NOTEworthy February 7

To Everything a Season from Of Time and Passing – Daniel J. Knaggs

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, and a time to pluck up 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.
Ecclesiates 3:1-8

I am so excited to share this piece this week, because I am so lucky to count the composer of this terrific piece as a friend. I met Daniel at a conducting workshop, completely unaware of his international reputation as a composer, and we bonded over faith, how frustratingly hard waving your hands in an effective manner is, and basketball. He’s been a mentor to me as I have started composing, and I can hardly think of a person who I respect more as a musician and person.

This piece was commissioned by the esteemed vocal group, VOCES8 which has been featured on this column a number of times before. From the composer:

To Everything a Season capitalizes on VOCES8’s ability to effectively interpret popular genres a cappella. This ancient text is taken from Ecclesiastes (dated around 300 B.C.) but I set it to a modern, rhythmically-regular and percussive pop-style idiom. Since popular music in whatever era is designed to appeal to a specific “present time”, it is by its very nature ephemeral, and therefore seemed an apt metaphor to evoke the transitory nature of seasons.

I’ve always found ephemerality to be such an interesting concept, because somehow, we have managed to affix such contrasting connotations to it.

Connotation #1: The things we most dramatically crave tend to be short-lived: vacations, concerts, good food. In fact, a study by San Francisco State University demonstrated that people “enjoy greater well-being from life experiences and consider them to be a better use of money.” Therefore, things that are ephemeral are good, if not the best way to spend our time, energy, and money.

Connotation #2: “A second on the lips, a lifetime on the hips.” Though momentarily bliss is nice, it is only nice for a moment. The most efficient use of our time, energy, and money is on things that concretely affect our lives, and do so as effectively and efficiently as possible.

Truth be told, I follow both of those ideas for different things, and I bet you do, too.

Sometimes we try to ascribe these connotations of ephemerality to spirituality as well. However, we are not always great at it. In the general context of Christendom, the latter connotation is often utilized as a tool to scare or shame people out of some particular sin. “Will [insert sin here] be worth it if [insert consequence, spiritual or otherwise] happens?!”

Of course, there is truth in the simple fact that actions have consequences, but I think this sense of spiritual ephemerality is too small, because at the end of the day, we are what is ephemeral.

Our lives are what is fleeting.

And just as experiences in our lives bring lasting joy by the memories they create, how can we bring lasting love of Christ to the world around us in our ephemeral lives? Our lives are but a season, but through our commitment to Christ, we are given a glimpse of the eternal.

How can we share that glimpse of the everlasting with others in this strange season of life?

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
Matthew 24:35

But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.
2 Peter 3:8

Andy Eaton
Director of Music
First Presbyterian Church