For everything there is a season,
and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up
With the change of the calendar year I am especially attracted to this passage from the biblical book Ecclesiastes (in the Hebrew known as Kohelet). The author is supposed to be the King Solomon, but there is no way it could be him! This text is one of the youngest parts of the Hebrew Bible written in the Hellenistic period just as the Greek culture was making its deep impact on the Ancient Near East. It was a period of profound cultural and religious, political and military upheavals.
Interestingly, this biblical poem was almost certainly inspired by an even older, much older, wisdom literature from Babylonia. “Dialogue of a master and his servant” or, as it is sometimes called “Dialogue of Pessimism” was written in Akkadian language on cuneiform tablets sometime in the early tenth century BCE. Interestingly, it was also a period of upheavals and uncertainties of the Early Iron Age.
Dialogue of master and servant also deals with life unpredictability, absurdities of history and feelings of existential futility. In such a situation many social and religious answers of traditional religion as well as cultural norms show themselves insufficient and deeper and a more genuine search is needed.
We ourselves live in quite turbulent times so come to be inspired by examples how Hebrew and Babylonian teachers of wisdom dealt with life’s ambiguities. Come for the dramatic reading of an old Babylonian wisdom literature as well as a modern music rendition of the Hebrew poem from Kohelet.