To everything - turn, turn, turn
There is a season - turn, turn, turn
And a time for every purpose under heaven
Turn! Turn! Turn! by The Byrds
Every generation has the music that speaks for it and to it. Lyrics for the most popular songs appear again and again, connecting current issues with themes from the past that shaped those who moved to the rhythms of their generational anthems.
Turn! Turn! Turn! sent the message that we could expect the times of our lives to change as surely as summer changes to fall. As unique to the 60's as we might have thought this message to be, the words were first put to music in 1959 by Pete Seeger. But this hardly represents meaningful temporal distance from the Byrds' version, seeing as Seeger borrowed from third century BC writings, words we can find easily if we just open our Bibles to the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes. As I have noted previously, if you want a new idea, read an old book.
One of the seasons of my life has been marked by the last several years during which I took up and pursued bicycling. Now, bikes were a part of my daily routine during my junior high school years in north Florida. There were relatively quiet roads in our neighborhood which was surrounded by pine forests. It was a good place to practice vehicular independence and our neighborhood group did a lot of that until we got older, moved apart and started driving cars. It was not until 2005 that I got back on a bike for any serious riding. When I had reached the point of taking my first real cycling tour, I noted that "You only get to do something for the first time once." In the years that followed, cycling gave rise to numerous other firsts: first time riding across the Rocky Mountains, first time riding in Switzerland, first time breaking a collarbone. You know, all the standards cycling has to offer.
You can only do this for the first time once
Having just returned from this year's International Compressor Engineering Conference at Purdue, I got to thinking about the first time I attended it. That would have been a long time ago. This thought occurred to me in large part because the conference I just attended may very well have been my last, leading me to the logical flip side of my "first time" observation, namely, "You only get to do something for the last time once."
The last time?
But there is a difference - last time events are not so uniquely identifiable as first time ones. When you do something for the first time, you have done it. It is over and can't be undone; it's the "you can't un-ring a bell" phenomena. But in general, it is not so for last times. Doing something for the last time once is, in actuality, just as clear and absolute an event as doing something for the first time once. The difference is that in many cases we won't know for sure that the last time was really the last time. This fact is elegantly described in the following:
Well this could be the last time
This could be the last time
Maybe the last time
I don't know...
The Last Time by the Rolling Stones
It COULD be the last time; MAYBE the last time. I plan to retire before the next Purdue conference and am not likely to attend it. But I probably COULD, as there are opportunities to stay connected to my job. MAYBE I will make that choice. But I don’t know.
When I came to the last stop of that first tour, I was, I admit, moved to a few tears. Preparation had been hard work. I was so unsure of how it would go, did not know if I could ride that far; if I could go up the mountain passes; or go DOWN them. But the result was an affirmative in all cases. It felt good.
So I find it a bit odd that I did not have that all-choked-up reaction to the conclusion of the last presentation of the last session of the conference. It wasn't cause for celebration either. Why? I'm thinking that there are some last time events that are as they should be for the changing of life's seasons. As long as we are excited about the next seasons and the opportunities for new first times, then there isn't a whole lot to be choked up over.
There have been so many great first times. A number of satisfying last times. And some of each that are painful. But assembled, they define a variety of seasons, each one turning and becoming another; each providing challenges and each serving a purpose, if we let it.