vertical line?
  • Was it non-linear?  Did it have stops and starts?
  • Did it loop, climb, or dive with passing periods in time, or events?
  • Were there years that were more pronounced because of events?
  • Or did you not see any line, just dates?
For me, Time is a line that can both be singular, at times perpendicular, shifts and changes direction between major century marks, decades, and in some cases a year or two.  In mind, there are certain years that are above, below, or to the side of the previous year, and the future year. The ups and downs aren't caused by events so much - as in good years or bad - but by the direction of historical events. 

So for Cookie, an example is the 19th Century, which is horizontal from 1800 to 1865.  At the end of 1865, 1866 takes a vertical rise to 1870 and then becomes horizontal through 1890.  The line turns from 1890 down to 1900.  During 1900 it turns into a horizontal line to 1913, then changes again, etc. and so on. 

I asked a peer how she saw a timeline and she said she saw two, one in North American history and another in Italian history that merges in the year she was born.

Another friend sees it as nonlinear, except when it isn't.  When I asked her to elaborate, she said she needed to refocus and revisit that. 

So there is no clear answer. 


  1. Your question is very context-free. Your example period, 1500-2000 AD, is roughly equal to the "discovery" of America to the present time, but not exactly, and I have no other important events that link those dates. I am interested in early Western Reserve history, but that did not really start until the late 1700's (depending once again how you look at it), and probably my greatest interest ends about the mid 20th century, although the Reserve is still developing even today. So 1500-2000 does not jibe, but 1797-1950 might.
    p.s. Weather is relative. I took a walk today along Warrensville to Cedar, and while it was hot, it was nothing like oven it would be if I had spent the summer in Taiwan.

  2. Ug. I've just come from Peenee's blog where I had to do some thinking about thinking, and now I have to think some more! Very well:
    My imagined timeline is in 3D - I'm hovering/flying over it as it undulates and curves from 1500 to 2000. There are vague, blurry images either side but I can't make them out because I'm not very good at history so I don't know what events to imagine. There are branches off it but they quickly fade as they're not the turns we took. If I carry on from 2000 until now, there are loads of lines branching off in front because I don't know which way we'll go.

    I'm going to go and get a G&T now.