This post is part of a series exploring how we humans interact with time. So far we’ve figured out that our latest iteration of strategies for dealing with time, Clock Time, is starting to wear down a lot of us post-moderns into frazzles.
The whole purpose of Clock Time is to enable us to get more and more things done. The Achievement Junkies among us are having a field day.
The rest of us are finding that if we are successful at doing the Clock Time productivity dance well, we do, indeed, get lots of diverse things done. We also are apparently wearing ourselves down to a nubbin and doing ourselves in as well.
There are all kinds of advice about “temporal modalities” (a.k.a. time mindsets) from the Smarty Pants who study such things and the Wisdom Seeker sorts who explore alternative ways of being in the world. Often, they talk about how to get away from the insidious influence of that durned clock.
Slowing down the pace at which we are run-run-running in our lives seems to be a persistent theme among many of the advice-givers handing out wisdoms and life hacks and such.
We’re going to ignore the productivity mavens and gurus in this thing. Their urgings tend to oosh us into getting more heavily invested in (and maybe even chained) to Clock Time.
Dancing with time can be very confusing. Mostly this is because what works for one human in a particular setting doesn’t necessarily work for another human in a different setting. As is usual with humans, one size does not fit all and it’s pretty much a DIY (do-it-yourself) project.
Bad-boy journalist Hunter S. Thompson once advised, “Beware of looking for goals: look for a way of life. Decide how you want to live and see what you can do to make a living within that way of life.”
Wo! Thompson turns the whole Clock Time thing rather neatly on its head: Instead of building your life around your work, what would happen if you could figure out how to fit your work into the life you want to live?
RAW TIME AND NATURE’S RHYTHMS
First, though, you need to figure out how to get back in tune with time that is not governed by clock, calendar and never-ending to-do lists.
Here’s a little YouTube short film, “Rhythms of Nature,” by my favorite independent filmmakers Green Renaissance.
It features internationally known award-winning musician and music producer Ronan Skillen who has spent more than 20 years exploring his particular fusion of tabla, percussion and didgeridoo.
The video reminds you of another kind of time, one you can feel in your body, your blood and your bones.
It also shows the efficacy of using nature and music to “reset” your senses. Dance, exercise and body movements (including breathing and stillness) tap into that rhythm as well and can also be used to climb back into your own skin and to reconnect with other people.
- Raw Time is animal time, a time of body reactions to what is happening in the world around you.
- It can be a Creative’s incubation time when all kinds of sensory inputs, feelings and intuitions roil around, interact and ferment before a glimmering of an idea pops out.
- The aspirational and blissful NOW time that meditation practitioners aim for is also Raw Time.
A POET’S TAKE ON KAIROS TIME
Embedded in Raw Time is a thing the Greeks called “kairos,” the opportune moment. It is what many philosophers and mystics call “numinous,” “deep” or “qualitative time.” It is the time we’re talking about where the world seems to stop entirely.
The world takes a breath and in between the inhale and the exhale, is the one perfect span of time where anything is possible and fates can be changed.
Deep time is measured in a shared and joyous laugh or a piercing look, in a glowing sunrise or a flamboyant sunset and in the touch of a gentle hand. It can’t be measured or sliced and diced like clock time.
It comes, a gift, when you are engaged with Life-Its-Own-Self and honoring the things that cannot really be measured – things like nature, community, connection, and the onset of insight into some intriguing puzzle on which you’ve been gnawing.
Kairos moments are the ones when you say to yourself, “It doesn’t get any better than this.” Franciscan friar and author Richard Rohr, calls them the moments in life where you stop and say, “Oh my God, this is it. I get it.”
In those moments, time stands still. However, just like perfection, those moments never last. They fly past, but if you can catch them as they go by, they can help you make memories that can feed your soul for a lifetime.
OTHER CULTURES HAD DEEP TIME TOO
The Sanskrit word for qualitative time, time with weight and meaning, is ritu. Like kairos, it also has a spiritual sense to it. It refers to time that is lifted out of the ordinary business of life.
Ritu can also connote the “right” time, it says here, and is still used in Hinduism to refer to the correct moment for various ceremonies and rituals.
In Christian theology, kairos has a sense of “ripeness”. Think of the words from the book of Ecclesiastes:
“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven:
“A time to be born, a time to die; a time to plant and a time to pluck up that which is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal…” and so on.
This idea was the impetus for humans to align themselves with the seasons and to do the things that needed to be done in its proper time so that everything could get done most effectively.
However, Christians tended to add in the thing about the world being something we humans could conquer, dominate and control.
Meanwhile, the Taoists got to the same game plan in a different way.
For Taoists, time has no beginning and no end. The practitioners are interested only in the changes and the transformations within time, when time moves and things in the world change from one form to another.
