One of the things I missed about England when I was in SE Asia was the passage of time marked out in seasons. Malaysia was one long, deathless summer. Everything was constantly green. The only change was the coming of the rains. From November until January, with a regularity that would have impressed John Harrison, the rain would begin at four, cry its heart out for an hour, and finish at five.
It doesn’t seem to be much discussed but I’m intrigued by the effect that seasons, or the lack of them have on culture.
I’m interested in how seasons shape the way we think, feel, act, because what they do in microcosm is remind us of the cycle of birth, life and death, that we have a beginning and an end just as the seasons do.
In being able to count out the passing years do we gain a sense of urgency? Does the brevity of summer high in the northern hemisphere remind us that life is short and that we must act now if we’re to do anything with what we have? Does the lack of seasons subtract that same sense of urgency from life in the tropics?
There are plenty of counter arguments; that Angkor and Calakmul arose close to the equator, that northern European Protestantism drove development and industrialisation rather than hard winters and the need to keep busy to keep warm.
Perhaps it’s just this time of year and my time of life, that I feel time speeding up and autumn coming round again with all too little to show for another year.
In my next post I’ll consider the role that whisky has played in fuelling melancholy writing…