Wednesday, September 9, 2009


For years I've maintained that I'm a lazy person. Those who hear me admit it protest, "But you do so much!" Yes, but one of my deep, dark secrets is that if I slow down I'll never get started again. September is a time I groan and get started again.

I don't thrive on schedules and organization. I would hate a Blackberry. I've never worn a watch. I do use a pocketbook calendar, but only because four years ago I finally faced facts: my life is too complex to manage in my head.

I am not naturally geared to chronos: clock time, demarcated time. When I'm boxed in by a schedule I have half my mind on the clock, so I don't absorb the here and now fully. Schedules threaten to overwhelm rather than help me. A year ago I tried using a month-at-a-glance calendar. It worked for the 15 minutes it took to write down a month's worth of events. Then I looked at all I had to do in four weeks and hyperventilated. My inner preschooler needs to break things down into small components to stay sane. Ask me to pick up the green blocks, and I can do it. When that's done I can move on to the red blocks. But look the whole mess in the face at once? Never.

The Greeks had a second word for time, to which I relate better: kairos. We know kairos through love or pain or beauty that transcends chronological time. When you're thinking about an event long ago that feels current and alive -- so real that it is of the present -- you are experiencing kairos. It is almost a time that we re-enter rather than a time that passes by. I've read that another way to look at it is that kairos is qualitative, while chronos is quantitative.

In theology, kairos means the time when God acts. That's an interesting idea to ponder, since it sheds a different light on my September schedule. God can act at any time. The main thing to consider is if I will be so wrapped up in chronos that I won't notice what He does.

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