"A thousand years a poor man watched
Before the gate of Paradise:
But while one little nap he snatched,
It opened and shut. Ah! was he wise?"
~ William R. Alger, "Swift Opportunity", Poetry of the Orient (1893), p. 281.
The answer to the above question is no, he wasn't wise, because perfected wisdom (and moral/correct thought/speech/action) would be demonstrated by continuous alertness for the manifestation of a Kairos Moment (and fulfillment of that opportunity, "walking through the door"). Kairos was a Greek word for time, but time that's different from normal chronos time, it is instead a special moment of time. The Greeks also personified the characteristics of Kairos symbolically into a god, alternatively spelled Caerus. Caerus/Kairos was the god of the "fleeting moment of a favorable opportunity." He was envisioned as someone always on the move, hence the wings on his feet. And in one hand he carried a razor blade, or in other depictions, scales balanced on a sharp edge; both symbols illustrating the fleeting one second in which the opportune opening he personified appears and disappears. His hair was also perfectly symbolic of what it's like to experience Kairos in your life; he had a large, bushy forelock that hung out in front of his face, which you could grab a hold of when he was coming toward you closely, but the back of his head was completely bald and slick, symbolizing that once he passes you by, you can't grab a hold of him any longer, the moment is gone and can not be re-captured; you always have to wait for him to come around again. Caerus/Kairos was also shown as young and beautiful, because these divine opportunities are always fresh and new, and add true beauty to our lives. This "grabbing hold" of Kairos when "he" (an opportunity involving other people in the real world of your life) appears requires immediate, unhesitating action on your part. And as I've learned from hundreds of failures at this, that immediate action/engagement is only possible if you are always expecting him, at all times of your daily life what his never-changing characteristics are, so you can recognize him when he manifests, and you know exactly. The Greek personification of Kairos did a good job at encapsulating some of the phenomenon characteristics, but it is limited of course just being pictorial, and is not communicating some crucial details that really need to be spelled out, so that it was I will do next.
Kairos Moments are orchestrated to potentially deliver either a healthy desire, or real justice in the world; that, I've realized, is because we need both our healthy desires and to not be subjected to evil in order to be happy/satisfied, i.e., in order to be fully "saved" from a hellish life (in Christian terms), in order to get off the Samsara wheel of disatisfaction held by the devil "Mara" (in Buddhist terms). Kairos Moments are true saving grace because they bring up both opportunities for you to receive lasting personal satisfaction, and opportunities to further social-justice; in this way they are custom-designed for full outer and inner revolution/transformation, a complete/holistic liberation from your unsatisfactory life.
There are fundamentally only two types of Kairos Moments, Desire Kairos & Justice Kairos, but the particulars are of course infinite variety for Desire Kairos Moments, because it depends on what our top heart's desire is, and that varies person to person. Justice is not subjective however, it is a social reality independent of personal tastes, it is rejecting/removing aggression, deception and belittling, the 3 always-evil acts.
What also is constant with these opportunities to fulfill a desire or to further justice, is that they will be accompanied by internal & external opposition; these openings are difficult to fulfill because they're met by internal & external opposition/sabotage (internally: Fear, Anger, Depression, Sloth, Craving, Mischievousness & Conceitedness; externally: Aggression, Deception & Belittling). You have to be 100% unaffected; not easy.
