60 years ago, I was walking down the hallway of my SFSU college dorm and met a dorm mate. He looked at me and said, “Vanity, vanity, all is vanity sayeth the preacher.” I was a nominal Christian and had no idea of what he meant. 60 years later, I just came across the same quote, laughed uproariously and wrote this piece.
Perhaps Henry Thoreau read King Solomon’s “Ecclesiastes” chaps 2 and 3 and wrote:
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” ― Henry David Thoreau, Walden
In King Solomon’s “Old Testament” book of “Ecclesiastes,” he reflected on how he had spent his life.
However, even though Solomon ends chapter two, chasing the wind, in chapter three he records one of the most famous passages in the Bible. Intriguingly, it is still used at weddings and funerals.
In a wonderful synchronicity, in the early 1960s, folk singer Pete Seeger added a few words to the passage and along with his melody produced, “Turn, Turn, Turn.” At that time Seeger considered himself an atheist, so it is interesting how it occurred that he chose a Bible verse for a song.
Seeger’s voice was probably best suited for campfire sing-alongs, but in another synchronicity the singing group, “The Byrds,” recorded his song. Turn-Turn-Turn is the only popular song, with almost purely Biblical lyrics, to reach the top of the US music charts.
I don’t know if the song affected Seeger’s religious perspective, but he later wrote:
“I feel most spiritual when I’m out in the woods. I feel part of nature or looking up at the stars. I used to say I was an atheist. Now I say, it’s all according to your definition of God. According to my definition of God, I’m not an atheist. Because I think God is everything. Whenever I open my eyes I’m looking at God. Whenever I’m listening to something I’m listening to God.”
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, a time to reap that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; 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;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.
Seeger received many awards for his humanitarian work, especially encouraging people to strive for world peace, celebrate life and sing more.
In an increasingly more secularized and polarized society, all of these are becoming more difficult. When was the last time you sat around a campfire and sang songs like Country Roads, Blowin’ In The Wind, or Turn—Turn—Turn?