The whole point of Taoist philosophy, science and creative arts is not about imposing man’s will upon nature. Instead, they focus on more effectively responding to and harmonizing with nature.
They say that if you can accept the world as it is and can empty your mind of all attachments to assumptions, preconceptions, judgments and desired outcomes, then you’ll be able to clearly see into the nature of things and find the patterns and the order in Life-Its-Own-Self.
Seeing and following the “natural order of things” helps you live life effortlessly and without anxiety, the Taoists tell you.
FITTING KAIROS TIME INTO OUR MODERN WORLD
Incorporating deep time into our modern, productivity-focused and clock-ridden days may seem like a woo-woo, out-there way of thinking.
However, I found a TEDxWilmington talk video, “Kairos Living in a Chronos World,” that was downloaded to YouTube in 2016. It features entrepreneur, author and marketing coach Donna Marie Duffy who was the founder of 3E Marketing Solutions in Wilmington, Delaware.
Duffy moved from Pennsylvania to Nazareth in Israel in 1990 and lived there for 18 years working as an educator and a builder of community in the Middle East before repatriating to the United States.
Click on the button below to hear her seven-minute talk about living in a culture that ran on kairos time. The takeaway lessons she received when she learned how to live at a more connected and human pace served her well when she returned to America.
MAKING TIME BIG, HAWAIIAN-STYLE
For the ones who were raised in our modern-day Hawaiian culture there are still echoes of the older way of living in natural time rather than time ruled by artificial clocks and other measuring devices.
It’s getting harder to ignore the clock these days when Hawaii is consistently ranked as the “most expensive” American state in which to live.
For many years now, we’ve kept telling each other that the higher costs we pay for food, housing, energy, transport, health care and other modern amenities are all just a part of the cost of “living in paradise”. We’ve watched as our family, friends and long-time neighbors leave this beloved place for less expensive places to live. Few of them come back.
The ones who stay keep making adjustments. We, too, spend our days overwhelmed by clock time. However, we do still retain some memory of how to get back to natural time.
One time I was fortunate enough to meet an old Hawaiian healer who explained the deeper meaning of a Hawaiian word that the aunties and uncles used to toss off at each other when they noticed things were getting a bit too frantic and way too intense: “ho’omanawanui.”
We kids thought they were telling each other, “no worry, be happy.” Usually, it seemed to us, the phrase signaled a suggestion that it was time to take a break (and maybe stop at some watering hole for a drink or two).
The healer, Uncle Billy, broke down the literal meaning of the word for me:
“Ho’o” = “to make.”
“Manawa” = “time.”
“Nui” = “big.”
It took me a long time wrestling with that word to finally get that the way you “make time big” in this modern world of ours is to slow yourself way down, stop all the herky-jerky body-startle movements, and actually look at what is going on in your days.
The following tactics might help you make time big:
- Spend the time you need to get your priorities straight and to find out what matters most to you so you can make sure you get those things handled well.
- Give yourself enough time to do things right the first time and to finish the things you start by following it all the way through to done.
- Pause and see how your heart-people are doing and you let the ones who are not your heart-people wander on off without you.
- Say“no” to the things that do not matter to you or that are not worth your effort to pursue.
- Do things at your own pace and in your own time despite all the kibbitzers and know-it-alls who want you to do theirs because they are right, right, right.
When you’ve made time big, it is truly amazing what you find you can include in that space you’ve made.
In the 1990’s, the Hawaiian Style Band took the island music scene by storm. The three founding members, Wade Cambern, Robi Kahakalau and Bryan Kessler wrote and performed many of their own songs.
They put together an innovative “revolving band,” collaborating with over fifty well-known island musicians and producers across their three albums, “Vanishing Treasures,” “Rhythm of the Ocean,” and “Ohana.”
The following HI*Sessions YouTube video was uploaded in 2018. It’s the title track from their second album and it brings back fond memories of an earlier, more laid-back time. Alex Morrison is on bass.
[HI*Sessions is an ongoing project that was started by video producer Dave Kumoto and musician-producer Jon Yamasato. Their videos, podcasts and other social media offerings share the music of many of the finest Hawaiian musicians, old and new.]
Here’s a poem:
What’s next for me,
I cannot know.
I’m in the middle
Of a flow.
A rudderless leaf adrift
In a river of time.
How do I do,
Still the quintessential me,
Detached from my history now,
Unbound by adhesion
To the “always was the how.”
Unstuck from Before,
Turned and pushed by currents unseen,
The river always flows to the sea.
I guess old leaves don’t get a vote.
By Netta Kanoho
Header Photo Credit: “Time Lost | Time Found” by Luca Florio via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]
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