Quaker Universalist Voice

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Timefulness in Time

A Book Review of Marcia Bjornerud, Timefulness: How Thinking Like a Geologist Can Help Save the World (2018)

This is a book about the benefits of a rich understanding of the span of time.  The author of M. Bjornerud, Timefulness: How Thinking Like a Geologist Can Help Save the World  (2018), argues that our common time perception is a distorted time perception, which endangers human sustainability.  The author offers a better time framework in a “timefulness” perspective, substantially aided by the insights of geology.

The author argues for a fuller and longer understanding of time and seeks to build the concept of “timefulness,” which particularly and substantially embraces the large time frame provided by the traditional scientific discipline of geology.

The author joins those scientists who acknowledge climate change, acknowledge a human role in affecting climate change, and believe that these human effects are large, growing, and imminently dangerous for humans.  The author rejects those scientists who see that distorting effects by humans on climate are small and relatively insignificant.  The author fails to make the argument for the same moral imperative of engaging in environmental protection and enhancement stewardship on behalf of both of these traditional views concerned about human stewardship of the global environment. 

The book cover graphics may be disconcerting and may make it appear to some potential readers to emphasize technical details of geological changes.  This is misleading.  The book is more about perception and understanding the scope of earth time with the aid of geology.  It is not a geology textbook.

The author includes an index and technical endnotes.  Hidden jewels in this book consist of three fascinating appendix charts listing important earth geological events, summarizing a simplified, but long, geological time scale for the earth, showing the duration of geological earth events, and providing a list of a selection of eight environmental crises in earth history.  These charts expand the reader’s future time frame.

The author’s contribution to a practical agenda for addressing the issue of a broader and more nuanced view of time includes encouragement of geological literacy, support for science teachers, and student education for future generations.  The author offers no suggestions for new government policy mechanisms for managing environmental sustainability.

It is interesting that this author does not mention western religions as a source of concepts and language for building and enriching “timefulness.”  Yet, the author substantially relies on the historic contributions of selected, primarily indigenous, religions through the language used for enhancing the proposal for “timefulness.”  The author includes the ideas of sensing the presence of the past within the present (“Sankofa”-Ghana), the power of the past upon the present (“wyrd”-Norse), holding memory of the past in the present (“sati”-Buddhism), and nostalgia for the future. Western religion is dismissed in silence.  The world’s religions and cultures are full of hints for the fuller understanding of time for our use in understanding time and communicating about time, including the fullness of time and end times (Christian).  

For the author, “timefulness” transforms our relationship with Nature through understanding personal and cultural stories embedded in larger, longer Earth stories.  This can be beneficially humbling, durable, and resilient for all humans.


There is no mention of Quakers in this book.  Quakers appear to have little to contribute to the discussion of a fuller view of time. Perhaps this is due to relatively short Quaker history of only  some 400 years, the Quaker focus on the now, that of God in each person, and the Quaker emphasis on linking faith to practice in the present.


  • What language tools do Quakers embrace for expressing  the deeper dimensions of timefulness?
  • What do Quakers contribute to our cultural perception of time?
  • What are the obstacles to understanding the time element of reality erected by Quaker language?


M. Bjornerud, Timefulness: How Thinking Like a Geologist Can Help Save the World (2018)

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