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Universal Concepts of Time

"Time has been transformed, and we have changed; it has advanced and set us in motion; it has unveiled its face, inspiring us with bewilderment and exhilaration".
Kahlil Gibran

Time is not a possession or commodity that is limited to a single nation of the world. Every continent, country, and culture shares the resource of time. Some people choose to use the resource differently than others. Some cultures seem to have plenty of time to spare, while others seem to have less and are thus more concerned with keeping track of it.

Some cultures have no distinct way of measuring the passage of time whatsoever.

“...the Hopi Indians of northeast Arizona seem not to have any linear sense of time at all” (Darling). In addition, developing countries often don't have the money or technology to support long-range time planning initiatives let alone research in areas such as time physics. What we concern ourselves with in this section is an analysis of those concepts which can be applied to every person in the world. Here one can find information on how different people around the world use time and how they save time. We will also examine how the phrase “time is money” has been viewed over the years throughout the world.

Universal concepts of time - Time is money – A costly concept

"If time is money, it seems moral to save time, above all one's own, and such parsimony is excused by consideration for others. One is straight-forward."
Theodor Adorno

Some researchers have taken the phrase “time is money” to heart. In 2002, a British economics professor, Ian Walker, used a certain equation to find the average British minute to be worth about 10 pence (15 cents) to men and 8 pence (12 cents) to women. The formula he used is the following:


■Where V is an hour’s value
■W is a person's hourly wage
■t is the tax rate
■C is the local cost of living

Walker’s findings concentrated largely on the relationship between working and wages. When the values of the variables are known, the equation can be used to find out if a certain person is getting paid a fair amount for their overtime or, from another perspective, how much money their leisure time is worth. According to Walker, this equation can help explain many other things as well: ‘“It helps us understand that as the value of our time rises, we are likely to buy more of it, which explains why people are paying to save time, like having someone cut their lawn or clean their house’” (“Time is Money, Professor Proves”). The equation serves an interesting purpose: it equates every moment of our lives with a monetary value. Is this how we wish to view our lives?

Benjamin Franklin once said in his writings: “Remember that TIME is money” (“Advice to a Young Tradesman”). When Benjamin Franklin wrote this in the mid-eighteenth century, he was attempting to warn his readers of the perils of wasting time or spending time idly. Today when someone uses the phrase “time is money” they are usually referring to one of two things:

■either that if you waste time, nothing productive will come of your efforts, or

■if you want to earn more money, you have to put in more time on the job.
When Benjamin Franklin used the phrase, he was driven by a desire to make himself a better man, and share his advice with others. Today, the phrase “time is money” is often thought to be driven by greed. It seems to imply that the most important use of time is that time can be used to make more money. Many people don't agree with this however. In fact, author Juliet B. Schor sums up this feeling quite well in her book called The Overworked American: The Unexpected Decline of Leisure. She presents her ideas on this topic in the following quote from her book:

It is often said that an economist is a person who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. On the question of time, we may all have become economists. We are keenly aware of the price of time—the extra income earned at a second job, the wage and a half for an hour of overtime. In the process, we may have forgotten the real worth of time. (Schor 139)

People around the world should consider looking at time in their own individual way, instead of looking at it through the scrutinizing eyes of an economist, so that we can determine for ourselves what the real worth of time is.

A Matter of What Matters: Saving Time

"Yesterday is a canceled check; tomorrow is a promissory note; today is the only cash you have. Spend it wisely."

Time is not something that anyone can physically collect, store, or put in the bank, although it is certainly something that people can spend as well as save. Like money, time is a valuable resource which people like to have available when needed and would rather not have to go without. Once time is lost however, it cannot be recovered. Most societies have developed ways of being efficient with their time. For instance, many people in developing nations often spend their time doing whatever it takes simply to survive. People in industrialized nations on the other hand, seem to be running full throttle trying to continually increase their productivity. Either way, people feel that if they had more time, they could do better.

