Did you know that not everyone has the same concept of time as we do?

The Amazonian people, for example, have no sense of past and future but experience everything as present. For them, if the past cannot be perceived, it ceases to exist. The Hopis of Arizona have no verb tenses at all, no past, no present and no future. The closest they can express time is by using a word for sooner and another for later. And in Indonesia, they refer to time as ‘rubber time’ to describe their flexible approach to timekeeping.

On the other hand, the Greeks have two distinctive words for time – one is chronos and the other is kairos. We are usually familiar with the chronos type of time which is linear, measured by clocks and calendars, i.e. chronologically.

So, what kind of time is kairos?

Where chronos is clock time, kairos is a time when things fall into place and not according to a clock. It is a ‘qualitative’ time where a critical moment happens for things to manifest. Photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson had referred to such time as “the decisive moment” when shooting his pictures. He would stay still and wait patiently for the right time to capture a photo.

Time in chronos is about quantity and the past or future, whereas in kairos, it is about quality and the present – right now. Examples of kairos time is that of artists at work where they are absorbed in the present and unconsciously generate their creation at the right moment. Such artist at work is in kairos, the child at play is in kairos, or when we are in a meditative state... where time as we know it stops.

It is an identity-free space not influenced by past or future, creed, colour or gender. In chronos time, we are conditioned with what we know, while in kairos, we surrender to what we don’t know and embrace what unfolds.

Kairos needs stillness to create a space where things can manifest at their opportune time. We can observe the eagle where it is present with its sharp precise awareness and glides with its stalled wings, and in this stillness finds its kairos moment to catch its prey.

Time in chronos is about quantity and the past or future, whereas in kairos, it is about quality and the present – right now

When we find ourselves caught up in a busy schedule, it would be opportune to get into kairos mode and pause our racing minds. We need to find our balance by allowing ourselves to be human and not robots ruled by clocks or conditioned by our stories of beliefs, gender or colour.

Kairos helps us to live intentionally, embracing every season as it comes and living it fully. Everything has its place and we need to appreciate that. Most of us are familiar with the scriptures where this concept is articulated in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven;

a time to be born, and a time to die;

a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;

a time to kill, and a time to heal;

a time to break down, and a time to build up;

a time to weep, and a time to laugh;

a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;

a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

a time to seek, and a time to lose;

a time to keep, and a time to throw away;

a time to tear, and a time to sew;

a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

a time to love, and a time to hate;

a time for war, and a time for peace.”

Kairos requires space so that it might be relished. In chronos we do − but in kairos, we’re allowed to be, to think and discuss, relax and recharge, connect and create, and treasure our relationships we have with our community.Tim


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