Saturday, October 24, 2009

For Everything a Season

For Everything a Season: Simple Musings on Living Well
© 2001 Phillip Gully
220 pages

I don't recall what lead me to reading this book, although I'm sure my fondness for the Hebrew book of Ecclesiastes had something to do with it. I also have a soft spot for Quakers, so a book of stories about the simple life set to themes from Ecclesiastes might have been appealing. An oft-quoted passage of Ecclesiastes, and one perhaps known better for its having been turned into lyrics by Pete Seeger, maintains that in life there is a time to sow, a time to reap, a time to laugh, a time to weep, a time to cast away stones, a time to gather stones together (on the Sabbath, to bean the guy sweeping his porch), and so on. Each of the "A time to" qualities is given a chapter here, consists of a short story about author Phillip Gully's life that in his opinion demonstrates that there is indeed a time for all these things.

Gully is a Quaker minister, hence my earlier reference, any many of the stories reference his experience as a minister in his community. He lives in a small Indiana town, one that seems to have held a get-out-of-change-free card, for most of the simple pleasures he enjoyed as a boy are enjoyed in turn by his boys, with a few exceptions like the lamented Royal Theatre, a teacher of everything that was good in life -- Gully's life, anyway. The stories are very charming -- folksy, but not annoyingly so. Gully has a delightfully dry and self-depreciating humor, and his gentle and kind voice endeared him to me: only once did he border on growing overly preachy.

Although the book and chapter titles come from the Christian scriptures, this is not a religious book: it is more a book about a man and town who are more moved by religion than most people, and in more good ways than bad. Gully is very conservative in his way, but at the same time he has moral values that break conservatism's hold on him. In "A Time to Hate", he writes that he believes hate is to be cast away, that we make a choice to hate just as we make a choice to love.

In short, it's a charming little book of stories about life in a small Quaker town, one where humanity still flourishes without regard to too much of modernity's excesses -- a place the reader might wish to live, so that they might sit on Gully's self-built stone patio and listen to him talk, or simply enjoy the silence. It's a lovely little book.

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