One of the most popular methods that people have devised to organize their lives and save time is through the use of time management techniques. This begs the question: what kind of time do people want to save? Many people want to save time to get more work done and get ahead, like working overtime or getting housework or homework done early. However, one of the most important types of time that people should be saving more of is leisure time, and this is often overlooked—especially in fast growing, fast paced societies. In such situations, everyday lives fly past in a blur and people end up making unconscious decisions about their free time. Ultimately, they subconsciously decide the fate of their leisure time by ignoring it. As Professor Geoffrey Godbey once stated, the most detrimental result of a deficit in downtime would be this: “Never finding out who you are.” When we deprive ourselves of leisure time we deprive ourselves of those precious opportunities of self-discovery and fulfillment. Without leisure time, the opportunity to take advantage of and appreciate the simple pleasures in life scatters, and over time people begin to lose their insight into the more profound meanings in life.

So, for the cultures of the world that do not feel the pressures of time’s passing, saving time is not as significant an issue. For societies in a constant race against the clock, on the other hand, saving time for the important things in life is a legitimate concern. Rich or poor, being able to have an ample supply of leisure time at ones beck and call—for spending time with friends and family, pursuing a hobby, playing sports or relaxing—is essential to a human’s overall state of well-being.

How People around the World Have a Good Time

Often times our lives can become busy. This is true for people all around the world. Still, people all around the globe still find time, to make time, to have fun. Think of what you like to do for fun. What about the things your friends and family like to do for fun? A person’s leisure choices can say a lot about their character, their interests, and their culture. Have you ever wondered how people in different continents, countries, or cultures spend their time? Take a look at the interviews below and you can find out. Do you have any common interests with these people?

We hope you will get to know the people we interviewed. Their country of birth is shown in parentheses. By the time the whole interview article was completed, fourteen different people from nine different countries and a variety of interesting cultural backgrounds were represented!

■David (United Kingdom): David is British; he is a member of our ThinkQuest team, is a whiz with computers and is a skilled website designer
■Sigit (Indonesia): Sigit is Indonesian and has a Javanese cultural background.
■Jim (United States of American): Jim is the coach of our ThinkQuest team. He has a partly French-Canadian cultural background.
■Fabrizio (Italy): Fabrizio is Italian and currently lived in Wales.
■Ngoc (Vietnam): Ngoc was born in Vietnam, but has also lived in Australia and the United States of America.
■Jill (Australia): Jill is Australian. She has an Anglo-Saxon cultural background and her husband has a Malaysian and Chinese cultural background.
■Ammu (United States of America): Ammu is currently a student at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, USA. Her family originally comes from India.
■Tina (Australia): Tina is our other ThinkQuest team coach. She was born in Australia and currently lives there with her family. Tina was born to Greek parents. She and her family live with a very strong Greek cultural background. ■Margaret (Singapore): Margaret comes from Singapore. Her race is Chinese.
The Interview: Questions and Answers:

■What is your favorite holiday? What do you consider to be your country’s most significant holiday celebration? Have you any fond holiday traditions or memories to share?
David: Personally I think that my favorite holiday is Easter. As a Christian, it’s probably the most significant holiday of the year for me in that it’s the most important Christian event. My birthday also falls around Easter time which is nice, and it’s when the whole country is coming to life again after winter. I think that the UK puts the most emphasis on Christmas as a national holiday. It seems to start earlier every year (I seem to remember hearing Christmas music in September last year).

Sigit: My personal favorite holiday is the Eid, after the Islamic holy month of Ramadhan (where we have to fast for fourteen hours a day for 30 days). Eid is a celebration of victory against our greed and hunger, emotionally and physically. It lasts for two days. Although it is Islamic, Indonesian society has their own way to celebrate which is quite different from their counterparts in other countries especially Arabs. They are days of forgiveness and sincerity for every sins and mistakes we have made in the past year. Like Christmas or Chinese New Year we also visit relatives in our origin places and pray and spend quality time together for about 3 days to a week or so. Together with Christmas and New Year I think Eid is one of the most important holidays in Indonesia.

