Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Chronos

My cyber-friend Peggy, the abbess, blogs about two different kinds of time, one more temporal, one more eternal. In the book Blessed Unrest, (Peggy, if you're reading this, could you explain your two times?) Paul Hawken names four types of time, borrowing, I believe from Stewart Brand's book, The Clock of the Long Now: Time and Repsonsibilty: 1. commerce time, the most rapid and changing time, which Hawken calls the dominant time frame of our time, 2. cultural time, which moves and changes much more slowly (for example, he says, the Russian Orthodox church was largely unruffled by the 72 year interlude of communism and picked up its liturgy as if nothing had happened after the fall of the Soviet Union), 3. governance time, which, he says, moves faster than culture, slower than commerce, and perhaps mediates between the two, and 4. what he calls "earth, nature and the web of life," which moves far move slowly than the other three.

As you might imagine, Hawkin contends that the dominant commerce time of our culture, with its breakneck pace of change, is dangerous when not tempered by other, slower understandings of time.

I read an article the other day in the New York Times that said that more people were buying crafts from small, independent vendors or making crafts for Christmas, and that, in fact, Michael's was seeing an increase in sales in these hard times. That gave me a hope that there's perhaps a grass-roots rebellion against living constantly in commerce time. Crafts handmade by oneself or another person, dearly take more time and infusion of self than a factory produced product. The Times predictably framed this switch to crafts as a money-saving trend, but I wonder if there is something deeper going on, as while crafts may be cheaper than some forms of ready made consumption, they're not the cheapest way to go, at least not if you are buying from an artisan or purchasing supplies from MIchaels.

But to get back to the beginnning: it's Christmas and for all the glomming on of commercialism and countless forms of pressure, at its core, this holy day has a timeless quality. Quakers hoped they could infuse all days with such a gentle, loving sense of the presence of God, and that is a worthy dream, but at least we have one such day. Through the birth of a baby, foretold and celebrated by angels, shepherds and magi, all joyfully proclaiming a new order, we touch the eternal, a time even deeper and more lasting than that of the earth, which will, in its time, also pass away.

My question, along with yet another merry Christmas, is this: how do you personally get yourself out of "commerce" time? And, are you buying or making crafts? I actually bought hand-crafted goat's milk soaps as Christmas gifts.

1 comment:

AbiSomeone said...

Hello, Diane!

Here's the origin of my thought: kronos/chronos and kairos/chairos are the two Greek words for time. From the first one we get words like chronology and chronometer -- both of which are words for tracking the passage of time...seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, eons...

Kairos is that time in between time, when the timelessness of the eternal breaks into the time of mortality and provides a glimpse of what could be...opportunities that present themselves. Perhaps it is also another term for the serendipitous?

Anyway, that's what I mean. When we keep our senses open to the places when God is moving in our time, we are presented with amazing opportunities for fellowship with God and participation with him in his mission of love.

Happy Christmas to you and yours, friend! And may the New Year be especially blessed ... full of kairos time, back there in the '70s :^)