I'll now quote passages from the book Chasing Kairos that explain this phenomenon very well:
"Chasing Kairos begins with looking for the extraordinary in what seems ordinary. It is about finding the miraculous in the seeming mundane. ... To experience abundance we have to first be made aware that these opportunities exist. ... Ultimately, each Kairos is a divine invitation to experience God, if you let him, toe-to-toe and nose-to-nose. ... [T]o find a "divine time-out" by His abundant grace is a privilege and joy that will change the way you look at life by shifting your focus continually towards this truth and way of life. ... Know who you are and what you're called to do just as much as what you're not called to do and who you are not. Identify your needs, as well as the things that bring you joy as an individual. ... [I have learned] not to expect heavenly moments to come at a certain point in a certain way limiting God in the process by trying to tell Him how and when to please me. But rather, it is about keeping a childlike heart that is ready to run wild... I'm preparing to embrace life in all its fullness whether it presents itself tenderly, peacefully and relaxing, or powerfully, [or fearfully], invigorating and inspiring, funny, solitary or joyfully. ... As we become better at practicing active contentment... it can position us with arms wide open for more of these life-giving intervals, as long as we are... keeping our eyes and heart ready to recognize divinely orchestrated opportunities. ... Chasing Kairos begins with learning how to rest and pause for a moment, particularly, when we feel rushed or like we "can't afford to waste time." This attitude is the nemesis of all enjoyment, driving us to hurry... [and] we end up rushing right by the very things already lined up to enrich our daily lives. We need to remember that life's special moments often come unannounced and disguised as something we didn't think was needed, regarded it as being out of place or not worthy of our attention. We may never know all the hidden treasures we could have discovered, if we had only learned to frequently stop for just a moment. Catching them reminds us of these moments being truly priceless. ... Faithfulness and gratitude should always let us hope for the next kairos out of our relationship with God. Shifting our attention back on His ability to astonish and love on us can help us stay aware that the next kairos could be just a moment away. I find this joyful anticipation of life to be a piece of heaven in and of itself. Without the element of hope for more of life and more of God my level of gratitude is limited. It puts me at risk of living in the past and that's not what Chasing Kairos is about."
~ Chasing Kairos: Where Happiness Comes From, by Clarissa Fitzgerald
There is crucial content in the above quote for sure, though it is missing some very important elements of the Kairos phenomenon. First of all, we don't want to chase these moments, to chase something implies a mindset of craving, and we never want to crave, as that will sabotage our ability to fulfill Kairos. The other super-critical element to understand is that fulfillment of these Moments requires immediate engagement (we "stop for just a moment" whatever we were already doing and engage with the new); this means not even one second of hesitation to engage, and that engagement must be of a sort that prolongs the the engagement with the person beyond the one moment that it is coming and going within. Another missing element is the recognition that Kairos Moments always come unexpectedly, and with some combination of Fear, Anger, Depression, Sloth, Craving, Mischievousness and Craving as opposition.
The Buddha's Seven Factors of Enlightenment are in fact also exactly the qualities I've discovered one must embody in order to notice and fulfill Kairos Moments. Embodying the Seven Factors of Enlightenment = "rightly handling" of Kairos Moments. When I fail at them, I fail at them in particular ways, and those particulars were already specified thousands of years ago by the Buddha. For example, I notice that I've failed at Kairos by failing to "investigate the dhamma/truth," i.e. I fail to immediately investigate the truth of the matter concerning something (delivered by Kairos for only a moment) that has positive potential (leaving "a stone unturned"), and/or I fail to do so with Lightheartedness, Energy, Calmness and Concentration, and/or I was not Mindful nor was I maintaining Equanimity (being free of assumption), all other Factors of Enlightenment.
Other on-point wisdom teachings from other traditions, namely Daoism and Christianity, also speak exactly to what Kairos is, and what is needed to align with it.
