Monday, November 21, 2011

A Time for Everything

To every thing there is a season,
and a time to every purpose under heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up;

a time for war, and a time for peace;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance.

This poem from Ecclesiastes,
with all of its conflicting purposes
and meanings of life, has
long been a favorite of mine.
I remember that it was
also one of my father's favorites. 

I don't think it is any accident that this poem
of insight, wisdom, and hope
is found in the same Biblical book 
that cries out, repeats, echoes, and resounds 
with this despairing declaration:
Vanity; All is Vanity.

I have often wondered about this juxtaposition.
I've also thought about the wording of this phrase;
vanity is used in a manner that is uncommon 
in our time and it didn't quite make sense to me.
Eventually I sought alternate
translations for habel, the Hebrew word 
that has been traditionally translated as vanity.
Here are a few that I found:

Meaningless; All is meaningless.
Meaningless seems too extreme.
Useless; All is useless.
Seems hopeless.
Futility, everything is futility. 
Hmmm. This seems to capture the essence. 

Futility; All is futility.
It is not that I feel or believe
 that all of life is futile.  
But haven't there been times
in your days and weeks 
when it feels like there is no sense or reason
 for much of anything?  

It is not uncommon during times of 
despondency or depression; 
perhaps also during times of utter frustration.  
Or perhaps when facing inner responses 
to a milestone of aging.   

During such times there can easily arise 
a sense of futility; 
perhaps even a useless, senseless void.
And the vanity, or futility,
 of life may recur in life just as it does 
in this ancient book of wisdom.

These two themes, seasons of the spirit 
and a recurring sense of futility,
resonate with the human spirit.

For me, at this time in my life, they have special meaning.  
I have chosen to take a leave of absence.  Again.  
For I want to experience life.

 I do not want to sink into the quicksand of futility.  
It has had its paralyzing hold on me before.
I sank up to my knees, bound by some force,
and I could not walk forward.
I sank up to my waist and could not turn to face life around me.
I sank further; up to my neck so that I had to stretch
just to breathe.
And I finally asked for help.  

This time I am veering away from that looming miry bog.
I am walking toward something else.
What that is, I am not sure.

I am still learning to be.
And I am now intent on seeking how
to value being rather than doing.
I want to learn mindfulness.
I want to experience joy.
And I want to share in life with others.  

How about you?  Where are you now?
Experiencing a paralyzing rise of futility in your life?
 Planting rather than plucking-up?
Or surprised by plucking-up rather than planting? 
Enjoying a season of laughing, dancing, and joy?

For everything there is a season, 
and a time to every purpose under heaven.

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