More Kairos, Less Chronos (Live More. Work Less.)

By: Naomi Matlow

“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”  – J.R.R. Tolkien

The ancient Greeks had two different words for the concept of time — “chronos” and “kairos”. The word “chronos” (you probably recognize this one as the root for the English words “chronological” and “chronicle”) refers to measured, ticking, quantitative time. Chronos is the forward propelling time that we measure with clocks, on watches, and by the evolutionary phases of the moon. But time does not end there.

The Greeks’ second word for time is “kairos” — lesser known but no less important. “Kairos” is what many philosophers and mystics would refer to as “deep time”. This is the time we’re talking about where the world seems to stop entirely. It can be measured in deep exhales, a shared laugh, or by a colorful sunset. Insert your version here. It is qualitative time where you have the opportunity to move forward in the present, untethered by any moving clock or calendar.

Franciscan friar and author Richard Rohr, refers to kairos as those moments in life where you stop and say, “‘Oh my God, this is it. I get it.’ Or, ‘This is as perfect as it can be.’ Or, ‘It doesn’t get any better than this.’” We all know those moments, don’t we? They may be few and far between but sometimes a kairos moment in life can feed your soul, like fuel, for many months at a time. There is an element of serendipity, and a feeling of ceasing an opportunity, in those precious moments where time stands still and everything feels possible.

When you find yourself in kairos time, you completely lose track of chronos time. A state of flow is activated, and it cannot be measured but only experienced. Our sailing trips are the best examples of living purely kairologically, for we are moving by the mercy of our collective actions and by the wind, not by any clock or calendar. And it is a week of living in kairos time that is epically rich in all things that cannot be measured — community, nature, and celebration.

On Unsettled experiences, there are plenty of opportunities to live in kairos time. They are also unique chances for us all to understand our chronos and kairos better, and therefore leave with a richer, fuller kairos and chronos relationship to take back into our work and life. Unsettled experiences create a real transformative impact on our community’s relationship with time.

It is a gift to ourselves when we recognize these kairological moments and relish in them. For me, these moments hit me like a ton of bricks. My time on Unsettled experiences are so rich in them that I have completely lost count. They are moments where something that’s pulling on your psyche for years seems to finally make sense, times when you close your eyes and the world feels smaller and more beautiful than ever, or moments where you recognize that perhaps you’re not that alone after all.

So, how do we cultivate more of these opportune moments? We know we can’t live in them forever, but how do we fill ourselves, and not just our calendars, with moments of kairos? How do we live our lives not just chronologically, but kairologically?

Are critical, eye-opening, world-stopping moments more ripe for the taking when we are out of our comfort zones? Or is it the case that when we are out of our comfort zones, and chronological time seems of secondary importance, that we are more likely to follow our intuition, and thus more of these magical “bullseye” moments are available to us? I really don’t know, but I would venture to say that when I take my watch off, set my phone to airplane mode, and silence my calendar, I am more open, and more likely, to experience them. Maybe it’s because we are more connected to our surroundings, to nature, and to the people beside us? Or maybe it’s something we all have to figure out for ourselves.

What could one week of living kairologically, instead of chronologically, do for you?

For more inspiration on time philosophy, follow our good friend @drtime_ on Instagram. Maybe we will see a collaboration with @drtime_ in the future, whatever the future means 😉




Unsettled is a global community for those who live and work differently. 

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