Kairos for the Oikos

Kairos

Chronos and kairos are two words used by the ancient Greeks used to signify time. Chronos signified time in the quantitative sense as in our use of the word chronological, but kairos is qualitative in nature, signifying a right or opportune moment. It is time (in this kairos sense) for the human community to take radical action to care for our world oikos (the Greek word for house), our one world house.

For the first time in the chronological history of our planet, we are facing a time of mass extinction that is being caused by one species. It is the first time a  mass extinction can be attributed to any one species or any species at all for that matter. All of the previous mass extinctions (and there seems to have been five) have been the result of natural events that cannot be attributed to any of the species of life existing in those previous times.

No opportune moment or kairos moment presented itself in any of the other great mass extinctions. The dinosaurs could do nothing about the climate changes that led to their demise. Species living at the time the continents all came together to create what we now call Pangea could not do anything about the shifting tectonic plates that created such a land mass that led to massive drought in the interior regions. All five mass extinctions were neither caused nor could they be avoided by the species of life in existence at that point in time.

The sixth great extinction that we have begun is the only mass extinction primarily caused by one species, and it is the only one that potentially might be avoided by the activities of one species. However, if it is to be avoided, now is the time, the kairos moment, to take action for life rather than extinction. It is kairos to care of the oikos. It is time to care for our world house!

Great persons, great movements, and great generations are those who have recognized kairos in the midst of chronos: Abraham Lincoln realized that it was kairos, it was time, to end slavery and create a more humane society. Susan B. Anthony and other women’s suffrage advocates realized that it was kairos, it was time, to end the male monopoly on political power in the United States. Mahatma Gandhi realized that it was kairos, it was time, to end the colonial control of India through nonviolent resistance. Dietrich Bonhoeffer and members of the Confessing Movement in Germany knew that it was time to resist Hitler even if it meant losing their own lives, Martin Luther King Jr. and a legion of civil rights activists realized that it was kairos, it was time to end segregation and the Jim Crow laws of the South, it was time to celebrate the dignity of all humans regardless of race or creed, and it was time to live up to our highest ideals. Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem, and others saw that it was kairos, it was time, to end sexual discrimination in society and in the work place. Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Bell Hooks and others in the womanist movement realized that it was kairos, it was time to recognize and work to end both the sexual and racial discrimination faced by black women in the United States.  Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu and many others saw that it was kairos, it was time, to end apartheid in South Africa.  Mikhail Gorbachev saw that it was kairos, it was time, to lift the iron curtain and attempt to begin a new age of openness and freedom in the former Soviet Union (though Putin has done so much to lower it once again), and in our time there is an unstoppable movement in the United States to recognize that it is kairos for equal rights for all persons in the GLBT community.

And now it is kairos, it is time to  care for our planet, to care for our one world house through radical actions, bold creativity, and reformation of what it means to be human persons within an ecological community. Hopefully, future generations will look back on ours as being a great generation, a generation who recognized that it was kairos for our oikos.

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About Mark Y. A. Davies

Mark Davies is The Wimberly Professor of Social and Ecological Ethics and Director of the World House Institute for Social and Ecological Responsibility at Oklahoma City University. From 2009 to 2015, Mark was dean of the Petree College of Arts and Sciences and Wimberly Professor of Social Ethics at Oklahoma City University. Previously, Mark was dean of the Wimberly School of Religion at Oklahoma City University and Founding Director of the Vivian Wimberly Center for Ethics and Servant Leadership. Prior to becoming dean of the Wimberly School of Religion in 2002, he was associate dean of the Petree College of Arts and Sciences at Oklahoma City University and chair of the department of philosophy. Mark has published in the areas of Boston personalism, process philosophy and ethics, and ecological ethics. Dr. Davies serves on the United Methodist University Senate, which is “an elected body of professionals in higher education created by the General Conference to determine which schools, colleges, universities, and theological schools meet the criteria for listing as institutions affiliated with The United Methodist Church.” He and his wife Kristin live in Edmond, OK in the United States, and they have two daughters. The views expressed by the author in this blog do not necessarily represent the views of Oklahoma City University.
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