Art & Community      Contribution & Community    Ethics & Community  
Social Services & Community  
  Time & Community


Themes: Time & Community - Stramp

Still – in a way – nobody sees a flower – really – it is so small – we haven’t time – and it takes time, like to have friend takes time. Georgia O’Keefe

To everything there is a season, a time to every purpose under heaven. Ecclesiastes

The Gift of Time

Diana is one of the busiest people we know, on the go from dawn to dusk. She has a seat on the local school board, is active the church and belongs to numerous community groups. She watches out for her elderly parents and regularly minds her numerous grandchildren.

A visit with her is likely to be interrupted by a runny nose, sticky hands or a phone call asking for assistance. Files are scattered amongst the freshly baked cookies, books are piled on the counter and ‘Post It’ notes surround the phone. We were frankly skeptical about suggesting a connection with Joan. Where would she find the time?

Our skepticism however, was ill founded. Diana regularly finds the time to go and visit Joan. In fact every Thursday morning she gets busy in the kitchen and prepares a special lunch for Joan. She then packs it up, drives over to Joan’s group home and spends two hours with her, giving lunch to her bit by pain staking bit.

One day we asked Diana, "Why do you do it? You are so busy and have so much going on yet you take the time to sit with Joan and give her lunch." Diana replied, " I do it for me. The time I spend with Joan is the only time in my whole week when I slow down. You see, Joan gives me the gift of time."


Over the past few months many of us involved with Philia have been touched and surprised by the resonance elicited in our dialogues. Our collective explorations seem to be occurring in the moment when there is a readiness and indeed perhaps a hunger, to reflect on the questions posed by our ideas related to citizenship, disability and contribution. We have been particularly moved by the readiness of people to engage even though we are still searching for words to fully describe the deep concepts of caring and contribution that are at the heart of Philia.

Flannery O’Conner observed that mystery is an embarrassment to the modern mind. Perhaps the day has come that we find ourselves ready to move beyond our embarrassment to settle in with the struggle of mystery, in order to know our world and ourselves better. Attuning ourselves to mystery, to resonance, to inspiration requires that we surrender to another kind of timing, the timing of Kairos. Kairos is nature’s time. It is the realm of time that informs the right action at the right moment.

We define Philia as the reserve of human warmth, affect and generosity that nourishes and stimulates the fellowship that is the heart of civic life. This reserve is a part of the collective resilience of individuals, families and communities. In other words it is already there. For human beings, living in community and caring for one another is natural. Human survival is dependent of it. Today, our consciousness of the interdependence and the interconnectedness of all living systems is diminished. Technology, physical, legal and bureaucratic structures allow us to act as if we live apart from each other. We have become dominated by the timing of Chronos, the time of day, hours, minutes and seconds. We have lost our connection to Kairos.

Stuart Brand in his book The Clock of the Long Now describes a fascinating continuum of human activity that he believes is required for any adaptable and robust civilisation (see sidebar, Continuum of Human Processes). At the top of the continuum are the processes of fashion and commerce. At the bottom are the processes of culture and nature. Each of these processes has their own rhythm and pace. The higher on the continuum the faster the processes are. Fashion for example is frivolous and changes season to season. The lower on the continuum the slower the processes are. Culture moves at the pace of language and religion. Brand’s point is that the pacing of these processes is interdependent and we need to keep them in balance. What is happening today is that the processes of commerce and fashion are dominating and as a result the processes of culture and nature are suffering.

Stuart Brand’s Continuum of Human Processes

  • Fashion

  • Commerce

  • Infrastructure (schools, roads, etc.)

  • Governance

  • Culture

  • Nature


Brand’s work has influenced our conception of time. His work has led us to move away from the dominance of Chronos and to be open to Kairos. We see Philia as a part of the larger good that moves in a slower way. Our temptation is to move quickly to solutions, to fall into the trap of social engineering and community ‘building’ because the processes that stimulate natural resilience take more time than we want and are not conducive to political expediency. Sometimes we are unaware of the resiliency that exists or simply do not believe in the capacity of people to solve their own mysteries.

In addressing full citizenship for people who have been marginalized our tendency is to forge ahead and create new programs, build new structures. This approach is the one we are all familiar with. We feel the pressure of the injustice and want to produce results quickly. However, our attempts at social engineering, have often resulted in professionalized responses that lead to the destruction of the natural impulse of other citizens to extend their caring, and in turn receive, expect and recognise the contributions of those who have been labelled or marginalized. In other words well intentioned but hastily implemented ‘solutions’ can actually destroy the natural resilience of our communities.

Philia has led us to appreciate that the task at hand is to uncover our collective reserve of human warmth, to let our human resilience re-surface. Before creating new programs and building new structures we need to explore how to remove the barriers to the expression of our innate sociability. This work needs to be done following the timing of Kairos.

One of the major barriers to full and reciprocal inclusion is our materially driven conception of time. Ruled by Chronos, cellular telephones, e-mails and faxes seem omnipresent now that we have crossed the threshold into the new millennium. We are busier and busier trying to keep pace with the global technology that allows us to communicate anywhere and anytime. Twenty-four seven is the new expectation. In our haste we have lost touch with ourselves, our neighbours and the living rhythms of the cosmos. As we scramble to meet economic pressures the world narrows down to our immediate needs. There is little time to learn about and relate to the fate of the world, our communities and fellow citizens. There is little energy to open our hearts.

With Philia we are learning about working in the dimension of right and timely actions that are aligned with the processes of the living systems we are a part of. In practical terms this often calls on us to be rather that to do. In order to attune ourselves we sometimes need to pause, to wait for inspiration before we act. Opening the human spirit, unleashing the reserve of human caring at the heart of Philia will require our creativity, faith, courage and conviction. Above all it will require that we give each other the gift of time, the gift to simply be. For it is when we do this that Kairos manifests and the pathways to right and timely action appear.

Vickie Cammack, August 2001

Back to Time & Community

Back to Themes



How Our Site Works | About Us | Caring Citizen | Universal Values
THEMES | Actions  | Get Involved | Home | What's New | Book Reviews