Ground Zero : Function: noun; Date: 1946 ~ 1: the point directly above, below, or at which a nuclear explosion occurs; 2: the center or origin of rapid, intense, or violent activity or change; 3: the very beginning .
Ground One: Function: verb; Date: 2008 ~ 1: to create a new beginning from an ending, starting from the ground up; 2: to use one’s life beliefs and values to break new ground; 3: to ground oneself; i.e., to become one with the earth or universal whole; 4: to journey within to find new solutions to ancient problems; 5: to use one’s unique individual gifts to improve the whole; 6: to find common ground among a diversity of cultures, philosophies, and ideas.
I’ve read in several different venues that a key determinant of successful cross-cultural communication is one’s perception of time. I came upon this concept again yesterday .” Time is one of the most central differences that separate cultures and cultural ways of doing things,” says Michelle LeBaron, a specialist in cross-cultural conflict resolution. “In the West, time tends to be seen as quantitative, measured in units that reflect the march of progress. It is logical, sequential, and present-focused, moving with incremental certainty toward a future the ego cannot touch and a past that is not a part of now. In the East, time feels like it has unlimited continuity, an unraveling rather than a strict boundary.”
I’m not certain what the term “West” means any more, as I believe most cultures without European origins have a circular viewpoint of time. Even if time is linear, that line is infinite, and certainly has no beginning and no end. Sort of like a circle, no?
I do know that the people of other cultures don’t seem to be as “pressed” for time as I do. A circle simply seems to have more space than a line. It’s almost as if they have several moments, one on top of the other, while I only have my one point. I’ve worked on affirmations such as, “I have time. Time is my friend,” without much success. That may be, of course, because I have said the opposite so many times, that I need to repeat I have enough time several million more times to make it true. And that would take time.
Life, to me, has not seemed a march of progress; rather, one step forward, two steps back. I remember feeling rushed from the time I was two—so much to do, so many places to visit, so many books to write, and even more to read, so many people to meet, so many questions to answer. I’m working on it, but it’s one long to-do list, one line after another. The more I do, the more there is to do. My brush with melanoma didn’t help this attitude of needing several lives to fit it all in.
That’s why I’m intrigued that other cultures see their contribution as circular, generational—as building upon a firm foundation that spreads out instead of straight ahead. How I would love to excavate one of those generational circles, to see how it worked, layer upon layer.
Having my own children helps a little. I see that my daughter has career interests in music and animals—two careers I had to forfeit because I was directed more toward words and travel and people. My son, who caught my travel bug, wants to travel to Brazil. I’m sure he will one day, whether I accompany him or not, whether my time here on earth allots a trip to Rio or not. He also has taken my analytical mind one step further, a sort of generational jump on my continual question of why. His why questions center on computerization and quantum physics, two areas that were foreign to me at his age.
Working with, and better yet, socializing with, people of other cultures has helped me understand different time perceptions as well. How many times have I sat in a meeting, listening to a lengthy preamble, thinking “cut to the chase”? When for the person speaking, what s/he was saying was the chase. S/he was circling around the issue, and I wanted the bottom line. Neither one of us was going to understand the issue, or one another, unless we made the line into a circle to incorporate us both. How many times have I sat, tapping my fingernails on a table, waiting for a friend to show up, when my too late was his or her too early? Again, we needed to merge our ways of seeing time, and how do you merge a line?
I predict the “Western” world, whatever that is, is going to have to quickly catch on to this circular trend. Circles are becoming a symbol, not only for inter-generational integration, but global connectedness. Take the recent signing of the Treaty of Lisbon in the European Union. The website
has this definition of concentric circle:
This concept involves a Europe made up of subsets of states which have achieved different levels of integration. It is not confined just to the integration structure of the European Union, and the idea has been expanded upon by a number of prominent figures. Some of them talk of “the circle of shared law” (the Union’s Member States), the “adjacent circle” (the countries outside the Union waiting to join it) and “more select circles” for the purpose of greater cooperation (the currency circle, the defence circle and so on).
I am drawn more to the view of time as circle rather than line. Never was this concept made more real to me than my first transcontinental flight across several time zones. It seemed, as we flew, that the sun was rising over and over again. We were literally chasing the sunrise. So, if the sun rises at different times for each different time zone (i.e. think “culture”), then can’t one surmise that a moment can occur again and again and again, with each of us contributing one unique, individual brush stroke in our own individual, and simultaneously united, moment in time? A layering effect.
It stands to reason that we were supposed to think in an elliptical manner from the beginning. Look at the shape of planets and stars. Look at the symbol for infinity. Look at the face of a clock. A pebble thrown in a pond results in, not one, but many circles, reverberating one upon the other, concentrically, outward toward the universe.
I hope that the “East,” whatever that is, has it right. It certainly makes my life burdens a little lighter. Perhaps a chance to try again at any number of possibilities. And if nothing else, it means that I have more time to think about it all.