In Daoism, living in alignment with Dao (The Way) & De (Virtue-Power), is called "wu-wei," which is often translated as "non-action," but it doesn't mean you just sit around doing nothing, it means the "Pain Body" (as Ekhart Tolle calls it) is no longer controlling & manipulating your behavior to be non-virtuous; instead you choose to follow the Dao/Flow, which includes intuitive impulses and the natural, spontaneous impulses of your passionate Authentic Self. So non-acting means more not acting in the theatrical sense of the word, and instead being fully authentic; and when being more natural/authentic you may actually be more active than you were before! Acting, in the sense of being inauthentic, actually supports Mara, it is anti-evolutionary behavior. The difference is where the actions (or non-actions) are originating from. They can come either from the very limited knowledge (and negative habits/beliefs/emotions) of the external & internal Pain Body, or they can come from a source full of wisdom and love (Dao & its perfect De). Following Dao & De instead depends on initially (and regularly) focusing on the present moment fully. You've probably heard about the benefits of a mindfulness practice before, of "being here now," but what isn't explained so well is the crucial reason why, beyond the benefits of greater peace of mind and efficiency: to align with and fulfill Kairos Moments, which the Dao De Jing calls the "Gateway to All Wonders." By becoming aware of the Flow of Dao, a Flow that requires perfected De to fully align with it, so you can interact, support. collaborate and synergize with it, for liberatory experience.
The Practice in a nutshell: Being present, alert to inner and outer Flow (Intuition and the Transcendentals of Truth, Beauty, & Goodness), free of a rushed/worried/fearful, angry, depressed, slothful, craving, mischievous or conceited mind, remaining open to and faithful/expectant for Kairos opportunities to act for the good.
"The everyday practice is simply to develop a complete acceptance and openness to all situations... and to all people, experiencing everything totally without mental reservations and blockages, so that one never withdraws [at opportune moments]. This produces a tremendous energy which is usually locked up in the processes of mental evasion and generally running away from life experiences.
Clarity of awareness may in its initial stages be unpleasant or fear inspiring. If so, then one should open oneself completely to the pain or the fear and welcome it. In this way the barriers created by one’s own habitual emotional reactions and prejudices are broken down."
~ Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche
This "welcoming of the fear" means, most importantly, welcoming the challenge of overcoming the fear (and/or other toxic emotion-thoughts) that arise at the Kairos Moment, welcoming the challenge of not caring about the negative reactions of others for doing God's will for your life.
It took me a long time (years) to fully recognize and understand the patterns of Kairos and see how they fit into 12 opening types (I realized too that it's not just coincidental that the cross is a 12-sided polygon, but I will explain how Kairos fits into a corrected Christianity and is spoken of symbolically in the Bible at a later date). Here are those 12 types, to look out for every moment of every day; and remember, you will have to care less about how you look to others than you care about doing what you know in your heart is perfectly fine, you will have to make zero assumptions about people, you will have to be both courageous and humble; it truly is a way of perfecting and maturing us spiritually/morally; something I still have been failing at but I know I can succeed at, and so can you, if we strive with Right Effort based in Right Understanding of what's truly good & evil in this world.
The 12 Kairos Moment Openings
"Look! I stand at the door and knock.
If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in,
and we will share a meal together as friends."
and we will share a meal together as friends."
(Revelation 3:20, New Living Translation)
Furthering the Transcendentals of Truth, Beauty and Goodness is the core of Kairos, just as it is with Intuition; the Transcendentals, Intuition and Kairos make for a living Holy Trinity that must be completely honored; if you focus solely on the following details of Kairos Moments, but don't speak all Intuitive thought, and don't move towards truth, beauty and goodness and away from lies, ugliness and wickedness with every choice you make, you will still fail at Kairos, no matter how prepared for it you become because they are all interconnected and interdependent, as life will show you repeatedly.
