Quality of Time

THE GREEK WORD chronos means "time" in a quantitative sense, chronological time, time that you can divide into minutes and years, time as duration. It is the sense that we mean when we say, "What time is it?" or "How much time do I have?" or "Time like an ever-flowing stream," in one of the hymns that we sing. But in Greek there is also the word kairos, which means "time" in a qualitative sense—not the kind that a clock measures but time that cannot be measured at all, time that is characterized by what happens in it. Kairos time is the kind that you mean when you say that "the time is ripe" to do something, "It's time to tell the truth," a truth-telling kind of time. Or "I had a good time"—the time had something about it that made me glad. The ancient poet who wrote the Book of Ecclesiastes was using time in a kairos sense when he wrote of a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to keep silence and a time to speak. 


- Originally published in The Hungering Dark

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