The Concept Of Time, By John Mbiti Essay

The Concept Of Time, By John Mbiti Essay

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The African sense of time is a concept that I have actually been thinking about for a year now; last year Michael Costas began telling me about this idea after reading about it in one of his philosophy classes. The idea of “making time,” was and still is so exciting to me. Numerous times over the past year I have played with this idea of “making time.” After a thirty hour return trip from Cambodia this past summer this idea became more of a reality than an idea I tossed around. Due to our recent reading and discussion on this topic I have been able to understand and mentally explore this idea more carefully in the past couple of weeks.
In the “Concept of Time,” -- the third chapter -- of John Mbiti’s book African Religion and Philosophy, the concepts of western African time were discussed. The western concept of time is focused on the future while African time is focused on the present and the past. The western concept of time dictates that time determines events while African time dictates that events determine the time. While a person living in the United States might schedule a meeting at a specific numerical time, a person living in an African tribe might just give a general time for a meeting -- like sunset -- and the meeting will just happen when it happens.
Two other aspects of African time that we discussed was Sasa and Zamani. Sasa is focuses on the present, the immediate past, and the very immediate future; Sasa views the future as continuously becoming part of the past -- there is no idea of distant future. Zamani also focuses on the present, past, and future but more broadly. Zamani and Sasa overlap and Zamani is the place where Sasa time goes when it reaches its end -- it melts into it forever.
As mentioned earlier...


... middle of paper ...


...g a little nervous at times - like when we realized we had missed the train out of central London at one in the morning -- each moment felt so real and so raw. When we try to contrive plans we will become disappointed but when we truly embrace what is happening in the present we are more readily able to deal with it.
In the next several months and years I am excited to continue pushing beyond this western idea of time. After learning about African time and after having this personal experience, I desire to spend less time focusing on the future and pour my thoughts and energy into the present. I want a deeper understanding of Sasa, Zamani, “making time,” -- all of it -- and I will quite possibly I have the opportunity to do so in the same context that is written about in this paper; I hope to re-emerge into the timelessness of travel and return to Southeast Asia.

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