Mariska Pienaar portrays human time, in the constructed form of measurable units, as a conscious or unconscious representation of environmental time. Furthermore, human time, when described in terms of one’s life stages, is said to reflect the temporality of the Earth’s seasonal progressions.
The preceding sections of this article focused on how our natural environment, either consciously or unconsciously, evokes in us an awareness of time and death, and a consequent search for meaning in life, a search that often evokes existential and death anxiety. Following the ecopsychology principle of reciprocal influence (Roszak, 1992, 1998), this section of the discussion will focus on how our existential awareness and search for meaning leads to human constructions of time. It has been argued that an awareness of time and death causes the existential search for meaning. Although time is something perceived as existent within the human field of awareness, of course humans also need to construct time in a meaningful way.
Our contemplation of time in terms of meaningful units has caused it to become an essential factor in ascribing meaning and value to stages, conditions, and actions in life. Hereby, time has moved from being an external, environmental reality to becoming a human created framework for valuation processes.
The most fundamental way in which time has become a human construct is represented by the creation of the basic units of time. Although of course informed by the natural cycles of the Earth, human beings have constructed time into the basic units of seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, etc. These conceptual units of time have come to be time…
A second example of the way in which time has become a human construct is the division of a human life into ‘‘life stages.’’ These stages of course start at infancy and continue through childhood, young adulthood, mid-life, and old age. The construction of time into life stages has enabled us to conceptualize specific important stages and landmarks in the progression of a human life. The division of human life into stages closely, and most likely not at all coincidentally, resembles the Earth’s cyclical progression from one season to the next. As such, the Earth’s spring symbolizes infancy through adolescence, summer symbolizes young adulthood, autumn midlife, and winter may be said to symbolize old age (Pienaar 2011, 28).
Pienaar, Mariska. 2011. ‘An eco-existential understanding of time and psychological defenses: Threats to the environment and implications for psychotherapy.’ Ecopsychology 3(1): 25-29.