Chronos and kairos

A good friend taught me something earlier today. She taught me about the concept of there being two sorts of time: chronos and kairos. (If you already knew this, you may skip ahead.)

The universe is a pretty impressive metronome, when you think about it. For something so big, it’s remarkably consistent in its comings and goings and loop-de-loopings. We measure years this way, and days, and in between we’ve portioned out hours and months and all manner of organizational units. Our sundials told us, and our watches tell us, and I’m sure someday our surgically-implanted brain microchips will quietly remind us of this: chronos time.

The other sort of time, though, is not so easy to pin down and wrangle into boxes and hang numbers around. Kairos is more about the natural timing of things… or maybe, more accurately, about the happening of things. Things happen as they will, sometimes, with very little regard for our chronos-keeping devices. Certain things don’t keep a schedule… or maybe, more accurately, they sure do keep a schedule, but it’s not one that our silly little human brains could possibly hope to decode. It’s more, like, the time of the universe, man.

Maybe there’s never really a “perfect moment” to do anything. But if there is, kairos knows when it will be, and where it will be, and how it will happen, and it won’t allow you to do anything to rush it any closer, no matter how hard you try.

This is part of the problem I have with writing. Like many people, and perhaps especially artists, I have a lot of ideas rattling around in my head. This would make a good novel, maybe. Or this would be a cool idea for a podcast series. That there is interesting, but not for a novel, maybe more for a short story. And all the rest, well, pretty much anything can pass as poetry, right?

I get overwhelmed by all these ideas, all these startings. I desperately want to organize them, to make chronos out of them; to make sure they each have their own proper folder on my Google Drive and their own special notebook for jotting ideas and their own structure and medium fully decided upon and committed to well in advance of actually making any progress.

All those startings stack up and form an intimidating wall. I see the wall, and I kick my toe in the dirt and say “aw, shucks, I must not really be a writer.” And that’s why there are no finishings.

My friend – the one who told me about chronos and kairos – said that she has another friend who is a writer, and that one of the most important things that writer has done is to commit to just writing, for some set amount of time, every day. No matter what. Just pick one of the many startings and run with it. After all, when you’re poised at the start of a marathon, you can’t see the finish line – but you run like hell when the gun goes off, trusting that you’ll see it eventually.

This is a definitively kairos approach to writing. You can’t wave a stopwatch in the face of creativity, menacing your unwritten words with the threat of a time limit.

So here I am, just writing. There’s not really a finish line. Or, oh, wait, I guess, this is it, huh?  So I found it after all. Huh. How ’bout that.


One thought on “Chronos and kairos

  1. An informative post, thank you. My tanka, haiku reply.

    chronos and kairos time
    when how now who cares
    birthdays anniversaries
    times we can or cant forget

    volcano erupts
    earthquakes devastation
    only kairos knows



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