NEW RELEASE by JOAN CHITTISTER
Like most other people, I suppose, who had been brought up on Scripture or trained in literature, I
had heard the words to the point of not hearing them at all: “There is a time to sow, a time to reap; a
time for war, a time for peace; a time to heal; a time to kill.” Yes, yes, of course. And so?
But as the years went by, I began to notice that with each new year the words took on a timbre I had
not heard before; the ideas sprang to meaning in a new way, a new form. Life with all its complexity
made it very clear: life is not a drama made up of isolated scenes, each of which is meant to be
resolved once and for all. Instead, I came eventually to realize, life is a series of experiences, all of
them important, all of them here to be plumbed and squeezed and sucked dry, not for their own sake
but so that we may come to know ourselves. Life is not what we see happening on the outside. Life is
what goes on inside in the quiet, murky water of our souls. And life is driven by energies too wild for us
to ignore, too deep for us to hide. Life is the bubble of time in which we find ourselves and which we
ourselves shape. The insight holds a terrible truth. We are our own captors.
But life is every grain of sand in the hourglass. And it is running. And once run it is gone forever.
Too often, while we wait for life, it passes us by, leaves us up to our hearts in dissatisfaction and over
our heads in wanting. We live overcome by losses and dissolved in spiritual ruin or wasted by a dearth of
spirit, by a diminishment of enthusiasm, by the dissipation of hope. Yet all the while the present
moment lies richly dormant within us.
The Book of Ecclesiastes, one of the Wisdom books of the Hebrew-Christian Scriptures, is an antidote
to the problem of aimlessness and disorientation, of personal fragmentation and nagging despair.
Ecclesiastes invites us to see life as a mosaic made up of small pieces of human experience common to
us all but lived uniquely by each one of us. Ecclesiastes calls us to the universals of life so that we can
understand it before we lose it, enjoy it before we miss it.
The purpose of this book is to plumb clearly and consciously the words of Ecclesiastes, with the eyes
of the untutored, to learn from them, to inscribe them on our hearts, to allow ourselves to be
questioned by them so that, if and when we find ourselves at these same moments in life again, we may
be there this time with fresh and open hearts. The portions of a person’s life they strew before our
eyes with a kind of reckless abandon. “Here,” they shout. “What you do not understand in your own
life, consider again. Look newly. Look at life once more, and where you have been blinded, see, and
where you have become numb to the point of the senseless, the dead of heart, now glory.”
–from the Introduction to For Everything a Season by Joan Chittister (Orbis). An earlier version of this
text was published as There is a Season by Joan Chittister with art work by John August Swanson in 1995
by Orbis Books.
Grains of Sand in the Hourglass