My big family used to gather in our grandpa's and grandma's house every year, no matter how far we were. Today, we don't gather so much because we don't have grandpas and grandmas anymore, although we occasionally meet in other days. It's kind of sad, though.

Jim: Christmas [Jim’s favorite holiday]. July 4th [The Fourth of July, celebrating the independence of the United States of America and what Jim considers to be the most important American holiday]. As I was growing up, my cousins and grandparents lived in the same northern New England town that we did. Every Christmas Eve, we would all participate in the annual ‘family reveillon’. That is, the whole extended family would meet at one of the homes around 8:00 PM. We would have a little to eat and drink, and open up gifts from that family. Then, we would all bundle up and trudge off across town to the next house and repeat the same process. This would continue until we hit all four homes. The last house we went to was considered to be the host that year and would serve the big meal, which usually consisted of tortierre (meat pies), headcheese, a roast and enough pastries to last a week. Most years we would end up getting home around 4 AM which gave us very little time to sleep before waking up to open the gifts that were under the Christmas tree from Santa Claus.

Fabrizio: Perhaps Christmas [what Fabrizio considers to be his country’s most important holiday].

Ngoc: The most significant celebration in Vietnam is Tet (Lunar New Year). People often visit relatives and family friends on this day. I like going to the pagodas (Buddhist temples) on the first day of the Lunar New Year with my parents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Every year, we visit the Temple of Literature and the National University – the first University of Vietnam, built in 1026. There, we wish for career success, and I feel very proud being a Vietnamese. It is a good time to reflect on my aims for the New Year as well.

Jill: Christmas [is Jill’s favorite holiday and she believes it is also Australia’s most important holiday] Christmas is the time when all our family gets together. And it's magical for the youngest members!

Ammu: I would have to say that the most significant holiday celebration in the U.S. is Christmas, but my favorite one is New Year's. On New Year's Eve, my family and I stay awake together until midnight, sometimes by ourselves at home, but sometimes with our friends. It's always accompanied by excellent food, and usually a good movie or game.

Tina: My favourite holiday is Christmas and I loved the way that my extended Greek family spent Christmas day. We would take it in turns to go to each other’s houses for a huge lunch and there were lots of us as my mum had 5 siblings, with 14 children between them. We always had a lamb on the spit—a Greek way of cooking a whole lamb on a huge rotisserie—I used to feel sorry for the lamb, but ate it anyway! Traditionally presents are given out on New Year’s Eve in Greece but we always received ours on Christmas Day. Another great Greek tradition was receiving money on New Year’s Day; we enjoyed that immensely. Australia’s most significant holiday would have to be Australia Day on January 26th. It is a day when many people have barbeques; however, as Australia is a multicultural country, people celebrate it in their own way

Margaret: [My favorite holiday is] Christmas—the decorations and lights. [My country’s most important holiday is] Chinese New Year—three days of celebrations. [I] Love traveling to scenic places. [I] Particularly enjoyed driving all over Alberta in Canada and New Zealand. [I am] Very proud of some fabulous videos we took of fantastic scenery.

■Do you enjoy playing or watching sports? If so, which ones and why? Does your country have a national sport? If so, what is it? What kind of role do sports and athletic activities play in your life?
David: Whilst I wouldn’t really consider myself to be a ‘sport fanatic’, I really enjoy playing racket sports such as Squash and Tennis, as well as Table Tennis and others. It’s good for hand eye coordination and is generally very friendly! Sport and exercise are important parts of my life for keeping fit and healthy. The national sport of the UK is undoubtedly Football (or Soccer as the Americans call it). It’s treated like a religion by many people over here, and whilst I’m quite proud to say that I don’t follow it at all, it is undoubtedly a national phenomenon.

Sigit: I enjoy both. I watch badminton and soccer the most and I play badminton. Indonesia's national sport is badminton. Sports serve as more of a recreational activity in my life.

