Every year is getting shorter, never seem to find the time
Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines
Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way
The time is gone, the song is over, thought I'd something more to say
“Time” by Pink Floyd
Time is on my side, yes it is
“Time is on my side” as recorded by the Rolling Stones
There are two types of time, according to the Ancient Greeks – the forebearers of our modern thought: Chronos and Kairos. And they both have their place. Chronos is the time we measure by clocks: minutes, seconds, millennia, googles (look it up!). And it seems to be the sort of time that the rock bands Pink Floyd and the Rolling Stones sing of. But the other type is different.
It’s the type of time that is involved with stories from the bible (really? 7 days to create everything!), or those great conversations held by campfires with good friends and loved ones that seem, well, timeless. Or it’s the time that has to do with lovers’ eyes and children at play. Kairos
And like most things the world wants us to be preoccupied with one of them to the exclusion of the other. You can probably guess which.
“Time is money” “Stop wasting my time” “Where did all the time go?”
What the church (learning always from its master, Jesus) is trying to do is to get us to pay attention to that other time, the kairos time – the time within time. There are those in the church who either think this is completely stupid: “Time is time. Get ‘R Done” or who think that it’s a battle out there, a matter of choosing one over the other.
The reality is that where many of us are so busy with life (Chronos) we long for a life of Kairos – that just isn’t feasible or a reality. What we are called to do is to search for time within time – for kairos within chronos. When Jesus said “Consider the birds of the air…” [Matthew 6:26] he was speaking about kairos within chronos. When the philosopher of Ecclesiastes tells us that there is a time for everything and every season, it’s of kairos she or he is speaking.
We can find that sort of time in the business (busy-ness) of life. But it takes something which we call discipline and our Buddhist sisters and brothers call “mindfulness”. It takes time to take time! It’s the age old difference between doing and being. And we are called to find that perfect place where the two intersect.
There is a bit of graffiti that someone wrote on the wall on the Rec Hall at Rideau Hill Camp that haunts me to this day. The quote is about canoeing – and the ordinary, work-a-day paddle stroke of canoeing: the J-stroke.
“The J-stroke” which involves both forward and backward movement of the paddle - is the perfect balance between past and future. Too much emphasis on either ruins progress. But just the right combination of pressure sends the canoe gliding gracefully through the present.”
Take some time this week, as the old hymn goes, “to be holy”: maybe pray a bit as you are weeding the garden; maybe ruminate on that phrase from the bible reading in church last Sunday as you’re commuting to work; maybe bake an extra casserole for that neighbour down the road who just found out that her cousin in Vancouver died. Take the time, and I think you will find that time will find you.