The signature of Kairos (what is often mistranslated as "the name of the Lord" in the Bible), is the unique and unchanging characteristics of Kairos Moment phenomenology. This signature is what you must know “like the back of your hand,” what you must have completely memorized, so that when any of the 12 Kairos Moment types manifest you'll recognize it, and then, if your faith in Kairos is 100%, be able to disregard all the toxic opposition that arises simultaneously trying to persuade you to "shrink back" (as it says in the Bible). The challenge is to trust in the goodness of the signature, to trust that it is leading you to ultimate victory and not defeat, even though this signature is the only assurance you are given in the scenario in which it manifests; it will otherwise always seem "too risky" or "inappropriate" (both being complete lies) to act or speak boldly for your desire or for justice. That's why bodacious action, i.e., audacious righteous action, is necessary; it's bold but also morally correct, it's coming from a completely tension-free state of mind, free of the sabotaging corrupting contamination of fear, anger, depression, sloth, craving, mischievousness and conceitedness; as experience will show you repeatedly, if you entertain any of those 7 in the Kairos Moment, even just a little, it will sabotage the Kairos and you will neither receive your desire or successful;y further justice. Along with Kairos Moments being a test of your alignment with truth & peace vs. lies and tension, it's a test of your faith in the phenomenon itself, in Divine grace; it's "going out on a limb," "taking a leap of faith," unconcerned about the misperceptions and slander of other people (fear), nor believing the lie that "it's not worth it" (sloth), nor believing any other lies that arise in your mind coupled with any of the other 7 toxic emotions. The particular sudden one-second opening phenomenology makes it a true and ultimate test of faith; it's comparable to a scenario wherein a friend asks for your immediate help suddenly, or to do something bold/unusual with no further explanation; a true faithful friend will just immediately trust them and follow their lead despite the very ambiguous circumstances, while someone unfaithful will hesitate. It's like that, except we're talking about friendship with and trust in Divinity.
1) For Desire Kairos Moments the Yin Personal type is a one-second sudden opening for bodaciously expressing interest in your desire when someone nearby subtly expresses to you an interest in fulfilling your desire (i.e., an interest in helping you).
2) For Desire Kairos Moments the Yang Personal type is a one-second sudden opening for bodaciously expressing interest in your desire by offering assistance to someone nearby who is connected to your desire and is subtly expressing distress.
3) For Desire Kairos Moments the Yin Physical type opening is a one-second sudden physical or audible space/silence that you can utilize to bodaciously express clear interest in your desire to someone nearby connected to your desire.
4) For Desire Kairos Moments the Yang Physical type opening is a one-second opportunity to bodaciously express clear interest in your desire to someone nearby connected to your desire by utilizing a physical or audible materialization/object/happening that arises at that time.
5) For Desire Kairos Moments the Yin-Yang Personal type is a one-second sudden opening to bodaciously express clear interest in your desire when someone nearby says or does something toward no one in particular (toward everybody) that is related to your desire.
6) For Desire Kairos Moments the Yin-Yang Physical type is a one-second sudden opening to bodaciously express clear interest in your desire to someone nearby connected to your desire when some physical and/or audible manifestation arises that's not directed toward anyone in particular (toward everybody) and is related to your desire.
7) For Justice Kairos Moments the Yin Personal type is a one-second sudden opening for bodaciously expressing clear rejection of a sudden evil act, i.e., Belittling, Aggression, and/or Deception (B.A.D.), directed toward you, committed by someone near you.
8) For Justice Kairos Moments the Yang Personal type is a one-second sudden opening for bodaciously expressing clear rejection of evil when someone nearby commits a sudden B.A.D. act toward someone else near you.
9) For Justice Kairos Moments the Yin Physical type is a one-second sudden opening for bodaciously rejecting evil when a physical and/or audible space manifests that's perfect to use to speak against a particular evil/B.A.D. act related to what's happening or being discussed.
10) For Justice Kairos Moments the Yang Physical type is a one-second sudden opening for bodaciously expressing clear interest in justice when a physical and/or audible materialization manifests that is connected to a particular evil/B.A.D. thing.
11) For Justice Kairos Moments the Yin-Yang Personal type is a one-second sudden opening for bodaciously expressing clear interest in justice when someone does something evil/B.A.D. toward no one in particular (toward everybody) to speak against and also speak for the opposite good/just thing.
12) For Justice Kairos Moments the Yin-Yang Physical type is a one-second sudden physical and/or audible evil/B.A.D. manifestation that isn't directed toward anyone in particular (toward everybody) to speak against and also speak for the opposite good/just thing.