Life is Measured in Two Kinds of Time - Chronos and Kairos

by EMILY ORTON

Our New York City family has been traveling in Europe since September 2018.

There Are Two Kinds of Time – Chronos and Kairos

This post is an intersection of insight, confession, and aspiration rolled into a brief overview of where we’ve been for the past few weeks.

 Trusty van

Trusty van

Erik and I were listening to this podcast on our way from Germany to France. We learned that the ancient Greeks measured time in two different ways and used two different words—chronos and kairos.  Chronos is time measured in seconds, minutes and days.  Kairos is time measured in meaningful experiences—moments that shift our paradigm, open our eyes, touch our hearts, and deepen our relationships. 

 It struck a chord.  Our family has been having a lot of kairos time in very little chronos time.  When chronos time gets that densely packed with kairos experiences, we need a little chronos to process it, to reshuffle the deck, to assess how those experiences change or refine who we are.  We need regular chronos to upgrade our sense of identity to reflect those new experiences.  I'm not complaining. I'm trying to assess so I can be steadier going forward.

 The past 3 months

The past 3 months

 There is a reason gourmet food has such a high plate to food ratio—so we savor each bite. Compare that with the famous hot dog eating competition at Coney Island.  Now imagine a gourmet food eating competition.  Mixed emotions.  It would be wonderful to eat delicious dishes.  But would it be wonderful to eat them as fast as possible?  Better than not eating them at all.  It’s the same with kairos experiences.  

Though I love travel, I prefer slow travel—staying in one place for weeks or months.  Wouldn't that be lovely? New experiences spark new responses, new ideas, new thoughts about who we want to be or who we don’t want to be and what it means to be human.  I want my life to be filled with those kind of experiences.  But if I press too many of those moments together without articulating or digesting how they’ve affected me, it creates the achy stupor of gluttony.

 Here’s what I’ve been chewing on:

Our daughter, Alison, left from Rome to serve an 18-month mission in Japan. (Read the post here:  The Hardest Part of Love.). We visited the Vatican, which is technically a border crossing and certainly feels like a different world. We made new friends in Narni, Italy.  We reconnected with high school friends in Venice.  We visited family near Bern, Switzerland and celebrated Eli’s thirteenth birthday. We shared a Thanksgiving feast with friends in Stuttgart, Germany and revisited Erik’s childhood memories in Wiesbaden.  We had a quick stopover in Kaiserslautern with friends from Virginia.  Then we rolled into Paris as the “yellow jacket” protest fires were still blazing.  We enjoyed our days there despite the smashed storefront windows on the Champs-Elysees and the throngs of gendarmerie in full body armor hefting huge guns.  

From there we accelerated our pace to make it to Portugal in time for the van to visit the mechanic and for me to visit the immigration offices and request a visa extension.  My 90 days in Europe were up December 6th. Erik and I had our morning walks to enjoy the French countryside, the Spanish vineyards, and finally the Andalusia coast.  We met up with our friends on their boat for one night in Malaga, Spain. I would love to visit again and stay longer.  I say that about every place.  Our last stop in Spain was Gibraltar where we saw Africa from the top of the rocks and met some cheeky monkeys (the only wild monkey population in Europe). 

The van had been smoking and the oil pressure was irregular, so John wanted to trade us for a rental and get his vehicle to the mechanic sooner.  We made it to John and Michelle’s home in the Algarve—the southern coast of Portugal.  We swapped our coats and gloves for shorts and t-shirts, at least at mid-day.  I got an appointment for an extension.  Relief! 

Golden ticket.jpg

Opposition is instructive. We’ve been on the move so much, that I am incredibly grateful for a season of stillness.  A season to rest from wandering.  A season to reflect.  A season to switch from seeing with my eyes to seeing inside. Chronos time to savor my kairos experiences.

 I know.  I know.  It’s Christmas season.  Maybe I’m in denial, or maybe I’m in southern Portugal where the golden light reminds me more of lazy summers than wrapping presents.  This season I’ll be unpacking my experiences by writing in my journal and maybe sharing some thoughts here.

 Albufeira, Portugal —I think we’ll stay for awhile

Albufeira, Portugal —I think we’ll stay for awhile

 My Christmas wish for my family and yours is that we use our time together to thoroughly enjoy what we already have.

 Rothenburg, Germany

Rothenburg, Germany

P.S. If this the most wonderful time of the year stresses you out like it usually does me – please take a breath and enjoy this simple refreshing post, Christmas Presence—Easy Thoughtful Gift Ideas.

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