Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Have I wasted my life?

My friend doesn't know what to do with himself.  Another friend fears that he has wasted his life.  Such feelings, questions and doubts are very common and may or may not be answerable, depending on what seems like an adequate answer.  

My favorite book of the Bible is Ecclesiastes.  If you haven't read it lately, you might benefit from a look.  

One version, the New International Version (they differ slightly in different editions) says:

1 The words of the Teacher,[a] son of David, king in Jerusalem:

2 "Meaningless! Meaningless!"

    says the Teacher.

"Utterly meaningless!

    Everything is meaningless."

3 What do people gain from all their labors

    at which they toil under the sun?

4 Generations come and generations go,

    but the earth remains forever.

5 The sun rises and the sun sets,

    and hurries back to where it rises.

6 The wind blows to the south

    and turns to the north;

round and round it goes,

    ever returning on its course.

7 All streams flow into the sea,

    yet the sea is never full.

To the place the streams come from,

    there they return again.

8 All things are wearisome,

    more than one can say.

The eye never has enough of seeing,

    nor the ear its fill of hearing.

9 What has been will be again,

    what has been done will be done again;

    there is nothing new under the sun.

10 Is there anything of which one can say,

    "Look! This is something new"?

It was here already, long ago;

    it was here before our time.

11 No one remembers the former generations,

    and even those yet to come

will not be remembered

    by those who follow them.

Wisdom Is Meaningless

12 I, the Teacher, was king over Israel in Jerusalem. 13 I applied my mind to study and to explore by wisdom all that is done under the heavens. What a heavy burden God has laid on mankind! 14 I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

15 What is crooked cannot be straightened;

    what is lacking cannot be counted.

16 I said to myself, "Look, I have increased in wisdom more than anyone who has ruled over Jerusalem before me; I have experienced much of wisdom and knowledge." 17 Then I applied myself to the understanding of wisdom, and also of madness and folly, but I learned that this, too, is a chasing after the wind.

18 For with much wisdom comes much sorrow;

    the more knowledge, the more grief.

The famous words of the beginning of Ecclesiaster in the beginning of the King James version 

Vanity, vanity, all is vanity

Modern people may benefit from thinking of "vanity' as futility, uselessness rather than meaninglessness.  Today's philosophers have many questions and criticisms about some of these assertions.  

This sort of thinking can be said to be the fundamental question that people have asked over the centuries.  It may also help to read Percy Shelley's poem "Ozymandias" or view the Disney movie "Coco".

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