Wednesday, April 16, 2008

the one present moment goes by so quickly

“The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once.” Albert Einstein

To live is so startling it leaves little time for anything else. Emily Dickinson

I noticed yesterday while I was digging under the bed for lost dusty items, vacuum hose conveniently at hand, the difference between my pace and Aidan’s. He was discovering the treasures I was pitching into the corner to weed through — an old glow in the dark star, a small ball, a piece of paper with a drawing on it, a pen with its lid off. He picked them up and looked at them, spun the star, studied the paper. For me it was activity and for him it was contemplation.

One of my own earliest memories was a day I stayed home from school because I was sick. I was resting in the living room, and my mother had been vacuuming nearby. But she had stopped, and the silence was like a deep breath. Everyone else was at school. There was golden light in blocks on the floor from the late morning sunlight streaming into the window. I could see the dust motes sparkling in the gold. That moment still seems to be going on somewhere, though I moved on past it.

I don’t know what this has to do with homeschooling, really, except that when I pause to watch my kids I see that the day appears different to them than it does to me. I wondered who was closer to “reality” — me or Aidan. I was getting things done and he wasn’t. But then, I was doing secondary things, in order for something else to occur, while he was already there at “something else”.

It made me wonder again about the balance between pulling the kids into my orbit, and observing theirs.


Liam has been “narrating” Kant to me on Sunday afternoons. They are studying it in seminar at his college. The Critique of Pure Reason is one of the few books in English I’ve ever picked up and been able to make no heads or tails of. I feel like my head is being tossed around by someone else, and I do not like it. But anyway, Kant seems to say that time does not exist in itself but is a form our mind projects upon experience in order to make sense of it. That raises more questions than it answers.

The Greeks had two words for time, Chronos and Kairos.

Chronos is the way a school is usually run. The clock is in charge. Every moment has the same value, and they all add up to the same amount.
Kairos is the “in between time” or sometimes the opportune moment, or the quality of time. Everyone could probably think of a handful of moments that were turning-points, where the quality of the time was out of all proportion to the sequence of time passing.

This is all one reason why I have trouble with “living in the present moment” and with mindfulness, two unschooly concepts that I have been thinking about recently. I THINK that it means not missing the Kairos. You don’t want Chronos to trudge like a treadmill over everything, trampling it into the ground.


But Kairos can extend outward and outward. I found a quote yesterday, which I can’t find today, to the effect that “the present moment is actually the one that just slid past.” It seemed so true. Kairos is something else than “the present moment” because it is a combination, a synergy, a colliding of more than one thing. By definition you can’t plan for it. I suppose you can keep a peacefulness while you wait for it, and perhaps this is the essence of contemplation.

Oh, maybe this was the quote I couldn’t find:

“Life is all memory, except for the one present moment that goes by you so quickly you hardly catch it going”. Tennessee Williams.