Jim: I love to play most sports [but do not watch sports]. When I was growing up, I played on baseball, basketball and hockey teams. I was also on the varsity wrestling team in college. Today however, the only sports I play on a regular basis are tennis, ping-pong and skiing in that order. [Does the United States have a national sport?] Not really. Most would probably say our national sports are baseball in the summer, football in the fall, and hockey and basketball in the winter. I play tennis at least once a week. When my son is home, I play ping-pong every day, and I downhill ski a couple of times a season. I would be lost without my tennis.

Fabrizio: I do [enjoy watching and playing sports]! [I play] Football (soccer): it is in my blood as I'm Italian; rugby, as I live in Wales; track and field (I used to be a marathon man 20Kg ago), basketball ([I have] old memories of Magic Johnson vs. Larry Bird and now there's an Italian among the best NBA youngsters). [My country’s national sport is] Football: what else?

Ngoc: I love playing and watching sports. Sports I play: soccer, badminton, swimming, table tennis, rowing, volleyball, cycling, chess (if that counts as a sports), hackey sack, fishing . . . I think I [was] just born loving sports. The national sport in Vietnam is soccer. In Australia its rugby and cricket, but I guess I am not used to them. Everyday I have to spend at least 2 hours, and at most 24 hours playing sports.

Jill: I enjoy playing rather than watching. I have played many but I greatly enjoy swimming most now. It's low impact but high energy, aerobic but cool, I love water! I also do Tai Chi and love it. It is also low impact but extremely beneficial mentally as well as physically. [Does your country have a national sport?] Not officially....but football is very popular. Tennis, swimming and golf are also high profile during international game-meets. I like to keep fit. I exercise daily at home...circuit routine plus swimming in warmer months and regular Tai Chi. I like to watch some Olympic events. I really enjoyed attending the Australian Olympic Games for a day in Sydney. Occasionally I watch televised rugby with my husband. Occasionally a specific event attracts my attention…but not often. I love horse-riding but seldom go now; I'm older and have other interests.

Ammu: I definitely enjoy watching sports, particularly tennis, football (both the American and traditional versions), and (most recently, because it's huge at my college) lacrosse. I would say the "national sport" is a toss-up between baseball and American football. As far as my life personally goes, I tend to take a spectator role at sporting events, although I do play tennis frequently and enjoy playing other sports for fun with my friends.

Tina: I enjoy watching tennis; I love the way that a game can be so unpredictable and that little ball drives me insane at times, but it can be very exciting. Australia has a few sports but football would have to be a very popular one. We have soccer, Australian Rules footy and Rugby—depending on what you prefer. At the moment I don’t play sports but I have played Lacrosse in the past and I am not much of an athlete.

Margaret: I was born in the 1950s and back then Singapore was a newly created struggling country. The people had little interest in sports and focused on making a living. Frankly, I don't think so but I don't know for sure [if Singapore has a national sport].

■When you spend time with your friends, what do you like to do? How do you spend your group leisure time?
David: Being at University, I feel that I spend almost all my time with friends. I absolutely love the “Uni” life and I feel like I have more leisure time than ever before. We enjoy going out to pubs or clubs around Manchester, watching films and going out for meals. I also went on holiday with friends a couple of times last year to Dublin (Ireland) and Lanzarote. This was a great time to bond with friends and get to know them even better in a different setting.

Sigit: I love watching movies/films the most, then comes eating. With certain friends I also like to get creative and do projects like short films and others. I really want to travel overseas with my friends but that's not really possible because of our limited budget.

Jim: [For fun with my friends, I] Go out to eat, go dancing, play tennis, picnic or participate in other social gatherings.

Fabrizio: [I spend time with friends] Face-to-face, chatting with a beer each.

Ngoc: [When I’m with friends] I like to play sports, or discuss current politics with them, or play games, read books, [or] play music together. We have a variety of activities, and I hang out with many different groups.

