It so happened that yesterday, I again read the book of Ecclesiastes. It is a short and enjoyable read and it is traditionally said to have been written by the wisest man to have lived. If you have never read it, you might be in for a bit of a surprise when you do because, for many people it seems to be out of place in The Bible. But it is a book for which I have always felt great fondness.
The narrative encourages readers to not be wicked and not be foolish. So far, so good, but it also instructs readers to not be too righteous or too wise. For many people, this type of instruction might indeed seem out of place. It does not seem so to me personally. You have only to bring to mind how Jesus felt about the so-called religious people of his day to understand the wisdom of these words.
The central theme of the book reminds me of something we discussed in the John Lennon song, All You Need is Love – at least in the verse. That is, that there is nothing you can do that has not been done before and there is nothing you can say that has not been said before.
Meaningless! Meaningless! says the Teacher. Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless. – Ecc 1:2
Although he does say that “everything is meaningless,” in my opinion, The Teacher is not describing Earthly life itself as meaningless, but rather the fruit of human labour as meaningless. As he puts it, “a kind of chasing after the wind.” He discusses many things that he discerned from personal experience; things that initially seemed worthwhile to him, but were ultimately meaningless including the accumulation of wealth, the pursuit of pleasure and the acquisition of wisdom.
Since the same fate befalls all of us, he reasons, none of these pursuits ultimately have any lasting meaning. In the book, we find the text that was used as the inspiration for The Byrds’ song Turn, Turn Turn and I think it is a lovely celebration of what life is about i.e that there is a time and place for everything. The conclusion of his deliberation is that there is nothing more noble or wise than to enjoy life, enjoy work, love God and keep his commandments.
To everything there is a season, and
a time to every purpose under heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up 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 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 to love, and a time to hate;
a time of war; and a time of peace.
It was with these thoughts in my mind that I attended my hospital appointment yesterday. As I had quite a lengthy wait to see the doctor, I had plenty of time to look thorough the magazines that were scattered around the waiting room and as I looked at those images, I thought to myself that some things never change.
Those magazines were full of images of the perfect woman beckoning other women to aspire to that unreachable ideal – that is a kind of chasing after the wind, I thought. There were plenty of glossy pictures of young, athletic, good looking people lazing on expensive yachts that they would simply not be able to afford – completely meaningless. There was a beautiful picture of a young couple in Red Square with that wonderfully impressive, but impermanent architecture in the background that reminded me that all things will eventually pass.
“Mr Edwards, the doctor will see you now.” The voice of a young nurse finally interrupted my deliberations to announce the moratorium was over.
The doctor turned out to be a very nice fellow, of Indian descent, and I liked him immediately. We spoke about my minor problem with my digestive system and the pain in my lower abdomen which it seems may be the early symptoms of a hernia. There was nothing to worry about and the immediate digestive difficulties would right themselves with a little laxative.
“Yes,” I thought to myself, as I contemplated the odd juxtaposition of philosophical thought that had preceded the rather frank discussion about the less savory mechanics of the human digestive system, “all things will pass.”