Speaker of one among the gathering (Ecclesiastes 1:2-4a)
Vapor of vapor, says the speaker,
vapor of vapor! All is vapor.
What's the profit of all the hard work under the sun? A generation goes and a generation comes..
Not very encouraging words. But then the Bible isn't often a pie-in-the-sky book, contrary to what many people think. Consider that this is the volume which quotes the Son of God as saying, "My God, my God why have you forsaken me?" It is a book which often dwells upon the worst and the most horrible in life. If you doubt this, read through Judges and several of the prophetic books in one day. For Jeremiah, things weren't getting better and better. Then there's Job...
True, at the end of the Scripture, Goodness, Meaning, and Purpose do win, but that is getting ahead of the story:-) and of this particular reflection.
Most of us are in the middle of life somewhere, not either still bright-eyed and tale-dreaming, very young ones with endless hopes and dreams, nor old codgers (and codgerettes;-) at death's door, living in pain and suffering, There are a few oldsters who are healthy, spry, and accomplished with no regrets. I heard of one who still drives his own car at 106 years of age and cares for his younger wife!
But that isn't the experience of my own extended family or anyone I know personally. Most humans deal with plenty of problems, sometimes so overwhelming they seem hopeless. Or when successful, still ask, "Is that all"?
Even the rich and famous and brilliant, (as the news this week repeatedly showed), suffer and come to the end of their rope. It doesn't matter if it is threaded with gold cordage. As the Speaker says, "a live dog is better than a dead lion. For the living know they will die; but the dead do not know anything..." E.9:4
But most of us live in the middle, in transit--experiencing both the positive and negative of life, though too often for too many, the negatives far out weigh the positives. At least that is where I live.
I know that outwardly, when it comes to necessities and creature comforts, my family and I are in the top 1% of humans who have ever lived. But then why am I so dissatisfied, so often given to a vivid sense that life doesn't make sense, that at times it seems pointless, empty, meaningless, fleeting, futile, etc.?
And this empty despairing place is where the Speaker complains from. He, indeed, is so pessimistic, I've often wondered how his book ever got included in the Jewish and Christian Bibles. Yes, in my time, I've heard plenty of sermons on the book, but most of them seemed to be reading a book other than the one that is in front of me. They mostly seemed to read and speak of Ecclesiastes through rose-colored glasses.
Instead, the book has much more in common with Albert Camus, the French Existentialist who said that life is absurd.
So here we go...