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  • Kerry D. Krauss

Alarm Clocks

In the early 80’s I received a cassette player, radio, alarm clock. I loved it. It had a lot of buttons. You could set a timer and drift off to sleep to the quieting tunes of The Who or U2. The gadget also worked so that you could set your alarm clock to awaken you to a cassette tape playing the easy listening of The Who or U2 (I keep using these two bands a. because their music was neither quieting nor easy and b. because I know I had The Who’s It’s Hard and U2’s War on cassette.)

Unfortunately, engaging the cassette player created so much noise. I was well awake before the keyboard loop of ‘Eminence Front’ ever began. I could lay there and enjoy the opening of the song as much as a sunset without having to reach over and press a button. At the same time, I could have just as easily reached over and pressed the play button with far less clicking and grinding.

I’ve never liked alarm clocks. They run counter to our biology. Our bodies know when to wake and they know when to sleep. Scientists call this our circadian rhythm. Scientists and philosophers have paid attention to the circadian rhythms of plants and animals for centuries. Only since the mid-19th century did the same scientists—and to a lesser extent—philosophers apply the concept to humans.

Our rhythms are based on a 24-hour period. We are hardwired to the rotation of the earth. Our rhythms are also based on light and heat. They are also adaptable and change as we move north and south, east and west. They affect our sleep patterns. They affect our eating patterns. They affect our hormones. They affect our thinking, our dexterity, our blood pressure. [Fascinating Stuff!!!!]

Alarm clocks upset and disturb the natural order of our sleeping and waking. Not everyone loves to get up with the sun. We are not required by nature to all have the same rhythm, set to the same clock. Who will take the night watch if we are all asleep at the same time? (Why would we need a night watch if we were all asleep at the same time?)

My circadian rhythm has always been a bit off. My perfect day begins around 10-10:30 a.m. when I wake. My perfect day closes at 2 a.m. with the TV offering white noise to still my soul. Throughout most of college and almost all of seminary, I produced my best work between 11 p.m. and 1 a.m. I will surely default back to this rhythm again…when I can find people who want to worship at 10 p.m. or a cult that believes Jesus’ Resurrection was a sunset experience, rather than a sunrise experience.

This morning I heard Jackson’s alarm at 4 a.m. as he made his way to the golf course. I heard Karen’s alarm at 5:30 a.m. as she prepared for her first day of school. I heard my alarm at 7 a.m. and a few moments later heard Harrison moving about upstairs. I have not really set an alarm clock since March 23rd. There was no need. I woke every day between 8 and 8:30 a.m.…even on days when I didn’t need to do or be anything. I would read for a while and between 12 and 12:30 a.m. every night I would roll over and peacefully sleep the night away.

I deeply favor Kairos over Chronos. Chronos in Greek mythology (with great debate) is Father Time. Chronos, and time, are destroyers of life. Chronos is often depicted as an old man with a harvesting scythe. Chronos is depicted the unstoppable march of time and the effects of age and also spins the zodiac through its successive seasons.

Kairos, is Chronos’ brother (or son). Kairos embodied the concept of the critical moment, the opportune time was Kairos. Kairso, far less depicted in art, is symbolized with an archer’s arrow or spear—the critical moment of the kill.

Chronos rules us (some of us). Kairos ought to rule us. Chronological time dictates when we do or do not. Kairological time tells us WHAT we should do or do not. While we’ve heeded the deadlines and necessities of month, day, hour, minute, we have lost the appreciation for the critical moment.

Friends, our critical moment is now. Right now. Appreciate this moment and the consequences of what you do and who you are.

I love you.

I need you.

I hope for you.

Please be safe.

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