Kairos

Dear Sor Juana,

You turned to your books and your telescopes to fuse past and the future and maybe in those moments of silence your presence to the present. Each moment is its own unique distillation – kairos. Kairos is the supreme and opportune moment where chronological time is banished and where every moment is like a time lapse that can fly in any direction in time and space (it is the Tardis timepiece for our fictional time traveller Dr Who). Kairos teaches us about the essence of being able to live in the moment, in the confidence that each one of those granular moments is the season for everything.

I have never done well at keeping to anyone else’s timelines and very happy to let the universe unfold as it should, while savouring what can be savoured from the gift of each day and the promise of what is yet to come. The pilgrim’s journey is one where every step is both a standing still, holding on and moving forward action, all at the same time. Being able to hold the space that takes us to a new place and on a trajectory to presence is a discipline.

When our species was more hunter-gatherer we followed the food and followed the seasons, foraging and finding what we needed where we walked and looked to the stars and the sun to guide us. Kairos happened when you held your arrow, found the berry and made camp each night. The partnership of hunter and gatherer kept communities alive and brought life to the fire with mythological tales and everyday news. Trust was high, everyone knew their role and how to support the community on the road during the day and how to celebrate around with the stories, golden threads, woven, keeping them altogether.

How we make these stories now, know our roles and develop our deep understanding of our place in kairos (as opposed to chronological time) is a noble quest. It is not trivial and at its deepest having a bigger story, bigger agenda, bigger brain thinking and a bigger heart beating will bring us to our essence. The pilgrim has a lot to learn from the hunter-gatherer time – gently stalking then capturing the stories and possibilities to be shared with the wider group; scanning the landscape picking up clues for hunter, building the fire and gathering up the remains of the day, knowing where the greenest shoots are and what fruits are in season ready to be picked. The dance of mother nature with us, more co-creating than conspiratorial, the unfolding visible once we take the moment as kairos. No doubt Sor Juana, you would have studied Aristotle and his schema for rhetoric where for him kairos was that moment in time and space when all was revealed and proof was made visible, where proof was previously hidden.

I am reminded by the Jewish parable of the two sisters Truth and Story, where Truth was reviled when walking through her town naked, yet when Story cloaked her she was accepted and welcomed – no one likes the naked Truth, but when wrapped in Story, it becomes a thing of beauty and something we can all appreciate. Perhaps, this is what happens in kairos – time stands still and the space is held and beautiful truths are revealed. These are glorious moments when the scales fall away, the sun shines, stars twinkle and there is an alignment of the planets. So here’s to hunters and gatherers, and stories bringing more kairos to pilgrims for every indivisible step.

Kairos as portrayed in a 16th-century fresco by Francesco Salviati

Kairos as portrayed in a 16th-century fresco by Francesco Salviati

5 thoughts on “Kairos

  1. Pauline Small

    I love the picture of kairos as the expansion within each moment. The word has always carried a sense of urgency, and your work here seems to show how its translates into that important, often critical, action. It ties in with Mandelbrot’s physics(?) that shows the unending patterns within patterns, constantly moving and reforming as each is expanded.

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