A meeting with Kairós in a Portuguese village

One of the commonly heard proverbs in Portugal is “Abril, águas mil” (April, a thousand waters), however, the rates presented by the Portuguese Institute of the Sea and Atmosphere (IPMA, 2023) indicate that the precipitation pattern in that month is no longer what it once was, while the graphs show that the rainfall in the fall has been gaining in exuberance. Technology is a resource that helps us check the weather and it’s worth paying attention to this topic to understand where climate change is taking us. Distinct from technological rigor, proverbs remain indicators of the weather-climate, the one we look at, admire and claim wishes for.

Many of these popular sayings focus on the countryside and show the potential of this environment’s wisdom. Away from urban dynamics, which have adapted to the maxims imposed by Kronos, life in the countryside reserves possibilities for finding other gods who allude to time, such as Kairós, for example, one of Kronos’ sons. Although the word used for both is the same, the time they carry is different.

Chronos is the Titan god linked to the stopwatch, the one who devours every second of our lives, pushing us towards death. For Benveniste (1974), however, this chronological time does not coincide with the range of times embedded in human experiences. It will be necessary to go back to Greek mythology, of which we are cultural heirs, in search of a more complete expression of the scope of time, by calling on other representations, which end up fairly expressing the variability of the times that affect us. For his part, Smith (1969) points out that the sensitivity of the Greeks, in distinguishing the differences in the time of (and in) everyday life, elevates human experiences.

It can be inferred that chronological, everyday time, linked to routines, is entangled with forgetfulness, so in order to summon up the memories of life, it is necessary to escape from Kronos and have the affection of other gods. But it’s not easy to leave this titan behind or to defeat him. Only one of his sons has done it: Zeus! But it is possible to inhibit his power when you grasp the lock of hair of Kairós, the divine representation of the opportune moment. So I did.

With the aim of accompanying an Autumn School, driven by the theme of the Water Cycle, I took myself for a couple of days to Aveloso village in central Portugal. It was the end of October and, among the various waters discussed in the course, the rains were materializing, making for a providential irrigation to discuss Agroecology and Food Systems. The Fragas Association, located in Aveloso, one of the villages in São Pedro do Sul, became the hub for the two dozen people who sought out these exchanges. Quantitatively, there were twice as many people living in the village.

Depending on the time of day, we could see the scenery of nature all around us. The mountain, as well as the few houses – many abandoned – formed a beautiful picture next to the river, which flowed and cut through the environment. The church tower also stood out, as did the cemetery that flanked it, indicating that this was the place where the greatest concentration of people – and memories – in this area were kept. The very small number of living inhabitants was intimidating, but colleagues consoled this by saying that there were less populated areas. On my way there, there were even indications of other villages, one of which stands out as a plot because it is occupied by a single inhabitant.

My interest in exploring new routes, combined with a technology with little information, led me down this path. Guided by the GPS, I came across a stretch of road that disappeared into a sea of sand. Kairós came to meet me at that moment and, paraphrasing Saraiva (2021), showed me that the mafarrico had left the door open. The route was signposted as the Way to Hell, and explicitly so. It was only afterwards that I found out about the danger of that surprising and extremely beautiful panorama, which is recommended to be visited in spring (Portal do Inferno e Garra, n.d.). As it was the end of October, torrential water was falling between the rocks, soaking the leaves of the trees, which formed a beautiful copper-colored carpet on various stretches of the narrow road, from where we could see the deep precipice. At least the smell of eucalyptus was sublime, but the mist didn’t help to visually fit in with the scenery of the giant mountains. When your eyes caught sight of the numbers dictated by the car’s controls, you could see Kairós, because time was different, singular, slow, unlike when you drive on the highway, where there are controls emanating from Kronos.

This unique and traumatic lesson in the face of the weather/climate, combined with living with the breadth of the waters, could have been a cut for a horror movie, but I have little sympathy for this genre. In turn, an imagery production leads us to reflect on the trilogy of communication categories defended by Harry Pross (Beth & Pross, 1990): primary media, when bodies present themselves as transmitters of messages; secondary media, in which different devices amplify communication signals, such as objects and writing itself; and tertiary media, when the use of electronic devices is required to decode information. I think that experiencing this scenario through a flat screen, situated and controlled by a tertiary, timed media, would weaken this lesson – that of being in this environment. The sensation and emotion of being guided by Kairós exposes us to a unique moment that cannot be mechanically rewound. This unpredictable scenario, of a small body being swallowed up by mountains, as if it were slipping down a giant wet throat, adhered to my mnemic context. Such a representation was beyond chronological time, it vanished in the face of a body and nature itself that were fundamentally unpredictable.

Encountering one’s own body as a media support, as well as the magnitude of nature, can be provocations that make us reflect on whether the trilogy proposed by Pross is exhausted. Perhaps these nuances can be presented as a process for abstracting new media perceptions in the communicational stronghold. To this end, it’s worth taking inspiration from mythologies to try to get there, expanding the limiting representations of language itself. But these abstractions require us to leave Kronos at the edges of our walks more often and bring other gods of time and other figures to the center so that we can align fruitful debates that endorse the construction of new memories. If it’s in the fall, this immersion will be more delightful by the fire, roasting the chestnuts collected among the fallen leaves on the dampest paths.

Text and images: Cynthia Luderer

Published on 07/12/23


Benveniste, É. (1974). Problema de linguística geral II. Pontes.

Beth H., & Pross, H. (1990). Introducción a la ciencia de la comunicación. Anthropos.

Saraiva, H. (2021, 26 agosto). O mafarrico deixou a porta aberta. [blog] https://viagensaovirardaesquina.wordpress.com/tag/portal-do-inferno/

Smith, J. (1969). Time, times and the right time: Chronos and Kairós.  The monist, 1-13.

Visit arouca (s.d.) Portal do inferno e garra: Patrimonio Natural. https://visitarouca.pt/atracoes/portal-do-inferno-e-garra/











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