Jill: [My friends and I] Visit each other's homes, have barbeques, dine out, go for coffee or a movie/show. [We enjoy] Chatting, watching shows, swimming, walking, traveling, etc.

Ammu: I don't think there is any general activity that we do to spend time together. Sometimes we watch a movie, sometimes we play a game together, if the weather is nice, we'll play Frisbee or some other game. Other times, we go out to a restaurant, go bowling, or something similar.

Tina: I do all sorts of things with my friends. We go for coffees at different cafes and we sometimes go to the movies and to concerts. I have an Opera buddy and we try to see a few opera productions every year—my favourite is Madame Butterfly. We also go out to dinner and we have many favourite restaurants, including a couple of Greek ones and some Italian ones.

Margaret: [In our spare time, my friends and I] Talk about current affairs with special emphasis on finance and politics. [We also enjoy] Ballroom dancing [and] eating out.

■What are your favorite solitary activities? How do you choose to amuse yourself during your individual free time?
David: I’m quite a big fan of graphic and web design and run several websites and a web design company. I find that maintaining these, looking after clients and keeping up to date with that field takes a great deal of my free time up. It’s great fun though, and something I’d consider more of a leisure activity than work.

Sigit: My solitary activity is playing around with the computer and Internet, watch films and sometimes read or listen to music. Sometimes I also like to go around town or certain place to just see things or shop.

Jim: [During my individual free time, I enjoy] Reading newspapers and magazines, working on home remodeling projects, planning excursions to far away places, and chatting online with friends.

Fabrizio: I don't choose [what I do during my free time]; my computer calls me.

Ngoc: [During my solitary free time, I enjoy] Reading books, playing computer games, playing the piano, drawing, learning languages, [and] writing stories. I like having time on my own as much as I like group activities.

Jill: [During my solitary free time I enjoy] Reading, swimming, budgie-breeding, horse-riding, working with animals, helping someone in need, listening to music, [and] tai chi. [I also enjoy] gardening, shopping, spending time with friends, traveling, [and] learning foreign languages.

Ammu: I really enjoy reading and running during my free time.

Tina: I love listening to music and watching DVDs. I also sing in a group and I practice at home to Karaoke DVDs…that amuses me no end, as Karaoke isn’t as easy as people think! I also make beaded jewelry; I love Swarovski crystals and sterling silver chain. I love reading and I try to read a few Greek books whenever I can. I also watch Greek DVDs with my mum.

Margaret: [My favorite solitary activities are] Cruising the internet for both fun and investments. [During my free time I enjoy] Watching TV and planning trips.

■Overall, what is your absolute favorite fun activity? What was the most fun experience you ever had?
David: My absolute favorite fun activity is visiting Theme Parks. I had the opportunity to go to Disney in Florida a couple of years ago and had an absolutely amazing time. For me, the point where you reach the top of a roller coaster, ready to plummet down the other side, is one of the most adrenalin pumping experiences around. I’ve also been Parascending which was really great fun, and learning to drive/passing my driving test was a great fun experience. It’s also given me a great deal more freedom since!

Sigit: Traveling, although it has always been mostly for serious things, not
entirely dedicated for fun. My most fun experience was interning in
Malaysia for three months (I don’t know if this sounds fun or not, lol)
and going places like the US and Australia for invitations.

Jim: [I enjoy] Planning trips, touring the world, discovering how small this planet of ours really is.

Fabrizio: [I have the most fun] Playing with my son or watching him playing.
[What was the most fun experience you ever had?] Tricky question: perhaps I was too young to remember it! But pillow-fighting with my son is my best nowadays!

Ngoc: Absolute favorite fun activity…Talking to my bf [boyfriend]. The most fun experience I’ve ever had…well, being able to crack a tough math problem after 2 weeks. It was a great feeling.

Jill: Traveling maybe [Jill’s favorite fun activity]. Climbing the Great Wall of China and Sydney Harbour Bridge [were the most fun experiences I’ve ever had].

