Essential Celt: It’s Time, Jim. But Not As We Know It. [The Celts And Time]


Before the Big Bang, there was no space or time.

The Celts viewed time differently to the way we do. We see time as linear, but they saw it more as a circle, repeating itself day by day, month by month as the phases of the moon changed, and year by year. They had a different rhythm of life.

It would be difficult to wholly replicate that kind of acceptance of time, that kind of lifestyle into our way of working – especially if you’re in regular work or have commitments to lead certain events, or meetings to attend. But, just knowing a different understanding of time and incorporating that into your lifestyle, sometimes, and knowing that the rhythm of our soul beats to a different tune, than to that of our body, can be beneficial.

We’re then in time, but then able to step out of time. In ‘mundane’ time, yet also in ‘sacred’ time. Able to ‘look’ back and forward in time, to plan etc, but able to appreciate the time that we inhabit, now! To fully experience it, grasp opportunities that come our way, and enjoy it. And, that’s Kairos.

‘Time is the force that brings every new experience to the door of your heart’.  John O’Donohue.

The ancient Greeks had two main terms for time: chronos and kairos.

To them, Chronos was quantitative. It was time that measured hours and minutes. The ‘tick-tock’ of the grandfather clock, the alarm that you set on your mobile ‘phone to alert you to leave for a meeting or use as your alarm clock to wake yourself up in the morning, all see time as ‘chronos’. And, it’s from that word that we get words , such as words chronometer,  chronological and anachronism. It’s ‘tick-tock’ time, and though we ‘need’ that kind of understanding in our modern world to live in it, there is another view that can run alongside it, and which we may need to remind ourselves of.

 ‘There is more to life than simply increasing its speed.’ Mahatma Gandhi

And, that is the other Greek word for time, kairos. Kairos is time, but it is qualitative, and has more to do with opportunity, and making the most of each moment. It could be said that we need chronos for kairos to take place, but too often in modern living we put up with, or fall into the ‘trap’ of forgetting kairos and only living a lifestyle out of chronos. What doyou think?

 ‘…I tell you, now is the time…’ 2 Corinthians 6:2b, The Book

To the ancient Celts, Christians, Druids and pagans time would have been viewed differently to the way we view it, and kairos would have had a greater importance. And, I’m told in some areas of the world, even today,where modernity hasn’t fully intruded and where small tribes gather, the clock-time of a meeting may vary by hours (as measured by us), and starts only en everyone has gathered!

So, my encouragement to myself, and maybe to yourelf, is that, where possible, we step out of ‘chronos’-only time and into ‘kairos’ time; and on certain occasions (such as family events, seasonal events like the autumn equinox etc) we really experience the quality-moments of time, now, in company rather than have one eye on the clock.

 How did it get so late so soon?’ Dr Seuss

You must know by now that I love stories. Here’s a story about time; one that emphasises the difference between ‘chronos’ time, and ‘kairos’ the time of experience and opportunity.

There  was a young boy called Jim, who could never live in the moment. When he was in school, he dreamed of being outside playing. And, when he was outside playing, he dreamed of his summer holiday. Jim always daydreamed, never taking the time to savour those special moments that filled up his days.

One day, Jim was out walking in a forest near his home. Feeling rather tired, he decided to rest on a patch of grass and slowly fell asleep.
After only a few minutes of deep sleep, he heard someone calling him.

“Jim! Jim!” came the shrill voice from above him.

As he slowly opened his eyes, he was surprised to see an elderly woman standing nearby. He thought she must have been over a hundred years old and her snow-white hair dangled well below her shoulders like a woollen blanket.

In her hand was a magical little ball with a hole in the centre and out of the hole dangled a long, golden thread.

“Jim,” she said, “this is the thread of your life. If you pull the thread just a bit, an hour will pass in seconds. If you pull harder, whole days will pass in minutes. And if you pull with all your might, months – even years – will pass by in days.” Jim was very excited by this.

“I’d like to have it if I may, please?” he asked.

The elderly woman quickly reached down and gave the ball with the magic thread to the young boy.

The next day, Jim was sitting in the classroom feeling listless and bored. He suddenly remembered his new toy – the ball of thread. As he pulled a little bit of the golden thread, he quickly found himself playing in his garden.

Realising the power of the magic thread, Jim soon grew tired of being a schoolboy and longed to be a teenager, with all the excitement that that phase of life might bring. So again he held the ball and pulled hard on the golden thread.

Suddenly, he was a teenager with a very pretty girlfriend.

But, Jim still wasn’t content.

He had never learned to enjoy the moment and to explore the simple pleasures of every stage of his life. Instead, he dreamed of being an adult, so again he pulled hard on the thread and many years flew by in an instant.

Now he found that he was transformed into a middle-aged adult. His girlfriend was now his wife, and Jim was surrounded by a houseful full of children.

But Jim noticed something else. His once jet-black hair had started to turn rather grey, and his once youthful mother, whom he loved so dearly had grown so old and frail.

Yet Jim still couldn’t live in the moment, and, so once again, he pulled on the magic thread and waited for the changes to appear.

Jim now found that he was an older man, maybe ninety-years old. His hair had turned white as snow, and his beautiful young wife had passed away a few years earlier.

His wonderful children had grown up, and had left home to lead lives of their own.

For the first time in his entire life, Jim realised that he had not taken the time to embrace the wonders of living at each stage of his life.

He had never gone fishing with his children, never taken a moonlight stroll with his wife, never planted a garden or read those wonderful books his mother had loved to read. And now, she was gone!

Jim became very sad. He decided to go out to the forest where he used to walk as a boy to clear his head.

As he entered the forest, he noticed that the little saplings of his childhood had grown into tall, mighty oaks. The forest itself had matured into a veritable paradise.

He felt rather tired, and laid down on a small patch of grass and fell into a deep slumber.

After only a minute, he heard someone calling out to him. “Jim! Jim!” cried the voice.

He looked up in astonishment to see that it was the old woman who had given him the ball with the magic golden thread many, many years earlier.

“How have you enjoyed my special gift?” she asked.

“At first it was fun, but now I hate it.” he admitted, “But, my whole life has passed before my eyes without giving me the chance to enjoy it. Yes, there would have been sad times as well as great times, but I haven’t had the chance to experience either. I feel empty inside. I have really missed the gift of living each moment.”

“You are  ungrateful,” said the old woman, angrily. “Still, I will give you one last wish. What is it that you would really like?”

“I’d like to go back to being a schoolboy and really start to live my life over again,” Jim quickly responded.

He then returned to his deep sleep. Again, he heard someone calling his name and opened his eyes. When he opened his eyes, he was absolutely delighted to see his mother standing over his bedside.

She looked young, healthy and radiant. Jim realised that the strange woman from the forest had indeed granted his wish, and he had returned to his former life.

“Hurry up, Jim. You sleep too much. Your dreams will make you late for school if you don’t get up right this minute,” his mother said sternly.

Oh, Jim dashed out of bed and began to live the way he had hoped.

He went on to live a full life, one rich with many delights, joys and triumphs, but it all started when he stopped sacrificing the present for the future and began to live in the moment.

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