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Kairos and Metanoia

In Greek mythology, Caerus (Kairos) was the personification of opportunity, luck and favorable moments. He was depicted with only one lock of hair. His Roman equivalent was Occasio or Tempus.

Caerus (Kairós) is Opportunity, a god that leaves as soon as he arrives

Elusive god

Caerus is the due measure that achieves the aim. This god brings about what is convenient, fit, and comes in the right moment. Sometimes it could be the critical or dangerous moment, but more often Caerus represents the advantageous, or favourable occasion. Hence, what is opportune, or "Opportunity". In the Hellenistic age (as P. Chantraine informs us), the term was also used as "time" or "season" (the good time, or good season).

According to Pausanias, there was an altar of Caerus close to the entrance to the stadium at Olympia, for Opportunity is regarded as a divinity and not as a mere allegory. This indefatigable traveller also tells us that Caerus was regarded as the youngest child of Zeus in a hymn by Ion of Chios (ca. 490-425 BC).

Caerus is represented as a young and beautiful god. Opportunity obviously never gets old, and beauty is always opportune, flourishing in its own season. Caerus stands on tiptoe because he is always running, and like Hermes, he has wings in his feet to fly with the wind. He holds a razor, or else scales balanced on a sharp edge—attributes illustrating the fleeting instant in which occasions appear and disappear.

A. Fairbanks (translator of Callistratus) suggests that the type of the statue of Opportunity was developed out of the form of the Hermes that granted victory in athletic contests. And if someone were to think of other resemblances between Opportunity and Hermes, he might also ask the proverbial question: "Who makes the thief?" For just as Hermes has been taken to be the protector of thieves, Opportunity has been called their maker. And persuaded that Caerus has a bad influence in the matter of thefts, humans spent huge resources and efforts in perfecting locks and keys and passwords and every kind of safety measures, with the help of which they hope to outwit Opportunity. But as they lock some doors they inevitably leave others open. And as expected, the god goes on flying as swiftly as ever, providing amazing surprises to everyone, and making not only thieves but also lovers. In addition, he produces every kind of such humans as are nicknamed "opportunists" on account of their ability to quickly seize whatever advantage the great seducer Caerus appears to offer them.

On the other hand, a man of sober judgement usually thinks that things such as "opportunity" are not entities, or powers, let alone divinities, but the produce of diligent men. And being such their nature (he reasons), they could be arranged or put under control. That is also what Francis Bacon appears to tell us when he writes: "A man must make his opportunity, as oft as find it" (Advancement of learning II.xxiii.3).

Caerus can easily be seized by the hair hanging over his face—"creeping down over the eyebrows"—when he is arriving. But once he has passed by, no one can grasp him, the back of his head being bald. The moment of action is gone with his hair: a neglected occasion cannot be recovered. The author of Ekphráseis (Descriptions ) found that the statue of Caerus at Sicyon resembled Dionysus 2, with his forehead glistening with graces and a delicate blush on his cheeks: "... though it was bronze, it blushed; and though it was hard by nature, it melted into softness."

And like the statue is Opportunity himself: he melts into softness if caught by the forelock, but once he has raced by, he assumes his hard nature and seldom grants a second chance.




Another with identical name

Caerus is one of the horses of Adrastus .


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