In addition to affirming the goodness of seasonal rhythms, the Bible also affirms the seasonal rhythms of human life, as in the well known section of Kohelet / Ecclesiastes:
There is a season for everything, and a time for every desired purpose under heaven.
Ecclesiastes 3 לַכֹּ֖ל זְמָ֑ן וְעֵ֥ת לְכָל־חֵ֖פֶץ תַּ֥חַת הַשָּׁמָֽיִם׃
This verse and chapter have been understood in many ways. It could mean that there is a correct time for everything, or that it’s important to be in tune with the seasons and rhythms of life. It might just be saying that life is one experience after another. The message might be pious (this is all from God), or just descriptive. Unlike most of the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh), the book of Ecclesiastes focuses on universal human life cycles rather than a great saga of history as a divine story. Rabbi Rami Shapiro, in his unique commentary to Ecclesiastes, holds that Kohelet presents a kind of Hebrew Taoist wisdom, a view that life is a series of ever-changing moments that cannot be grasped but only experienced in mindful presence.
When I was growing up, I thought that once I was an adult, that would be it; I would stay about the same! I didn’t realize that I would continue to grow and develop through expected seasons of life. In my twenties, I read Gail Sheehy’s bestselling book, Passages (subsequently updated to New Passages and a whole series of other books on growing older). Soon I was looking back on my earlier years almost like looking back on another lifetime, as Reb Zalman might put it, “a previous incarnation in this life.” There was the child, the adolescent, the young mother, the emerging adult, the middle aged adult, the emerging-sage adult. I had lived in different states and countries, my home filled with new family members, my days spent at different professions. Years ago, I learned from the late Rabbi David Wolfe-Blank about the practice of considering our lives in seven-year cycles, akin to the Sabbatical cycles or the annual counting of the Omer. This seven year framework which can yield some helpful insights if you take some time to reflect on those cycles in your own life.
My teacher Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, of blessed memory, wrote about the different seasons of our life, particularly celebrating the elder years in his landmark book, From Age-ing to Sage-ing, that became the basis for a movement on conscious eldering. He taught that we should not be living our entire lives at the same level of consciousness, but continue growing in spiritual awareness as well as emotional maturity. Our elder years, should we be blessed with them, can become a season of harvest, wisdom, and mentoring younger generations. Years later, Sarah Davidson interviewed Reb Zalman to write The December Project about the special season and gifts of very old age.
Visit a photo gallery of Life-Cycle Mosaics that capture natural beauty in its impermanence and change.
Consider and comment: What season of life are you in right now? What are it’s pleasures, treasures, and challenges? Are you immersed in your season of life, missing an earlier cycle or dreaming of a later one? How do you take stock, review, and plan ahead while staying focused on your current season?
Featured Image: Winter at Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, California, Elisheva Danan
Review Your Life in 7 Year Cycles, or return to the Gateway of Seasons.