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.