Chronos vs. Kairos Time

kidsThank you to Nanook who sent me this blog post by Glennon Melton, a mommy blogger who blogs for the Huffington Post. She takes a stand against the carpe diem ethos we live in. She holds up a stop sign to all those well meaning people who tell us to enjoy every minute with our children, that it all goes so fast. But my favorite thing about this post is that she reminds us of chronos time and kairos time.

Somewhere in the deep recesses of my brain, back from the époque of Birkenstocks, flannel shirts and Liberal Arts, I felt a little shudder of recognition. The ancient Greeks had two words for time and the distinction between the two is just so beautiful and true. Chronos time is chronological time, schleppy time, regular, minute-by-minute make the lunches, find the mittens, check the backpacks, drive to soccer time. Kairos time describes those moments outside of time, or in between time, when time stands still, something special happens and we see it – really see it.

We can’t live in kairos time all the time – that’s our lot as humans. But the striving for it, well, I think that’s our lot too. And our blessing. Sometimes we are bowled over by the kairos moments because they are huge and life changing. Take the first time you see your baby. Time stands still and every fiber of your being is attuned to that moment. Your focus is absolute, unwavering and yet effortless. But what about the quiet, small, maybe even imperceptible moments? Perhaps, by holding these two concepts of time lightly in my palms as I go about my day, it’ll help me to make sure I don’t miss those sneaky kairos moments that could so easily slouch by hooded by annoyance, inattention or concentration. Perhaps, the more limber we can be by moving between the two types of time, the more we will see with our hearts. And maybe it isn’t even about seeing the kairos moments, but about recognizing them when they happen.

This morning in chronos time:

7:30-9:30 I worked the concession stand for the school basketball teams. Friendly chatter with the other mom, busy hands making popcorn, coffee, setting out the chips and candy and Gatorade. Sneaking sips of my own coffee to try to shake off the tiredness. Dash arrives with the rest of the brood in time for Saint James’ game and I join them on the bleachers barely noticing that Supergirl has taken a seat behind the concessions table, ready to sell.

This morning in kairos time:

I glance out of the gym toward the concessions table and Supergirl is sitting with her hands on the box of money. She is wearing a fox hat, Carondelet tie-dye shirt, green jeans and snow boots. The second shift of concession workers has arrived and as some mother whom I don’t know is taking her coat off in the kitchen, Supergirl, with her hand still on the money box, quite literally, gives her the total stink eye. You see, my girl has always loved commerce. Ever since she was tiny, there was nothing more exciting to her than using real money to buy a real item. Shifts be damned – there was no way anyone was going to take her seat. I chuckled to myself, turned back to the game, and slipped back into chronos time with barely the flutter of an eye.

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