Synkairony, anyone?

August 30, 2019 – 3:06 pm

Synchronisation is supported by the notion of chronos, which is an index on a notional scale beginning at the big bang, and oriented towards the future. As an index, this picks out an infinitesimal, which is not well aligned with our notion of being in time. Chronos is whatever we read off a clock. Kairos is another temporal notion based on relative timing. The weaver passes the shuttle through the loom at just the right point in the cycle. A punch is thrown just as the other is off-guard. A handshake unfolds, with each hand moving with respect to the other.

Our being in time is not captured by chronos. We live among the processes of the living, among seasons, recurrences, rituals, weeks and weekends, mornings and nights. To see us as beings oriented only by chronos is to see us as transient anti-entropy engines, living towards death. To see us as suspended in the web of relations that is living, is to recognise that almost all of our orientation towards “time” is kaironic, rather than chronometric.

Many of us study patterns of synchronisation: among animals, biological processes, collective labours, chants, and beyond. When we treat of such patterns as if chronos were the substance of time, we do violence to ourselves. Fireflies synchronise with respect to each other, to the fading light of dusk, to the ambient temperature change. Not with respect to any clock. When blackberries arrive, all at the same time, it would be odd to call it synchronised emergence, but synkaironic?  I see a need for a new term here. This is collective time, time brought forth in coordination, in mutuality.

Although I love dynamical modeling as applied to the processes of life, it is in kairos that we come together to forge a world, not in chronos. Oscillator models take note!

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