When I was in college, I had a mentor who had a profound impact on my life. We would meet together for lunch every week. I learned so much from him. One lesson especially will stay with me until the day I die. He taught me about two different kinds of time — kairos and chronos.
When someone asks you for the time, they’re talking about chronos. It’s a Greek word for time. According to Strong’s Greek Concordance, chronos is defined in the Greek as “time, a particular time, season.”
Days, months and years. Hours, minutes and seconds. Passing the time. I don’t have enough time for that. I need more time in the day.
So often we talk about chronos. We probably don’t even realize it.
Chronos is good. In many ways, our world revolves around time. It’s how we make sense of things. We need the “chronological” (See anything familiar there?) conception of time.
But there is another conception of time that is even more powerful. It’s emotional. I’m talking about kairos.
Kairos is another Greek word for time. Its definition is slightly different though. Kairos means “fitting season, season, opportunity, occasion, time.” Another definition for kairos is “a propitious moment for decision or action.” Kairos is a moment in time.
Remember that time when…
Once upon a time…
I had the time of my life…
These are the moments we always remember. The times when we made a decision or experienced something new and spectacular.
Kairos is very good as well. It’s how we experience things. We need the “opportunity” definition of time.
Take the two pictures in this post for example. The featured image at the top was one that I did not personally take. I was not there. I might know the location from having seen it in popular culture, but my initial conception would be that I am looking at a large clock.
The next picture immediately above this section was one that I did take. From the looks of it, I was standing very near to the same spot as the person who took the first picture. Because of that, I know that this is the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, France. I know that it overlooks The Louvre. More than that, I can remember a moment in time when I was there with my brother, Evan.
I’ll always remember that trip. My brother and I toured Paris and London together. It was amazing! And I definitely remember standing in front of the Musée d’Orsay clock. There were so many kairos moments — moments in time that had a profound impact — on that trip. But without keeping track of chronos, the opportunity for kairos wouldn’t have been there.
Make Chronos for Kairos
I feel like in our world, we get so focused on chronos. I’m not here to bash chronos. It is very important.
But we get tunnel vision when thinking about the time it takes to complete projects, how packed our schedule is or deadlines we need to meet. Again, I’m not saying those things aren’t important.
I’m just saying we need to make sure we’re not missing out on the kairos moments. The opportunities that are around us.
We won’t have the opportunity to go to the Musée d’Orsay every day. But kairos moments don’t have to be that big. They can come in the everyday moments like cooking or driving. The opportunities are there, we just need to make time for them.
So I encourage you today — make chronos for kairos.
Aaron Charles is a writer and marketing account executive from Indiana. You can connect with him on Twitter, Medium or Instagram. Aaron and his wife Sarah run a Medium publication called Cooking With Sarah that documents their weekly cooking adventures.