Time: Chronos or Kairos?


The ancient Greeks had two words for time:

First, Chrónos denoting the dimension of time, its duration, which moves steadily from present to future, the kind of time referred to when one says, for example, “I’ll meet you in the pub at five o’clock”

Conversely, Kairós denoted the quality of time rather than its quantity, in particular an opportune time, like “its time I started to read more books.” Kairós describes time’s particular significance for an individual; it is time that has personal meaning as compared to any universal dimension.

My internal clock has always adjusted to a different tempo when visiting family in Kathmandu. Within a few hours of arriving everything slowed down and I developed what I subsequently called The Kathmandu Shuffle. I walked slower, talked slower, thought about things for longer, took longer to eat a meal. Time had slowed down. This is Kairos.

“Epicurus would have us savour each moment of our lives to the maximum, and fully savouring our experiences requires time. The Forever Young Brigade have a compelling reason for opting for hurried time: it is their primary strategy for combating time’s chronic tormentor—boredom. And next to illness and death, boredom is what we fear most in old age.”

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So, sitting here in the Central Beers Bar in Malaga it’s like my personal Kairos is being battered by …….. music. “Roll over Beethoven, Chuck Berry”, “Be bop a Lula, Gene Vincent”, “Whole lotta shaking going on, Jerry Lee Lewis”, “Good golly miss molly, Little Richard”, “Summertime blues, Eddie Cochrane,” all played over the sound system of the bar. Memories are an expression of Kairos, and as I savour each tune as it begins, I play that age old game of naming the singer or band, the year of its release, when did I first hear it, where was I, what was I doing at that TIME! I like Kairos, much better than Chronos which in retirement I don’t need to bother about!

Let’s end with a quote from a very interesting book:

Time is the one dimension of experience we cannot leap out of, at least until the final act. But we can contemplate it, investigate it, get acquainted with its nature and workings. Indeed, the need for reflection, for making sense of our transient condition, is time’s paradoxical gift to us, and possibly the best consolation for its ultimate power. Time gives us our existential premise, and coming to terms with it is equivalent to grappling with the great questions.

Time, Big Ideas. (Eva Hofman)

16 thoughts on “Time: Chronos or Kairos?

    1. Good thinking, but ……. it was a little of each because buying the tickets, travelling, being ON TIME was Chronos. But during the concert it was Kairos for an hour only. Mostly now our whole lives are Kairos.

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  1. Excellent points Dr. B. Do tell, do you think that we humans become more philosophical when we’re vacationing or is it the wine we consume that helps with that? Enjoy!

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      1. No, maybe it is a question best answered on your xth trip to the restroom in the middle of the night after you’ve consumed the xth glass of wine?!!

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        1. Enjoy your meal – I’m off to finish a book on a treadmill and then go to work, gotta be able to buy more books!

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        2. The Epicurus book I’m re reading and fluctuates between being very funny then very serious. The author is American living on a Greek Island who studied philosophy at Harvard, Stanford or somewhere like that. I can really identify with him being a teenager in the 60’s too.

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    1. Outstanding! But some deeper reflection needed Andrew, there must have been SOME brain activity! Raining here, so indoor market and Glass Museum today …. if it opens.

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      1. Well. when I say nothing I don’t mean being in a vegetative state of course. I have to maintain the blog and all the associated research, Like Candide I have to tend the garden, there are household chores of course, I make my drift wood boats and when it isn’t snowing I play golf. Snowing heavily today so no golf and no garden!

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        1. So the “nothing” reply is like the naughty boy response? When I was young in Cumbria growing up, it was my reply at dusk to my mother after a day with the gang chopping down trees, making dens in the woods, digging tunnels, climbing rocks, lighting fires …..

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