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Chapter Two

Chapter Two of Time and Despondency runs very deep! The title of the chapter bears the same title as the book, Time and Despondency. This chapter is all about time.

The chapter opens with two quotes that I really love and these two quotes represent the two things I learned most about in this chapter: time and what we are to do with it.

Does anyone ever realize life while they live it—every, every minute?

–Emily in Our Town by Thornton Wilder

Whatever happens,
those who have learned
to love one another
have made their way
into the lasting world.

–Wendell Berry, Sabbaths (1998) I

I thought I knew what time was. Time is the minute of every hour of every day of every year of my life. Turns out there is more to it than that.

I struggled with knowing what to really write about because there is just so much that was taken in while reading this chapter. Nicole introduces us to time first in defining for us time and eternity. “God is eternity.” She flows through with beautiful words of how time, before the fall, was a layering of creation in love and beauty. “Each new development brought about more life and beauty than before—making God’s love more manifest and capable of being encountered. Likewise, each addition to creation was beheld and blessed by its Maker before He moved to the next.”

But…

“…when the sickness of sin entered the world shortly thereafter, our experience of time was shattered, bifurcated. Now, time did not allow only for life but also for death.”

Time became complicated and full of so many choices.

One of the most fascinating aspects of this chapter, I think, is learning that time has more than one meaning. There is Chronos and Kairos.  

Chronos is the ticking of the clock. The pendulum swinging to tick away each second of each minute of each hour.

“Kairos time, on the other hand, consists of interruptions in chronos, junctures at which God acts in time.”

“Metropolitan Kallistos Ware says that Kairos is ‘characterized not by the predetermined swing of the pendulum but by unpredictable yet decisive moments of opportunity, moments of disclosure filled with meaning when clock time stands still, when eternity breaks in’. Kairos moments remind us that the God of the Bible is not morally opposed to time but in fact is intimately and actively working in and through it to communicate His love to His creatures. […] As quietly and as briefly as these moments pass by, they cause our souls to resound with the words of Jacob: “The Lord is in this place and I did not know it.” (Gen. 28:16)”

This reminds me of nothing other than Holy Week and Pascha. For years and years now, we would describe that week to our friends as “time outside of time”. We take time off work, we spend hours upon hours at Church in services and preparations. We move about our days completely oblivious of the world around us, all while walking through the Passion of Christ, preparing for, and celebrating the Resurrection. And, this is by far our favorite time of year, our favorite place to be. “The Lord is in this place”.

The next section introduces us to three modes of time: potential time, unfulfilled time, and actualized time.

All time has potential, is potential… “Time as potential places us at a crossroad in every new moment that unfolds.” Unfulfilled and actualized is what we DO with the potential.

“Potential time becomes actualized (Kairos) when we respond to God’s love.” […] Actualized time is the true ‘real-time’, because it is the only sense in which time becomes real or creative and life-giving.”

And “By contrast, potential time becomes unfulfilled when we choose to spend it in unloving, un-self-giving ways. This state of being is unlike time because it terminates in total death, a condition in which there is no change or progress—we have ‘finally and definitively shut ourselves up in our own solitude where there is no call and no possibility of response any more.”

So, each day that I spend in a paralyzed state of despondency, in restless, aimless distracted state, I lose the potential and become unfulfilled. As Nicole puts it, “In this mode of being, it is not so much that we waste time as that we turn time into a prison.”

As I read this section over and over, and especially this last sentence, the “prison” I create for myself is almost palpable.

Very simply put, “Actualized time consists of re-sponding, unfulfilled time of de-sponding.” And ultimately it boils down to “when we move away from response, when we descend from the opportunity to offer ourselves back to God—who is substance and fullness—our only option is emptiness. Death.” I put an emphasis on emptiness because when I am in the throes of my despondency, emptiness is truly what I feel. Complete and utter emptiness. My time on earth is unfulfilled, in those moments.

But there is hope! Time allows for transformation. “Where there is time and change, there is the possibility for transformation—a way out of our despondent prison is available. […] Until the last tick of the last clock, until the last breath on our last day, there is reason to hope.”

We are asked “How will we respond to the new moments, the new possibilities that are placed before us? Will we respond, or despond?

Frankl honed his thinking on human psychology while a prisoner in Auschwitz.

 My heart aches to learn how to respond!

“In our world, however, every moment—every now—is an invitation to abide in the love of Christ.”

And, “every moment that trickle forth from the reservoir of time is a new, fresh possibility that wasn’t there before.”

There is so much hope for me in this chapter. So much more understanding and a hope to press on and make something of “every, every minute.”

 This chapter took so much reading and rereading, reflection and revealing. There was so much that I could relate to and yet so much that helped reveal even more about who I am. And there was so much that I wanted to share. I’d love for you to share what you found in these pages.

Did you find yourself in the pages of chapter 2? Did you too, feel the hope that time can give us if we learn to respond instead of despond?

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