I have always considered myself someone who is very present, in the moment, in the ‘now’. But reading something in a book by Steve Chapman the other day, gave me a different language to describe it. This is what I took from what I read…
Time as we know it, is a social construction, a human invention, something that over many centuries we have honed and agreed universally as a good way of orienting ourselves to movements of the solar system, and to getting to our next meeting on time!
The most obvious ever-present reminders of the concept of time, are the clock and the calendar. These have developed over centuries from lunar calendars to solar calendars, sundials etc… to, I guess, the i-watch.
This clock time, or chronos time – the on going perpetual march of seconds, minutes, hours – ticks away on our watches, clocks and electronic systems all over the world.
Daniel Stern argues that if chronos time were real, then the moment of ‘now’ would be so fleeting that we would never be able to dwell on it long enough to make meaning of the experience. We would in effect be goldfish, with each ‘now’ moment lasting +/- one second; the unit of chronos.
The Greek concept of kairos offers an alternative perspective. Kairos is a moment of indeterminate time in which everything happens. While chronos is quantitative, kairos has a qualitative, permanent nature. In kairos there are no seconds, minutes, hours, just the idea that kairos time is a passing moment of consciousness, in which something happens that offers us new meaning in our experience.
The author of my book summarises the two like this…
chronos time is a concept informed by clocks
kairos time is a concept informed by meaning
What would happen in organisations if we abandoned chronos time and just interacted, communicating, learning, until a new collective meaning emerged?
Meetings wouldn’t have agenda items with start and end points, but each item would be explored until collective new meaning emerged. Some agenda items might take five minutes, some items ten times as long.
Of course for this to work, people need to be open to learning, open to having generative conversations, open to enquiry with others as to where collective meaning existed, or was lacking. People would need to be very present in this ‘moment of meaning making’. No longer slaves to chronos time, people would interact throughout the day until sufficient meaning had emerged for individuals to move forward, for the business to move forward.
In such a kairos informed culture I wonder if this would make us more curious, more exploratory, more accepting of alternative viewpoints and enable us to both seek meaning in our work and in our lives? It might also free us to play with our creative spirit.
What would happen if we lived our lives to kairos time? Not just at work, but all our experiences?
Even as you read this, you may be seeking to find new meaning for you?
Welcome to kairos 🙂