Q: In your column about God's sense of humor you mentioned the verse in Ecclesiastes that was transformed into the song "Turn, turn, turn." It was not Bob Dylan, but Pete Seeger who added additional words, wrote the music and made the original recording, which was covered by The Byrds. I think God has a wacky sense of humor. Thank you for your many writings.
A: Yes, indeed. The lyrics are taken almost verbatim from the book of Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, and to my knowledge this is one of the only times a passage from the Bible has been set to music for a popular song (as opposed to a religious hymn). Even popular Broadway musicals about the Bible, like "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat," do not set to music actual biblical verses. This is unfortunate because the Bible is filled with passages that deserve a song. My choice would be "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." Or "The Lord is my shepherd." In any event, what I meant to say was that I wished Dylan would have written "Turn, Turn, Turn," or any other biblically inspired songs. What parts of the Bible would you, dear readers, want to see put to music?
Turn, turn, turn
there is a season,
Turn, turn turn
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. I swear it's not too late.
Seeger added the last line, "I swear it's not too late," as well as the coda, "Turn! Turn! Turn!" Those were the only words Seeger wrote in his song. God wrote the rest. I think I got confused because The Byrds also covered Dylan's song, "Mr. Tambourine Man." Still, I am deeply embarrassed, but hey, it was the '60s and I forgot a lot of what happened then.
More 'Looking Up' stories
Q: In answer to your solicitation of stories that illuminate the escaping Hebrews looking down at the mud beneath their feet while ignoring the miracle that allowed them to escape Pharaohs' wrath, soon after restaurants were allowed to reopen after the COVID-19 shutdown, my husband and I were dining at a local upscale restaurant. A group of five came in, were seated and several ordered bottles of beer. Three had cowboy hats on, one a baseball cap and one girl bareheaded. I sneered and said to my husband, "Don't they know that it's rude to wear hats in a restaurant?" Minutes later they informed their waitress that they were going outside to smoke. They never came back, but on their table they left a $100 tip. The waitress ran to look for them, but they were nowhere in sight. Maybe they realized what a hard time waitstaff had had during the shutdown. I was humbled. — J, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
A: If three angels could have visited Abraham and Sarah (Genesis 18) and left behind the news that she would bear a child, I see no reason three angels could not have ordered some beer and left behind a big tip. I am completely convinced that as the many stories of kindness during this pandemic surface, we will learn about the work of many angels who came to just the right place at just the right time. They are seen as strangers and you can call them strangers if you wish, but I think that is the result of mud-thinking. I call them angels, and I believe they are sent to us by God so that we might not lose hope. All that might not be true but that is my story, and I am sticking with it.
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