In the midst of the ordinary time (kronos), extraordinary time (kairos) happens.
In a scene from Dead Poets Society, Professor John Keating challenges his boarding school English class. They sheepishly stand in front of the trophy case peering inquisitively into the photographs of alumna. The professor speaks with a deliberate tone about the boys in the faded black and white photographs:
They’re not that different from you, are they? Same haircuts. Full of hormones, just like you. Invincible, just like you feel. The world is their oyster. They believe they’re destined for great things, just like many of you; their eyes are full of hope, just like you. Did they wait until it was too late to make from their lives even one iota of what they were capable? Because, you see gentlemen, these boys are now fertilizing daffodils. But if you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you. Go on, lean in. Listen, you hear it?
Carpe! Hear it?
Carpe! Carpe diem! Seize the day boys. Make your lives extraordinary.
Why does the call to live extraordinary lives ring so loudly for some they are compelled to follow it with a zealous passion? What causes the same call for others to become merely a drone to ignore amidst all the other noises of life? No matter where one falls on this continuum the call remains the same for every human being. Carpe diem! [Literally, pluck the day] Choose to live in such a way that reflects the extraordinariness of your life. Position yourself to get caught up in the great drama. You have been destined to make an impact.
Kronos (kronos) is the ancient Greek word which refers to sequential or linear time. In Greek
mythology, the god Chronos, pictured as elderly, gray-haired and bearded, was the personification of time. Kronos is symbolized by the newborn baby that ushers in the New Year and ends the year as a bent-over old man: Father Time. We know kronos time as chronology; tick-tock time. It is measured, or chronicled, by clocks, hours, minutes and seconds. It is the time in which we make appointments and face deadlines. It tends to be more of a nemesis or taskmaster than a friend. We schedule our lives by it. Most people speak of never having enough of it as we race around the clock to make sure we maximize the time. Some even refer to much of life as “putting in the time.”
Kairos (kairos), even though the Greek meanings are complex and culturally dependent, refers to the right time, opportune time or seasonable time. It cannot be measured. It is the perfect time, the qualitative time, the perfect moment, the “now.” Kairos brings transcending value to kronos time. Kairos is the right moment of opportunity which requires proactivity to achieve success. It is significant and decisive. These moments transcend kronos, stirring emotions and realities to cause decisive action. It is not an understatement to say that kairos moments alter destiny. To miscalculate kronos is inconvenient. To miscalculate kairos is lamentable.
One doesn’t catch up with kairos time rather one participates in it. Kairos time can occur during activity or stillness. It simply intersects with kronos time. Newbery-Award winning author Madeleine L’Engle, best known for her children’s books, writes of kronos and kairos. She suggests that kairos can sometimes enter, penetrate, and break through kronos: the child at play, the painter at an easel, the saint at prayer, friends around the dinner table, the mother reaching out for the newborn are in what she calls kairos.
Taking kairos a step further Jean Shinoda Bolen suggests, “When we participate in time and therefore lose our sense of time passing we are in kairos; here we are totally absorbed in the present moment, which may actually stretch out over hours.”
T. S. Eliot (Four Quartets) ruminates in “The Dry Salvages” Number 3:
For most of us, there is only the unattended
Moment, the moment in and out of time,
The distraction fit, lost in a shaft of sunlight,
The wild thyme unseen, or the winter lightning
Or the waterfall, or music heard so deeply
That it is not heard at all, but you are the music
While the music lasts.
Could it be that one could get so caught up in kairos that kronos is truly transcended? At those moments one is at soul-level.
Let’s tweak John Keating’s Latin urge to a kairos admonition: Tempus Occasio! Seize the kairos moment!
Every human being is eternally valued. Every human being exists for only a certain amount of kronos time. Thousands of years before The Byrds’ popular, “Turn! (To Everything There is a Season), King Solomon wrote: There is a time for everything, a season for every activity under heaven. (Ecclesiastes)
The Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, uses the word kairos to capture the writer’s intent. The question is, “What will we do with our kronos moments?” There is something beyond kronos.
There is a time that impacts kronos with such intensity that it can alter the very kronos of a person’s life.
Every human being is wired with gifts and passions which afford opportunities to make unique impacts.
While each of us writes the script of our life, we have been given extraordinary potential to make a difference. Tempus Occasio!
James W. Moore boldly writes, “Kairos time is full time, vital time, crucial time, decisive time…those rich special moments that break into the humdrum and change your life; those powerful dramatic moments when things seem to fall into place; a new perspective comes, and God seems to be speaking loud and clear. That is kairos!”
There is no better time to apprehend kairos then the exact moment in time in which a person lives: the present moment. Simply put, the past is over; the future has yet to be written. We have the gift of the present moment in which to live. Will we seize the present moment or passively watch time tick by?
The question is far from cavalier. It carries with it the tenderness of a care-giver blended with the challenge of a coach. The options are simple but the consequences can lead to great complexities.
Either we proactively seize kairos time or we, by choice, choose only to live in kronos time, which tempts us to reshape the past or lures us to bring unwarranted assurances to our future. The later is a tenuous place to live. It leads to limited satisfaction, feeds our control issues, and breeds a lack of contentment.
Can you think of a moment in your life which brought great joy to you? Fulfilling a dream, falling in love, the birth of a child? If only that moment could be frozen in time. It cannot. That moment is in the past, a memory to which we add other memories which will form the legacy of our lives. That moment is to be remembered and celebrated. It becomes another stitch in the fabric of our lives. It dare not become the entire garment.
Conversely, can you think of a moment in your life which brought pain or sadness? Was it a poor decision? Someone who hurt you? The loss of someone you love? If only that moment had not happened. It did. That moment is also in the past, and added to our memory. It too, becomes another stitch in the fabric of our lives. It dare not become the entire garment. How many people do you know who live in the past with such intensity that it drives their very decision-making? Rather than choosing to observe the past as a scar, they see it as a festering wound. Some even choose to regularly keep the wound open. That way they can actually use the wound as leverage for manipulation or exacting some revenge. Others peel back the scar when it is convenient giving them a good excuse for not taking responsibility for their decisions.
The old saying is true, “He who ignores history is bound to repeat it.” However, there is a great distance between knowing our past and choosing to live in the past. Philosophy majors spar over this concept. Therapists earn a living helping people understand it. It is the crux of how human beings, young and old, choose to live. Will we choose the present moment?
In the span of every human being’s life there are kairos opportunities.
You may not be standing in the hallway of a boarding school with John Keating whispering, “Carpe Diem!” But you are standing on the precipice of other kairos opportunities. Tempus occasio!
You may not be a teenager who is seeking to understand the meaning of life. But you are invited to find purpose and power as you gaze into the face of the One who created you and calls you “Beloved,” offering you destiny-changing opportunities. Tempus occasio!
You may not be gazing into the pictures of those who lived a century ago. But you are invited to study the lives of those who have taken their kairos moments and transformed their world.
Are you ready for an adventure?
If you listen real close, you can hear opportunity calling. Your legacy is ready to be written.
Go on, lean in. Listen, you hear it?
Tempus! Hear it?
Tempus! Tempus occasio! Seize kairos!
Make your lives extraordinary.
Extractos del ensayo “Time measured by Kairos and Chronos”, Mark Freier (2006)
Mis mejores deseos. Que vuestras vidas transcurran en Kairos. Es vida en su estado puro.