Monday, October 24, 2011

Chronos, Kairos & House Fires

Saturday was the 2nd anniversary of our house fire. It's been 24 months that have dragged on and whizzed by. Portions of our house are beautiful and yet our bed still resides in the living room. It's an odd life we lived, made even odder by the circumstances of the past many months. We are so busy some weeks it feels like we are whirling dervishes and yet the work that we have left to do seems never to diminish. It feels, at times, like a logarithmic list of tasks; the  more we do, the more we have to do.

This date that marks the anniversary of the fire, this chronological date, will be one of those dates on our calendars that will show up every year, like our anniversary, our kid's birthdays, the dates on which my parent's and sister died. It's one of those dates that is just part of our lives now, a fact,  a remembrance, an acknowledgement that the stuff in our lives is just that; stuff and that certain stuff occupies certain seasons of our lives, but not others and that each season is specific to itself in space and time.

I've been reading lots of books by Madeline L'Engle lately and she is fascinated with time and space. In one interview the questioning touches on this: "What do you think about when you look at the stars?" L'Engle responds, "Sometimes I think about time. That the star I am looking at is that star as it looked a hundred or four hundred years ago. That when I stand here, in this time, and look at that star, I am not just looking at space. I am looking at time- at another time. That fascinates me." It's this juxtaposition of Kairos and Chronos time that L'Engle addresses over and over in her writing. That the small, seemingly random acts that we perform, create ripples of effect. That our lives are not for naught, but for something beyond what we can, often, see or know.

I love how L'Engle differentiates between Kairos and Chronos- it's an important distinction- the word Karios means the right or opportune moment- the supreme moment. Chronos means sequential time, a time in between, a moment of indeterminate time in which something happens. Chronos is quantitative whereas karios has a qualitative nature.

I think about these aspects of time as we educated our kids. Montessori talks about "windows of opportunity" that are available to teach students specific subjects. Developmentally, children are most receptive to learning at certain times in life.  We were with some kids this past week and my husband and I observed one young person whose parents have seemed to miss one of these windows - kairos- in which to shape and form their child's character.It's not that this kids is bad or indelilibly warped. It's that the window of opportunity to teach diligence and the value of work rather than slothful or shirking behavior, is closing. He has learned irresponsibility rather than putting his hand to the plow. While we believe it's never too late to parent well, lessons learned out of kairos are more difficult to teach effectively, more difficult to absorb. Kairos and Chronos time seem for us anyway, to blend well together under the rubric of classical education. We don't have it down to a science, but we do have a framework that takes into account both ways of understanding time, and the people who live within it. . Education, parenting, character training, living is comprised of both. "Opportune" (Kairos) moments set within a framework of the  chronological moments of our lives.

The fire was, for us, a kairos moment. One of many in the chronology of our lives. One that has shaped us and molded us since. We can, for instance, all drywall now. We have compassion, in a way that was distant and impersonal before, for those who have suffered a devastating loss or displacement. We know more about insurance claims, adjustor's and contractors. We know more about ourselves, our limits, our levels of patience, our faith, our desire for stability, our hurt at the loss of stuff. We know, and trust, in a deeper way than before, that God captures every one of our tears and that he holds every one of our memories. That photo albums are bound by chronos time and will fade and burn but that the Master of the Universe never forgets the Karios moments of our lives, that He stores and cherishes our memories even when they are lost to us. We know, further up and farther in, that things take time and that chronological time is a safe guard for us, keeping our own ambition or drivenness to get things done, to achieve tasks and to accomplish, in check and in perspective.

It's been an interesting and busy time in our lives, both chronos and kairos. We thank God for the fire. Which is odd and yet true of so much in our lives. The hard things, truly hard and painful and difficult things, shape and mold us in ways that we couldn't fathom or consider before thier occurance. "For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison" (2 Corinthians 4:17)

1 comment:

Ana Braga-Henebry said...

"The hard things, truly hard and painful and difficult things, shape and mold us in ways that we couldn't fathom or consider before their occurrence." No kidding. Think of comes after 9 months of pregnancy and several hours of... well you know what. God bless your family!