Growing up, I was always slightly puzzled by the seeming pessimism and negativity of the author of the book of Ecclesiastes. The writer sifts through every aspect of daily life, all along the way, coming to the conclusion that, “this too, is vanity”. After a few chapters of this it really starts to get old and you almost seem to get the impression that the guy is a bit low on vitamin D and just needs to get out more. “Vanity, vanity all is vanity”. I understand that the use of hyperbole is a valuable tool to communicate a point. But the preacher seems to go off the deep end a bit. I mean come on, its not that all that bad…is it?
Its quite remarkable how time changes our sense of perspective. Especially us young 20 somethings. The world seems to clearly black and white. But time and reality dissolve that naivety. I am starting to see that the preacher is on to something here.
We humans are amazingly near sighted and narrow minded creatures. We go around and around, hustling and bustling about our daily lives. We busy and amuse ourselves with many things. We allow little things to capture us in big ways. We fight pain and work hard. The fog of the daily grind looms so constantly all around, that we accept it as the norm to see nothing other than that which is right before us.
And very rarely do actually we rarely lift our gaze up from the grindstone, and ask ourselves, “All this, to what end?”
What is the point? So what if I build a successful career. So what if I make a lot of money. So what if I raise a wonderful family. So what if I travel the world and do many fun things. So if that I accomplish what ever it is that I set out to accomplish.
In the end we all die. And our memory is blown away like dust in the wind. Our carriers, bank accounts, houses, collections, memories…they all fade away.
All to what end?
The author of Ecclesiastes is not pessimistic. He is realistic. He is asking a real question.
Agh but perhaps its easier not to ask it. Just to busy ourselves and be happy.
But its too late for that, isn’t it. We cannot unsee that which we have seen. We cannot run from that which we know to be true. At least not for long. …And yet we try.
Round and round we go.
Thus the author of Ecclesiastes proclaims, “Vanity.” Vanity on a life of compartmentalized focus. Vanity on a life of mini-attention grabbers that only hold our hearts long enough to help us forget that there must be something bigger.
But of course he doesn’t finish there. At the end he takes a step back and draws it to a point. The only exit and hope to this vicious cycle is to take a step back and look the facts in the face; to allow our hearts to bow before the truth of reality. God has set this world into motion. His ways far surpass ours. He is at work in the universe for his good purposes. It is his story. Its his world. He alone is worthy of our worship.
Any life that places itself outside his ultimate story ends up being a mere striving after wind. It latches on to a temporary attention grabbing story that merely distracts from the real story. This has really hit home with me these past few months. More and more I want to know his story, and align every inkling of mine to his. The more I think about the end to which I live everyday, the more aggressively and purposefully I want to build a life that is built on Christ and his story.