When I was in medical school, my professors would occasionally illustrate a feature of human physiology (say, the “fight or flight” response) by showing how helpful it would have been to people who were contending with saber-toothed tigers. It’s a handy device, and its utility is not limited to the field of biology. We can also make use of this thought experiment to gain new insights into how we think about and use time. It turns out that the Stone Age holds some lessons for us all.
Throughout history and around the world we can find certain basic, even universal, approaches to the use of time. In its simplest form, the human experience might look like this:
Time = Means of Survival + Meaningful Relationships and Experiences
This two-pronged approach to time goes back at least as far as the cave paintings at Lascaux. The people living then needed to hunt in order to survive. They did not, however, need to paint in order to survive. As far as we can tell, their paintings grew entirely out of their relationships with each other and with mysterious forces that they could feel but not see.