Krista Tippet interviewed Richard Rohr on her website On Being on 13 April 2017. During this interview Living in Deep Time, a wide range of profound topics was touched upon.
I like Richard Rohr’s concept of deep time
MS. TIPPETT: A phrase that you use a lot that I’d like you to just flesh out is an aspect of this progression towards meaning, towards spiritual fullness, is “living in deep time.” Just say what you’re saying there.
FR. ROHR: OK, well, let me say, first of all, I’m not sure what I mean by that. [laughs] But a phrase was used in medieval Catholic spirituality was “the eternal now.” “When time comes to its fullness,” is the biblical phrase. I’m sure you’ve been told that in the Greek, in the New Testament, there’s two words for time. Chronos is chronological time, time as duration, one moment after another, and that’s what most of us think of as time.
But there was another word in Greek, kairos. And kairos was deep time. It was when you have those moments where you say, “Oh my god, this is it. I get it,” or, “This is as perfect as it can be,” or, “It doesn’t get any better than this,” or, “This moment is summing up the last five years of my life,” things like that where time comes to a fullness, and the dots connect, when we can learn how to more easily go back to those kind of moments or to live in that kind of space.
Now, I think that’s what the tradition means by the word “contemplation,” that to be a contemplative is to learn to trust deep time and to learn how to rest there and not be wrapped up in chronological time. Because what you’ve learned, especially by my age, is that all of it passes away. The things that you’re so impassioned about when you’re 22 or 42 don’t even mean anything anymore, and yet, you got so angry about it or so invested in it.
So already, the desert fathers and mothers discovered this word “contemplation” because I believe they found the word that most believers use, the word “prayer,” to be so trivialized, so cheapened by misuse. Prayer was sort of a functional thing you did to make announcements to God or tell God things, which God already knew, of course. And they created another word to give us access to this deep time, and that word that kept recurring throughout the 2,000-year history of Christianity was the contemplative mind. It’s a different form of consciousness. It’s a different form of time.
Let me add one thing. We used to, in Latin, use this phrase sub specie aeternitatis, and the old professors used to say, “Sub specie aeternitatis.” And what it means — “in the light of eternity.” In the light of eternity, this thing that you’re so worried about right now — is it really going to mean anything on your deathbed? [laughs] And for some reason, that had the power to relativize the things that a young man would get so impassioned about, positively or negatively. And those were various ways of directing us toward deep time.
I agree on the concept of kairos and Chronos time. Kairos time is when God breaks into our universe in the here and now, or when our minds discovered a new concept or an ‘aha’ moment. I like it so much that I have named my ministry Kairos Spiritual Formation. I like how Richard Rohr links up kairos to deep time to contemplation and to ‘when time comes to its fullness’.
The transcript of the interview here