COMP(on)LINE 18 October 2020

Compline with Friends (formerly Coffee Hour with Friends) has been a very lightly facilitated, gently theological online space, initiated 26 March 2020, with the encouragement of Glenn Jordan. It meets online 8:30-9:30pm, Irish Time. The link is The password changes weekly, depending on the author whose words I am sharing. This week it is CatherineKeller, author of Political Theology of the Earth: Our Planetary Emergency and the Struggle for a New Public (Columbia University Press, 2018).

I’ve been thinking and talking with D about her question of “enough time.” Or (and I’m paraphrasing D’s question) more often, not enough time. Not getting enough done, getting overwhelmed by anxiety, getting to the end of this journey and feeling less like having lived a life and more like having run down the clock. As an adult human with ADHD, this question of time has huge and upsetting implications for me; I was also thinking (and couldn’t immediately articulate how) this is a theological question.

This is from the Introduction to Keller’s book.

“Once upon a time we had . . . time.
Whatever the story of our individual mortalities, there extended out from all of us, from us all together, the space of a shared time, the time of a shared space. The e sharing was rent with contradiction: we reached no consensus on the layout of the future. We could ignore the space of its temporal bodies and squint away the alpha and the omega of its ages. Our calculations collided, our opposed futures warred and left hope drugged or in ruins. But still there stretched before us—if we were not fundamentalists of e End—at least a time to rebuild. There would be time enough for the space of a more marvelous togetherness: New Heaven and Earth, utopic horizon, seventh generation, endless rhythm, eternal return, r/evolutionary leap, fitful progress, sci-tomorrow. Or so the stories go. We had time.

And now we seem to have lost it.”

This is interesting to me because it reminds me that this is not just an individual problem (though we experience it individually in the body we inhabit), but also a collective one (particular to one form of so-called Western collective consciousness). And I find theological terminology for different kinds of time very useful. Here is Keller again:

“The Corinthian word for ‘time’ is not the standard chronos. According to another Paul, the original meaning of kairos, ‘the right time, the time in which something can be done . . . must be contrasted with chronos, measured time or clock time. The former is qualitative, the latter quantitative.’ In contrast to the chronological continuum of calculable time, Paul Tillich thus surfaced for theology, ‘in the context of religious socialism,’ the eventive moment of kairos. The kairos signifes a breakthrough into, not out of, concrete history… ‘a passing instant when an opening appears which must be driven through with force if success is to be achieved.’ It was first used of arrows but also of the weaving loom’s shuttle (the speed of which I witnessed as a child in Greece). In the immediate wake of apartheid, the kairos documents of South Africa swiftly initiated, for the sake of justice rather than vengeance, a political practice of messianic eventiveness.

In Agamben’s analysis, ‘kairos is a contracted and abridged chronos‘ …The notion of abridgment can be misread as shrinkage—again, as mere lack of time. Yet for Paul ‘the kairos is filled full.'”

An hour is not a lot of time. But, as adrienne maree brown reminds us, there is always enough time for the right conversation.

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