Click on a Theme below to go to a summary of the four posts about that Theme.

Time, from "Turn! Turn! Turn!," a rock song by The Byrds

Subthemes: Nature's Cycles, Time and Religion, A Lifetime, To Act or Not to Act

With lyrics based on the King James Version of Ecclesiastes (3:1-8), this hit song comprehends many aspects of time. Here is a YouTube video of a 1965 rendition by the Byrds. You will adore the two little kids!

“Turn! Turn! Turn!” by The Byrds

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 gain that which is 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 of love, and a time of hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

seasons picture

Nature’s Cycles: This beautiful song touches the rhythms of life. Something like “all things in moderation”, it suggests “all deeds at their appropriate moment.” The harmony and justice of opportune times to act and not to act has deep appeal. We are dealing here not with what a clock ordains, but rather with the pacing of what human intercourse can sensitively sustain. The lyrics make concrete the appropriateness of context and judgment more so than the passage of time, plans laid by people, or anything to do with quantity. Whether two hours has elapsed matters not at all to whether it may be A time to weep, and a time to laugh. Further, it sings to the rightness of acting when the time is right: A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; When the crucial moment arrives, you don’t get to turn off the alarm and try a second or third shot. Of course, the trick is deciding when is A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together. It’s often far from clear.

Time and Religion: For people of faith, God determines the timeliness of actions. When God or their faith directs believers to do something, such as to fast or go on mission or evangelize, doesn’t yield to the conventions of timeliness or convenience of schedules or how many hours have passed on a clock. Instead, the time to act or refrain from acting is sub specie aeternitatis, governed by prayer, scripture, clerics, or sacral guidance. Believers hold that there is a time to every purpose under the heaven. This is why the biblical passage and its expression in music invokes a the start the bookends of life: A time to be born, and a time to die.

A Lifetime: The hallowed events in our lives glow in this song: birth, death, love, enmity, planting, harvesting. The lyrics call out those highlights at both the individual level, such as a time to mourn, and a time to dance and at the societal level, such as a time of war, and a time of peace. We shouldn’t rush a love affair if we accept that a grander scheme sets the beat of our mortal drummer.

**To Act or Not to Act **: The entire song consists of contrasting opposites at different times, such as A time to rend, and a time to sew. Sometimes you tear cloth, sometimes you stich it. Time challenges all of us to thoughtfully act or not to act, so we can learn from the song about the tradeoffs and tensions of life. We can do good or we can do evil; we can progress or we can regress. Every day presents us with such yin/yang choices in infinitely varied forms and clarity. As we gain wisdom, we learn to identify or create A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together according to a huge range of social and emotional cues.

 

Graciously, eloquently, and with poetic expression of what we all feel, this song reminds us that To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven. For a philosophy of living, who can improve that opening line?

To consider subthemes of Time that are not closely associated with this song or the other three creative works, please visit Additional Subthemes. Read this for more about Themes from Art.

We invite you to read about other rock songs discussed on this blog, and their themes. Here they are:

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