Ammu: I do not think I can pick my absolute favorite activity, nor can I isolate one particular experience of mine as the most fun I have ever had. Generally speaking, all of my fun experiences are fun in different ways, and the degree to which they are fun does not vary very much.

Tina: My most fun experience? I have so many! I loved the year 2000 when we took the boys to Europe and we stayed at Disneyland Paris—it was awesome. We went twice and the second time was just before Christmas when the park was quiet so we didn’t have to line up and got to ride our favourite rides over and over without getting out of our seats! I loved the Pirates of the Caribbean ride and It’s a Small World! I also love 10 pin bowling and playing with my family. I also loved taking the boys to Wet’n’wild—a ‘wet’ amusement park in Queensland, North Australia. I slid down a water slide that was 8 stories high. It was fantastic, as was the tunnel of doom—sliding down an enclosed tunnel for a long time, swirling around like a tossed leaf!

Margaret: [My favorite fun activity is] Ballroom dancing. [The most fun I ever had was] Horse riding across a small river when the water came up to the saddle.

International Team, International Perspective

Read below to find out more about what the rest of our team had to say about how they have a good time.

Taylor (United States): Taylor is a senior in high school and the chief writer/researcher/editor of the team. Here Taylor discusses her solitary leisure time.

■One of my favorite solitary activities is writing poetry. During school I am methodical and analytical with my work. Writing poetry gives me a chance to feed my creative side and artistic nature. I also enjoy watching movies or my favorite television shows. During my individual free time I also enjoy taking naps, because I often don’t get as much sleep as I’d like to get!
Chrissy (United States): Chrissy is also a senior in high school, and is a writer/researcher/editor for the team. When asked about her favorite fun activity, or the most fun experience of her life, we found that she likes to take things one day at a time.

■I just enjoy doing everything; I’m a carpe-diem kind of person. Why not try to take advantage of all the time we have?
Ruohan (China): Ruohan is from China and his role on our ThinkQuest team is to work on website design. Below, Ruohan talks about how sports play a role in his fun time.

■Basketball is so fun when you can see all the amazing stunts done by NBA stars like T-Mac. You just start to believe that there is really no limit to what can be achieved. Snooker is elegant and I like the precise movements and control of the cue ball demonstrated by players like Davis (though he is a bit old now). Table tennis. Sports are a part of my life. It cheers me up and makes me fit. I’m as well happy about being good at some of sports.
Kishore (India): Kishore is our team leader and also works on website design. In addition, he coordinates a great deal of communication between members of the team and helps out in whatever area he is needed. Read what Kishore has to say about his country’s holidays.

■My favorite holiday is the Diwali holidays, which arrive around November. Diwali is a major Hindu festival in India. Known as the "Festival of Lights," it symbolizes the victory of good over evil, and lamps are lit as a sign of celebration and hope for mankind. Firecrackers are also lit as part of the celebrations. When I was young, I used to be pretty excited about Diwali because it usually falls on the winter vacation and so it was a gathering of many of my cousins (some of the coming from other parts of India). No school! No homework! We used to have such a fun time wearing new clothes and giving each other sweets.
Harry (Australia): Harry was born in Australia, but like our coach Tina, he is of a Greek cultural background. Harry is responsible for translating our entire site into Greek. Here Harry discusses one of the most fun experiences he’s ever had:

■My absolute favourite fun activity which I’ve taken part in, in recent memory, is having gone to see Tool live at the Big Day Out in February 2007. It was outdoors, it was night-time, and they had set up their show just as they would anywhere else, with screens behind the band displaying all kinds of surreal images (the most memorable of which is a DNA spiral made up of people sitting on each other’s shoulders, during the song Lateralus), and hypnotic green lasers which probably blinded a few people. It was mind-blowing to say the least, and I almost got killed in the mosh pit! But it was fun, and I can’t wait to go again, not only to see Tool, but also Metallica, Opeth, and maybe even Arch Enemy. This was the most fun experience I’ve had.