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From the days of the Greeks, Western thought has been dominated by the law of the "excluded middle" and the desire for extremes. One is either mortal or not mortal; there is no middle ground. The attempt is to rationalize away the vagaries of human existence; however, some religions such as Buddhism and especially Jainism, are based on the middle. Buddhists seek the middle path—balance—whereas Jainsts hold to the "doctrine of maybe," a seven-fold division of possibilities. Thus, a Jainist, realizes that all things are relative to the aspect in which they are made or known, and their education is focused on knowing something as thoroughly as possible by considering it from all points of view. Space is made up of an infinite number of points and an infinite number of atomic instants, a notion that predates Einstein's (German-born theoretical physicist, 1879-1955) theory of relativity by centuries.

Previously in China and Japan, time was a combined perception of cosmic and mundane changes in a cyclical form based on nature. The linear notion of history becomes more a matter of a utilitarian conception. Time was defined as flowing in a natural, temporal, and, above all, annual cycle. There is only one Japanese word for time, toki, which translates as something like "intervals." Up to the twentieth century, the homogeneity of the Japanese culture, and its rigid regard for tradition (rooted in the deified emperor) perhaps emanate from the fact that there was no emphasis on the discontinuity between different dynasties or stages of institutional change. Japanese history is continuous and constantly present. Because natural cycles are constant, dynasties are viewed as never-ending manifestations of a naturally repeating cycle.

For Martin Heidegger (German philosopher, 1889-1976), time was an existential experience based on the human sense of finality. We know that we die. What can we do in that span we call life? It is the "concern" of human endeavor to define the space of our existence. We are remembered by the artifacts we leave behind. "Look upon my works ye mighty and despair," said Ozymandias in Percy Bysshe Shelley's (English Romantic poet, 1792-1822) poem. The space of existence is always mediated, whether through new metaphors for the passage of time; through philosophical, psychological, or religious concepts of self; or through technology that records the events of history.