“... dreams come with many cares, and a fool’s voice with many words.”
— ECCLESIASTES 5:3 (NRSV)
Life is always best tinged in a superfast coating of reality. And this is perhaps the Teacher’s point in Ecclesiastes 5. Unreality promises creativity and imagination, but it delivers disillusionment and, ultimately, despair.
There is a way of living that all are commended to chase. But invariably we are given more to chasing dreams than chasing reverence, humility, and, in those, deriving contentment. I guess we are all guilty to some extent. We all lose the plot from time to time.
The more we dream, the Teacher notes, the more we invest in our dreamy imaginations of ambition, the more trouble is added to our outlook. Our cares multiply. When worldly cares are added, contentment is taken away.
Ode To The Simple Life
Is there a thing better than this,
A thing that may be as solid as bliss?
Can it come more simply today,
The order of work, then come to play?
Simplicity exults in the wisdom of life,
A life that avoids most common strife.
The Teacher, of course, is advocating, in the entire book of Ecclesiastes, the simple life. This is no lazy person’s life, just a life so girded against idolatry. True wisdom is known in the person who prefers reverence and humility as modes proffering contentment.
Simplicity, in its supreme form, is the solidity of bliss, because it journeys by the mechanism of wisdom. Is there a better form of simplicity in finding our work, doing it, and then resting, by enjoying our play? It leaves life as simple as that.
“Eat, drink, and be merry” is the famed cliché ripped from the heart of Ecclesiastes.
We typically abuse the intent of the wisdom ground deep into the simplicity of such a word. It simply means we should eat and drink in moderation and enjoy the toil that we are given as part of our lot.
The Pleasure In Being Grounded In Reality
Perhaps it’s true that reality is a hard thing. It is hard, but it’s nonetheless reliable. God is entirely faithful in the revelation of existence. We know this by the undercurrent of anxiety we all bear as part of the privilege of being human. What a paradoxical wonder it is to be alive. We hate the pain of being alive, but we cannot contemplate death.
But beyond dreaming enfolds us to a certain pleasure in being grounded in reality; not protected by insufficient and inadequate coping mechanisms. We don’t drown our sorrows or soothe jangling nerves on alcohol, or numb ourselves on drugs, and we don’t give in to counterfeit feelings more home in denial. The truth is we do. We dream. Then we face trouble. By our rejections of simple truths in our lives we face trouble.
Better by far it is to train ourselves into the love of reality—the acceptance of the very place God has made for us. Let us be thankful.
Whilst dreams entertain the imagination and fire our passions, reality is the reliable guide for life. Reality advises us to be reverent and humble; giving us a simple contentment. The simpler our lives, the more contented we will be.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.