says the Teacher.
Everything is meaningless.’”
~Ecclesiastes 1:1 (NIV).
Qoheleth, the teacher, the writer of Ecclesiastes, is famed for the above refrain. It is awkward how such a pessimistic book of wisdom ever found its way into the Holy Scriptures but there are some sound reasons. These reasons speak to the heart of life itself.
For a longer exposé on Ecclesiastes, and whether life’s actually meaningless or not in the thought of Qoheleth, go to the following link: Life Meaningless?
The Realness of Reality
No one gets by, enjoying life, without actually living a real life, though many intrepidly try denial and are inevitably bitten by a sting of powerfully harming lies.
If ever there was a book that squared off face to face with reality it is Ecclesiastes.
Whenever we’re tired of the ‘praise and thanksgiving’ set of God—and we’ve all felt this way if we’re being honest—we can go to a book like Ecclesiastes and God ministers to us in a fresh, direct way through it.
Reality is almost too real at times. Sure, we’re sucked into self-pity at a moment’s notice at times, but reality is cheap, glaring and too cruel all too often. Reality proves God isn’t partial, favouring no one above the next—certainly not in a way we can formularise in any event. This is how we can tell that reality is real: there is no formula to it; nothing can be predicted or ‘worked out’ with any degree of actual certainty in life. ‘Death and taxes’; you know the deal.
Emptiness and searching are common fare in life it seems. So, how do we respond? We must accept these whilst still trying to enjoy our lives.
Out of the trip away from ourselves, then, venturing stoically into the starkest of reality, we ironically endeavour back through the door of meaning, having rejected our clamouring of it.
We are so often trying our darnedest to meet life in ways of gaining happiness, we’re commonly apt at totally missing it, heading off-path almost as common as we approach it. Happiness, as they say, is elusive.
And still, Qoheleth’s ancient invocation is simple, yet abundantly powerful in its raw truth.
We are to enjoy life in its simplicity. We’re to work hard, but only enough. Then we rest. We rest and ‘enjoy’ reflecting over our work—work that is meaningful to us. For work is supposed to be meaningful. We eat and drink and we enjoy consuming these things, but only in moderation, for excess too is meaningless.
In other words, we don’t attempt to draw too much from life.
The key to Ecclesiastes, in terms of enjoying life is simply to bear the following passage in mind in living it out:
“People can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment?
“To the person who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.”
~Ecclesiastes 2:24-26 (TNIV).
It really does not pay to fund materialism industriously. This is a rancid proclamation: enjoy life appropriately. Divine your reality and then simply live it. And take nothing for granted to redouble the joy that rides aback reality.
© 2010 S. J. Wickham.