2011-09-22

What It Means Outside of "Turn! Turn! Turn!"

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.

That is Ecclesiastes 3:1. Ecclesiastes is part of both the Bible and the Talmud, and I assume it is also an accepted book in the Muslim tradition, as well. It is a pretty interesting part of the whole scholarly history of JuChrIslamism. It reflects the kind of fatalism/determinism that is typically common in Islam and Judaism, and shares a lot in common with the pre-Platonic Greek philosophers.

Broadly, I would describe it as the first really explicit description of what we might term the “accept all things as they are” school of thought. Very “zen.” In that sense, it does a good job of exposing the pessimism inherent in all of these "zen" types of philosophies. If all life ends in destruction - if, as Nuno Bettencourt would say, "Life is a fatal disease" - then the best we can ever hope for is to eap out a few of life's simple pleasures as we go along, and hope for a loving celestial embrace when it's all over. This message is really depressing to me, and I reject it whole-heartedly.

Ecclesiastes in general isn’t really my personal philosophical flavor, but it’s not all bad. In particular, that phrase – To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven. – is worth keeping in mind. Don’t try to fit a square peg into a round hole. Do all things at their proper time, rather than attempting to, say, take the garbage out when it’s time to eat breakfast, or cook dinner while you're doing the dishes.

You know, that sort of thing. I don't know if it's worth converting over, but it's a concept that pops up in enough different cultures and philosophies that you pretty much can't ignore it after a while.