There is Room

Broken Watch FacesEverything changes in time. This is the one constant in a Universe where all solid things ultimately disintegrate. It is the core principle that drives our fears and that led the Buddha to proclaim that the understanding of impermanence was the first “noble truth” that must be mastered by anyone who hopes to attain enlightenment.

Me, I’m just trying to get my damn laundry done before I have to leave for the airport.

I have struggled with time since I was a very small child. I remember vividly lying awake the night before my 4th birthday, staring at the ceiling, worrying intensely over how little I had accomplished over such a long period of time. I assumed that all the other 4-year-olds were much further along in their life missions. By the time I was in high school I was virtually insane with time anxiety. I got into a bitter argument with a friend who asked me what bothered me most about this world. I said “transience.” My friend thought I said “transients.” To this day, I think he abhors my position on our nation’s homeless population. What I meant, of course, was that everything passes away, and that I could not reconcile myself to the continuous loss that is an inevitable aspect of linear time. On a more basic note, I never felt I had enough time to do everything I hoped to accomplish. If I had known in high school how dramatically time demands would increase in the 21st century I would still be under my bed.

At this point in my life, I am lucky enough to have help with many tasks that once filled my available time and spilled over into time I should have spent sleeping. Even so I always feel I am running behind schedule. A few weeks ago I lost the cheap plastic Target watch that I was wearing because I know that I am always losing watches. For a few days I was on the road without a clock on my body. I was shocked by how often I looked at my left wrist. I remembered a Haitian proverb that became popular after slavery was abolished on the island: “The white man’s shackles have been replaced by his watches.” I had been experiencing time as my prison, my limitation, and my overseer.

To my huge relief, I soon bought another cheap plastic watch. But this one had a feature I had never seen. To set the time, I had to bring up a screen that said “chrono.” Every time I saw this screen a strange thought would pop into my mind. Not chronos, kairos. Chronos is a greek word that referred to the passage of linear time. Kairos means the time of the Gods. A moment of chronos is simply the tick of a clock. A moment of kairos is an undetermined time when an opening appears for the entry of the divine into the material world. Chronos is clock-time, kairos is god-time.

Either my subconscious mind or a passing guardian angel seems to be telling me that in order to move forward successfully with my purpose in life, I must relinquish my death grip on chronos and surrender to kairos. I am only beginning to experiment with this–such is the obsession with chronos I’ve had since preschool. At this point, my practice (and I would suggest this for you too if it feels interesting) is to notice that every day is peppered with kairos moments. A kairos moment may occur when your schedule is so full you feel like screaming. The message is to stop, to forget chronos, and to feel the calming force telling you almost nothing on your schedule is really important. A kairos moment might be the double-take you do when your eyes catch something beautiful or awe-inspiring. Take off your watch: the divine is speaking to you. A kairos moment may be the burst of laughter that comes when you realize all your darkest fears are fabrications of your mind. They are not happening now in this moment. This moment is the doorway to god. Stop and open it.

To remind myself of this I have been taking off my watch for several hours each day. Each time I look at my wrist and see nothing but skin I remember to drop chronos and feel for kairos. Within the kairos moment nothing ever needs to be done, and everything can happen at once. Life can weave itself around my heart’s desires. In one instant of kairos, there is room for everything we have envisioned for ourselves and for one another. I’ll meet you there.

0 replies
  1. ianrod2000
    ianrod2000 says:

    Nice idea to get rid of your watch! My wife reminded me only yesterday how much I looked at my watch. I wanted to leave the shopping mall and go home!!! LOL. Without the watch maybe I would have enjoyed the shopping more!

    Sometimes we would be better off without technology and just enjoy life. For New Years once I got rid of my TV, stored it at my parents house. I read so much more, learned so much more, talked with people more, got so much more done. It lasted until April when the soccer season got into the vital stages. However I still think back on those few months and would like to try it again.

    Technology is not always good for us. We sometimes forget the downside. Thanks for the advice about having no watch, worth a thought.

    Is that the time? Gotta go…

  2. Michelle Wolfe
    Michelle Wolfe says:

    Kairos moments? I love it.

    I feel them but I catch myself looking at my world through my tinted, plastic clipboard where I have scribbled my To-Do list – and it becomes hard to see my world in the now moment.

    My watch is that darn plastic clipboard that tells me I haven’t done enough yet. It’s pink and orange plastic shades my view of everything around me.

    I have time and I’ve done enough. I’m going to create a few “Now” moments invite God into them by opening that door and being still for a while.

    Thanks Martha.

  3. Ellen
    Ellen says:

    Reminds me of something I heard the great playwright Paula Vogel say: “life goes tick-tock, tick-tock, and once in a while, if we’re lucky, we’ll notice it going tock-tick.”

  4. Chicago Mary
    Chicago Mary says:

    Long ago, while driving to work, I discovered I had forgotten to put on my watch. Horror of horrors! I stopped and a cheap plastic watch at a drugstore along the way. Yikes!

    • Chicago Mary
      Chicago Mary says:

      Apparently, I was so distraught by that memory while typing that I forgot to say “purchased” a cheap plastic watch!

  5. Lisa
    Lisa says:

    Thanks for sharing this concept. I love how available it is. I don’t generally wear a watch…but I still look for the clocks – for chronos time. And I do feel the pull of kairos time. Must begin to pay more attention! Thanks Martha!

  6. Julie
    Julie says:

    Thank you, Martha. My most anxious memories (start as early as preschool) are that of getting in the car with my dad yelling the whole time about how we were going to be late if we didn’t “quit dilly-dallying”! Even today, while one of my favorite things is to “dilly dally,” I can’t do it w/out feeling an urgent feeling of POOR USE OF TIME!

    My daughter just turned 5, and it occurred to me last week that I am – in a different way – transferring that energy to her. That broke my heart! I do not want her to have that experience AND I want her to feel joy in dilly-dallying! I am trying to be conscious, deliberate, and joyful in getting out the door, and it is really freeing… in a truly trying way.

    I work with people with special needs, and I have several teachers with Down Syndrome who teach me to go just a little slower and enjoy the process. I am not always the best student, but aware.

    Wish me luck, and thank you! xoxo

  7. Ellen
    Ellen says:

    Julie, this is such a good point. It seems like the babies no sooner arrive than we are rushing them. “Hurry up! Come on! You’ll be late!” Now my oldest is 16 and I want everthing to slooooow doooown.

  8. Maria
    Maria says:

    Such a sign that I saw this post. In high school (I went to a catholic H.S.) we went on a life changing 4 day retreat called Kairos, meaning it to be 4 days of God’s time, I was blessed to go on this retreat twice and this article reminded me to slow down and remember what I learned on that retreat about time and life.



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