Playing with time

Have we have been given an extra hour this morning, or we have had an unwanted hour imposed on the chronology of this day. How do you see the clocks going back? I feel it is an imposition, but then I feel the measurement of time by clocks and a Pope’s calendar as a deep constriction on my soul. I cannot deny the passing of “time”, the moon waxes and wanes, the tides rise and fall, the seasons change, night follows day and so on but surely the word time is too limited to encapsulate all these concepts?

On a side note, it is strange to me that English has so many, many words and so many of them useless to most of us. Words that name words if you are linguist or grammarian (I’m not) or words that set others apart from the run of the mill of us: academic words, scientific words, specialist words that we have no cause to employ. All useful in their own way I am sure for a very few people. What about a wider range of words for the human condition: a choice of words for time, and birth and love. We have such a tragically limited choice to describe the huge range of concepts and feelings we experience.

Back to time. There is the time most of us are bound to live our lives by but we are all aware there are other types of time that we experience: when time does something else. The middle of the night, the way time passes when your child is ill or someone is dying, the way time hangs when we travel. The Greeks divided time into two concepts: kronos and kairos. Kronos is the sequential, linear time we measure with our clocks and calendars; that time we live, work and die by.

Kairos cannot be defined exactly by one word in English – it is a concept – those moments of opportunity that place us only in the now without measurement. Kronos is defined as quantative, kairos as qualitative. Kairos is something to not merely note, but to participate in. I experience this when I look at certain paintings, listen to music, stand under a tree in the wind. This is personal to me, everyone will have their own kairos moments. Sometimes the opportunity offered to humans through participating in this kind of time, not just marking it off, changes the course of history. Even if that is not for you today, kairos still offers each of us the opportunity to now and then transcend the limitations of the clockface.

Posted on October 31, 2010, in Art, Biophilia, Politics, Words and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. A lot of people wouldn’t have the need to have words invented for ‘Kairos’ time as they never experience anything other than linear moments. For those that do they can use words already in the dictionary, adjectives I think they’re called.

    Anyway a large proportion of the population are struggling with the words already available without adding other as you well know. šŸ˜‰

    What about ‘Hammer time’?

  2. Adjectives: hmmmm.

    I thought you might suggest Chico Time DB – your Hammer Time has some retro charm to be sure.

  3. Don’t even mention the X-factor in association with my name perlease! My FB status is currently ‘Can someone let the Metroplitan Police anti terrorist squad know the next time they see Wagner in the underground!’

  4. Don’t tempt me!

  5. I like this; it’s very thought-provoking and worth the effort for old eyes to struggle with the colours!

    Please can I have more kairos? Having only just discovered kairos (although I didn’t know that was its name) My biggest fear is that I will die before I get enough of it.

  6. Despite further reading I’m struggling to understand kairos. Is it when something captivating occurs that makes a person forget about Kronos? A bit like being in a betting shop.

  7. Good definition, Jamie Jnr

    • There’s a bit of a kronos/kairos klash there Jamie, unless all the races go off at random times (and we know that could never happen!).

      For my mother: I am looking at different themes for you, none suitable so far though…

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