It was 6:30 p.m. and counting down. The temperature outside, 11 degrees and falling. But there we gathered, the 6 of us around the kitchen island with cold beverages in hand as we talked, laughed, and listened to music. An hour in, we feasted on three racks of ribs with homemade, homegrown tomato barbecue sauce and cornbread with cheddar.
We followed dinner with the annual unveiling of Chrismix… 80 minutes of music curated each year by “Ten,” this year with an expansion pack – an additional CD with 2 songs chosen by each of us 6. As we listened to the mix, we exchanged gifts and delighted in the thoughtful selections made… art supplies, journals, alcoholic accoutrements, silly socks, and more.
After gifts, we switched to the expansion pack CD, listening to the song choices and guessing who made them. Before long, it was 11:30 and time to prepare for the main event. The temperature outside read 3 degrees. We changed into our bathing suits and flip flops, packed mini coolers and bags with necessities, put on our party hats, tiaras, and leis, dropped our towels by the door for when we returned, and, in a single-file line, scampered from the back door to the hot tub down the path shoveled out of the snow.
Once safely ensconced in the warmth of the roiling water and steam, we popped champagne and passed it around the tub, not bothering with the formality of flutes. Our ponytails, mustaches, and beards froze into curly icicles. We counted down, we lit sparklers, and when the new year hit, we tossed them at 2017’s Christmas tree, bare in the yard but for some gasoline. As the tree caught and crackled with fire and light, we embraced the possibilities and each other.
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In my Freshman Composition classes, we discuss chronological time and order during the section on narrative essays. For their first major writing assignment, I ask students to recall and retell a significant event in their lives, reassuring them with the reminder that, “you are the expert on you.” But perhaps, instead of, or in addition to discussing Chronos or linear time, we would be better suited to discuss Kairos time, the moments when time seems to stand still. Because these are the moments we are looking for in narrative, the ones that touch us on a deeper level and make us forget everything else.
If we look at the Webster’s Dictionary definition of Kairos, we get, “a time when conditions are right for the accomplishment of a crucial action : the opportune and decisive moment.” But I think there is more to it than that. According to Matthew T. Segall, PhD, “Kaironic time is full of potential, such that it beckons us to participate in special moments more pregnant than others…. Kairos is the time of the Soul.” And author Sarah Ban Breathnach describes it as such: “All that kairos asks is a willingness to stop running long enough to hear the music of the spheres. Today, be willing to join in the dance. Now you’re in kairos.” These express both a seizing of the moment and a stopping to relish in it.
Time is fluid, transient, relative. It “flies” when we’re “having fun” and “drags” when we’re bored. It dribbles away from us, unable to be recaptured, when we waste it. And we all waste it, sometimes. But if we spend 2018 striving to engage in both interpretations of Kairos, of taking action when opportunity presents itself to us and stepping out of linear time to really be present in and appreciate the important moments, then our emotional lives will be fuller, and our professional lives will be richer. What more could we possibly hope for than that?