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The Poetry of Everyday LifeStorytelling and the Art of Awareness$
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Steve Zeitlin

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9781501702358

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9781501702358.001.0001

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The Human Unit of Time

The Human Unit of Time

The Space between Memory and Legacy

(p.161) 15 The Human Unit of Time
The Poetry of Everyday Life

Steve Zeitlin

Cornell University Press

This chapter considers the human unit for marking time. In her memoir Blackberry Winter, Margaret Mead devotes a chapter to the joys of becoming a grandparent. Grandparenthood inspired Mead to consider the need for a human unit of time, the span of which cannot be as short as a human lifetime, and yet cannot rely on the scientist's notion of time stretching back millions of years to the Big Bang. This human time span, based on experiential reckoning rather than scientific exactitude, stretches from our memories of ourselves as children to our grandparents' memories of their own childhoods, ultimately encompassing five generations. Folklorists echo Mead's notion when they speak of “a living cultural heritage,” because we are often referring to traditions and histories passed on through living memory. This chapter considers the space between memory and legacy and suggests that generational time is an aspect of the poetry of everyday life.

Keywords:   human unit of time, Margaret Mead, human time span, grandparents, living memory, memory, legacy, generational time, poetry, everyday life

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