Chronos, Kairos, Urgency

Chronos, Kairos, Urgency
Nassia Linardou-Blanchet

Time is the principal actor in Chekov’s plays. For him it is the master of the lives of his protagonists. Time is the essential partner of T.S. Eliot in his great poem, Four Quartets: “Time present and time past/ Are both perhaps present in time future,/ And time future contained in time past.” [1] Time is presented by the poet as a perceptual possibility, an indefinite-Chronos which anguishes because nothing but death can be definitely concluded. Urgency then could only be correlated with the act of the poet who, engaging his libido, seeks to make a hole in the atemporal with the “I” of poetry that transcends anxiety. In Logical Time […] the moment to conclude is linked by Lacan to the modality of urgency. “[…] the conjunction manifested here builds up to a motivation of the conclusion ‘so that there will not be’ (a lagging behind that engenders error), in which the ontological form of anxiety […] seems to emerge.” [2] It is the act of concluding countering anxiety. As Jacques-Alain Miller emphasizes in a very clear way in his Course, “Here the conclusion is intrinsically linked to the moment when it is reached and if, at that moment, he lets the occasion to conclude pass, then he can no longer validly [valablement ] conclude.” [3] In other words, if the prisoner does not seize the moment to exit, the other two will go out and he cannot validly conclude that he is white. He would have to conclude that he is black. The act of conclusion is linked with time as an opportune occasion, as kairos, this other dimension of time proper to the Greeks. Kairos, καιρός in the Greek, from the verb κύρω, to meet, but also κείρω, to cut. Kairos is the decisive moment wherein we cut, interrupting time in its duration by an act. Panta rhei, life flows over a thread of time but the urgency of life is a kairos to seize.

Translation: Raphael Montague

1 Cf. Eliot, T.S., Burnt Norton I. Collected Poems, 1936.

2 Lacan, J., “Logical Time and the Assertion of Anticipated Certainty,” Écrits, W.W. Norton, New York/London, 2006, pp. 169-70.

3 Miller J.-A., “L’orientation lacanienne, L’esp d’un lapse”, course delivered within the framework of the Department of Psychoanalysis, University of Paris 8, 3 May 2000, unpublished.