He has made everything beautiful in its time.
This month book club was all about the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes.*
Everyone, even the least religious amongst us, can reliably quote Ecclesiastes because verse 3 (To every thing there is a season…) is unquestionably the most-recited wedding scripture of all time. It became a pop culture icon after it was used by Ren McCormack in the town hall meeting scene of “Footloose” in 1984: A time to dance…
Ecclesiastes, essentially King Solomon’s autobiography, is – if we allow it to be so – much bigger than that common verse, especially in these times of religious intolerance. Solomon, son of King David and Bathsheba, is regarded and revered as a prophet by at least three major religions – Christians (Bible), Jews (Talmud) and Muslims (Qur’an). Any and every bridge between faiths is important when there is so little common ground in our embattled world.
Written by the elderly King, “Ecclesiastes” is obviously not the author’s name, it is a professional title meaning, variously, preacher or teacher. Etymology is the Greek word ekklesiastes meaning one who addresses an assembly. This title came about because the king, having spent the latter years of his life in sin, became enlightened and desirous of passing on this newly-discovered wisdom to his subjects and heirs with the hope they would not repeat his mistakes and suffer the same misery. He taught his people not to live an empty life of trivial materialism and physical gratification and to search for meaning and truth in the pursuit of God. Why this message? Solomon wrote that eventually we all die and our lives are meaningless self-absorption without God:
“The conclusion, when all has been heard, is:
Fear God and keep His commandments,
because this applies to every person.”
At book club, this was considered and discussed in relation to our previous and continuing study of Plutarch’s Moralia and Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. Ecliptic Ecclesiography, then…
The ecliptic is the imaginary circle which the sun follows from Earth’s perspective. A circle has no beginning and no end. Everything travelling that circuit eventually comes back to it’s original position. A closed shape with only two options: Interior and exterior. Who is inside and who is outside? I am thinking of the fifteen hundred (Yes! 1,500!) abandoned/orphaned children in the Calais Jungle. They are definitely outside.
“Our task must be to free ourselves by widening our circle of compassion
to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty.”
Aid workers in the Calais refugee camp (Calais Jungle) are furious that there is no government plan (neither French nor British) to resettle/adopt/care for the 1,500 unaccompanied children remaining. Instead, French and British authorities are relying on the good offices of charities, chiefly the British Red Cross, rather than providing state support.
In case you’re interested in donating (specify Calais Camp orphans):
It’s time to pause and to remember your ten year-old self. Would you have had sufficient coping skills to adapt to life in a container jungle? Without your parents and siblings? Without speaking the language? Without regular meals and access to clean water? Without knowing what might come next and without a plan for your future? I know, with absolute certainty, I would not – nothing in my life to that point would have prepared me for such harrowing survival challenges.
It is time, then. It’s time to pause and take a breath. It’s time to reflect on who we are and who we want to be. It’s time to widen our circle. It’s time to embrace all God’s children and at this time, most especially the 1,500 abandoned children of Calais.
It’s time for all of us to consider how best each one of us can be a part of widening the circle. It’s time for each of us to think about how best we can heal the broken hearts and spirits of not only the camp children but of all persons displaced by war and insurgency in their homelands. This week, I hope we all make time for the pause, take a deep breath and consider our potential roles. No one, especially a child, deserves to live in conditions like these:
Ecliptically, I’m back where I began, with the wisdom of Solomon. For me it’s entirely simplistic – do unto others as you would have them do unto you – the basis for the law of Moses and the teachings of the prophets. He has made everything beautiful, in our time, so we must widen our circle of compassion to include everyone!
*Our most contentious recommendation and read to date.
‘Til next time, y’all…