January 14, 2021

The Pendulum of Life

Ecclesiastes 3 (from the Hebrew Bible)

1    There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.

One way of interpreting this portion of wisdom literature is that at different times, the pendulum of life swings between opposites. To be wise is to live fully whatever time it is.

Some have taught that a basic truth is the inevitable suffering in all human life. This is not the view of modern life, at least in privileged cultures. The right to pursue happiness has become the right to happiness.

For many, suffering is an interruption in life, rather than an inevitability. In this mindset, suffering is something to be avoided, certainly, but also something that suspends normalcy until it passes. Ecclesiastes suggests wherever the pendulum is, that is still normal life.  Wisdom is learning to live fully, no matter what the time.

Ecclesiastes reminds us that the pendulum swings, believe it or not, ready or not. 

  1. In the list of Ecclesiastes, which times have been the most difficult to live through without losing your balance?
  2. What great value have you found in hard times? In other people? In yourself? In the important aspects of life?
  3. How does advancing age affect your perception of life’s balance between good times and difficult times?

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