TIME: The Familiar Stranger by J.T. Fraser

TIME: The Familiar Stranger

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Fraser, founder of the International Society for the Study of Time, has over the years amassed art and artifact, literary tidbit and historical note on the subject of time. The result is a volume with an encyclopedic air that occasionally threatens to overwhelm the reader--in spite of an amiable prose style. Fraser attempts to impose order on his unwieldly material, exploring a hierarchy of concepts of time that distinguishes the physicist's atemporal, inorganic ""t""--the variable in mathematical equations--from a succession of organic, biological, human, social, and global times. For starters, he reviews the experience of time in the human context, a discourse that reads like a survey of the world's great religions, Freud, developmental psychology, evolutionary theory, and language. Following that is a long section on clocks, calendars, and chronologies, with the oft-repeated theme that to perform a time measurement all one needs are processes usable as clocks, as well as the conviction that their indications are connectable in a meaningful way. Section 3 focuses on biological time, culminating in Fraser's concept of ""nootemporality""--reserved for human time concepts born of the knowledge of birth, aging, and death. He dispatches inorganic time in section 4, in which he dwells for too long on theories of relativity, does better by entropy, and concludes with a generally lucid discussion of the Big Bang and problems of ""before"" and ""after."" Having followed Fraser down numerous pathways and become accustomed to his combination of breeze and scholarship, the last section comes as a shock: It is a bitter polemic against the erosion of the individual and the imminent homogenization of society in a time-compact globe exemplified by computers, fear of the Bomb, Disneyland, transnational capitalism/communism, terrorism, and a prevailing belief in the irrelevance of history. For Fraser, the end of time is truly an apocalyptic vision.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1987
Publisher: Univ. of Massachusetts Press