I came upon this term in a blog by Bishop Sally Dyck. It is an ancient Greek word referring to a type of time. As a modern Westerner, I am most familiar with “kronos”, chronological time, the regular movements of the planets and stars that we can now track to the smallest fractions of a second. We have become so good at it and so dependent on it, that we don’t think much about other types of time. We might say we want some “quality time” with family, meaning that for some segment of kronos time, we hope there will be more value than usual, but we don’t think of time itself as having value.
Kairos time isn’t measured in milliseconds. It is measured by it’s quality, so it is subjective. An important moment in the life of your child may not be so important to someone else. When Jesus was baptized in the river Jordan (Mark 1:5), a few people felt that an important turning point had come in the purpose of God. Most of Rome and the rest of the world did not.
An important aspect of kairos time is that it demands to be acted upon. Ancient people probably saw these moments as having some external force to them. They were looking up at the stars and wondering if they breathed and why a few of them, the planets, moved independent of the rest. They wondered what conscious agent affected that movement and how did it in turn affect people? Although predictions about our future are still printed in the astrology section of almost every daily newspaper, most people don’t take them seriously.
There is no question that we live in a time of rapid change. There are many opportunities for decisions that could have wide ranging affects. I think people today see their actions as more important to what will tomorrow than some external force on the flow of time. There may be a wide range of the degree to which that is true for any one person, but I’ll assert it anyway. The question is not what so much what is the particular quality of this moment of time but what will we do with it.