Thursday, June 24, 2010

Why I don't wear a watch

Time is a tricky thing. For instance, all month I've been thinking I need to blog something. I'll do it later when I have the time. And look! it's the end of the month. The time slipped away. It's a marvel to me that we're mid-way through 2010. Heck, I'm still surprised it's not 1997.

Many people, far wiser than I, have thought and written about time. Do a search for "anthropology of time" and you're find some amazing stuff (as of today Google gives you almost 45 million results). I love thinking about it, but am by no means an expert. Most of us aren't. Humans have been considering the nature of time, well, ever since we started codifying it so it's no wonder we haven't come to any real conclusions.

Consider the Greek concepts of chronos and kairos.

Chronos (beyond being the father of the gods and the personification of time) represents sequential time. This happens, then that happens, then the other happens. My alarm goes off. I struggle out of bed. I prepare for work. It can be quite magical, how chronos time stretches and contracts and can contain the wondrous and mundane, but it's always quantifiable - you know the sequence of events and have some general understanding of causality. You can measure it. We live in chronos most of the time.

Kairos is different. Kairos is suspended time, the moments in between when only the wonder is allowed. It is the opportune moment, when you say the right thing or complete the right action. To the ancient Greeks, Kairos was the god of the fleeting moment. You had the opportunity to seize him, but only that - the opportunity. It was not a given you would notice or succeed. Other theologies see kairos as the moments when God is present and acts. The burning bush was a moment in kairos (I'm betting Moses wasn't checking his watch). I think kairos is closely related to being in a state of flow, that suspended time when things come easily. Kairos is where we wish we could live all the time, but can't. This makes it all the more precious.

I know we can't escape chronos. No one can, so I try to work with it, understand it, pace myself. But I don't have to be beholden to it. When I was somewhere around 15 I decided I didn't want to wear a watch anymore, that I didn't want to be bound to such a rigid construction of time. I was interested in how time expanded and contracted, I wondered if it would seem to flow more smoothly if I wasn't arbitrarily measuring it all the time. So I stopped wearing a watch. This had some unexpected consequences that are still true today, many (many!) years later.
  • I don't often get bored. I tend to be in the moment and don't worry how long something may take. Usually.
  • I think this is where I started to talk with strangers, since I have to ask them for the time when I need to know.
  • I have a pretty accurate sense of time. If I fix the time in the morning (I know I leave the house at 8am, for example) then I can usually guess the time to within 10 minutes throughout the day.
  • I am generally patient about time-matters.
Interesting, isn't it? Now, some of these could be facets of my personality, but I think some of it is because I have chosen to be less bound by chronos and more open to kairos. Again, this isn't to say chronos is bad - I love the unfolding of life, the revealing pace of its narrative - but those moments when the world holds its breath are something we can look for and promote. By living with the expectation that we will have those moments of extraordinary suspended time, those fleeting moments of possibility, we are more likely to see and seize them. The yellow bird streaking across the yard. Your child chasing a leaf. The dust motes suspended in the air. Your lover's breath.

Next time you have a chance - some weekend day - try taking your watch off. Go outside and watch the light change. Enjoy the pace of a film without worrying when it will end. Live in the moment. Take the time - nothing is freer or more precious.

(c)2010 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License

1 comment:

  1. Hello Laura! Thanks for the read. I don't wear my watch so I keep turning my phone on and off throughout the day to make sure I'm on track. I've mentioned you on my swap blog: site. Happy swapping!

    kampicines from swap-bot
    "I'm a Blogger, Follow Me!" Swap


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