Monday, August 27, 2007

The Season

Flipped on PBS and there is Barry McGuire singing Hey, Mr. Tambourine Man. His encore is To Everything There is a Season, which he credits to Pete Seger and the Book of Ecclesiastes.

I like this music. It is a bit of a revelation that these two songs which resonate in my mind were sung by some soul named Barry McGuire, but the names of pop type idols never really infiltrated my consciousness over the years. More to the point is just hearing them again.

What is even more important right now is understanding how in such a context one might seek to parse the inscrutable boundary between religious idiocy and spiritual sense. When I hear the Ecclesiastes song ... "to everything there is a season" ... like most people, I am suffused with a sense of the wisdom of the ages. There are moments of that in every religion, in every mysticism. But the proof of wisdom is not in ownership grabbing, but in standing back, in surrendering to what the sum of human experience bequeaths to anyone who chooses to subscribe.

Ah, religion, curse and foil.

I have been reading about the career of Alfred the Great who overcame his inertia and responded to treachery by organizing that which was within his grasp and creating something that had not existed before. More prosaically, he was ousted by a palace coup, so he retreated to the wilderness and from there organized those forces of his community and realm who had nothing to gain from a a new order, and overthrew his opponents. In doing so, however, he did not merely restore what he had lost, but rather he created a new paradigm, once which, famously, became England.

"This is your land" could be an old paradigm that creates a new one. We are being undermined by the forces of a consumerism which perhaps we unleashed by the aftermath and heedless misuse of a hedonism in the 60s (which, as I like to note, actually occurred in the 70s). The new pseudo-hedonism is not erotic but simply greed and self-absorption. When we say now that to everything there is a season, we can call on the wisdom of the ages to say that the time now is not for greed but for the warmth of bodies and living together ... that we have lost our way, and the way to find it again is to look back to what made us survive and thrive ... that there is another hedonism that we must regain and remake.

Arthur hid in a marsh and made a kingdom. Maybe that should be our model. Stripped of any silly Christian revanchism, maybe Eccelsiastes has something to say to us.

Are we listening?

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