The sequence of words in the lyrics of the ’60’s-era song “Turn, Turn, Turn,” written by Pete Seeger and made an international hit by The Byrds, is rearranged from the original order but otherwise taken almost verbatim from Ecclesiastes Chapter 3 — traditionally ascribed to King Solomon.
King Solomon was the recipient of great wisdom, evidenced by his insights into human nature, change and moving forward through adversity.
The song, often used to promote peace while denouncing war during the Vietnam era, tells us:
“To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven.
A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A tie to laugh, a time to weep
A time to build up, a time to break down
A time to dance, a time to mourn
A time to cast away stones, a time to gather stones together
A time for war, a time for peace
A time for love, a time for hate
A time you may embrace, a time to refrain from embracing
A time to gain, a time to lose
A time to rend, a time to sow
A time to love, a time to hate
A time of peace, I swear it’s not too late.”
Though probably not intended to stir feelings of remorse or deep thoughts during a closeout sale, these words came crashing down on me recently as I wandered through a large retail store about to shutter its doors. The nearly empty racks — their substance stripped by customers eager to find a bargain – stood barren.
The organization — once a provider of jobs for many — is now only a final resting place for the few left behind to turn out the lights.
The sight of an enterprise shutting down saddens me because it brings to an end what were once fresh starts and new beginnings, darkening the bright promise of a dream as it mirrors the finality that changing seasons bring as time progresses. ‘
Though every end ushers in a new beginning, it is sometimes hard to fathom a Phoenix rising from the ashes when we witness the decline and ultimate decimation of an organization — or of a person or a relationship.
In personal relationships and business interactions, we shouldn’t dwell on the loss each season’s passing brings (though it is often hard to let go of familiarity when forced to enter an unknown and unexpected chapter in our life). When faced with the reality of change, some choose to hold on to what will no longer be, while others reach out to identify opportunities to succeed anew.
We can stay silent in our suffering as we mourn the past, or we can speak out in anticipation of events not yet realized. We must cast away those things holding us back as we gather up new opportunities on which we can establish a new foundation.
Our perspective determines how we embrace opportunities in life — how we “Turn, Turn, Turn” when given the chance to begin anew. Our willingness to accept what has been as history and look ahead to what might be possible will transform our dreams and aspirations into reality if we truly believe each end is only the beginning of a new sense of purpose.
The closing of a business can be much like the end of a relationship. No matter how much we seek comfort in what was, we cannot hide from the fact that changing seasons bring new tomorrows — an unknown that can result in either crippling anxiety or exhilarating opportunity.
Our world is filled with choices that allow us to either “gather or cast away” as we “plant or reap.” It is up to us to make the most of our opportunities — to continue turning from one to the next — if we are to thrive.
Consider yourself fortunate the next time you witness the misfortune of others, expressing your hope by reaching out to cushion their fall. Make the most of your life as you “Turn, Turn, Turn” from the close of one chapter to the start of another — as you turn the pages in each new book of your life. See in each void the light of hope and in each fall the chance to rise as you turn from one season to another by embracing the finality of change and welcoming the opportunity for the fresh start that each new beginning brings.
David J. Smith is president and CEO of The Employers’ Association in Grand Rapids.