In 2008 I rode a train to eastern Turkey in a backward-facing seat.
I had read somewhere about a people in history thinking of time this way–that we go backward into the future. It makes sense: We can face the past. We can see all that has happened. The future is what we cannot see.
This moment on the train had a lot of juice. I was simultaneously traveling into my own unknown future and into known human past–the origin land of Mesopotamia–with my physical body in a position that encapsulated an ancient sense of time.
Anyway, I mentioned this event to Jordan in 2012. With her memory for all things poetic, she held onto it, and pulled it back out this week. She found this academic article that identifies the Akkadians as the backward-time-thinkers.
Basically, all their words for “earlier” and “past” are related to “front” or “face” (the words are pana, panu, pani, etc.), and all their words for “later” and “future” are related to “behind” (arka, arki, arku, etc.)
The Turkish word for “back” or “behind” is arka, which obviously thrills me.
My heard hurts when I verbally pair the ideas of “later” and “behind.”
As the article author writes, “the mental world of our own modern society” is exactly the opposite that of the Akkadians. “When we look ‘into the future,’ we firmly believe that our gaze is fixed straight ahead. Nothing can shake our conviction that the past is at our back, that it lies behind us.”
Look into the future
Look at the week ahead
Look back at the past
Return to a point in history