As a nation, we (US) Americans thrive on what’s new. It seems to be the engine of our economy, and the goal of our pursuit of happiness. Businesses and social networks are dedicated to helping us pursue the elusive pursuit of happiness.
Commercials tout the latest and greatest clothing style, car, or big-meal-deal that we must go out and buy.
I mean, how can we live without such things?
With all we have, shouldn’t we be happy?
And yet, more people than ever are medicated for depression and anxiety, while suicide rates soar. Our collective pursuit of happiness is an elusive, never-ending effort, which leaves most people empty-handed.
Also, the news media wait like vultures for the latest tragedy, disaster, or terrorist attack, then flood us with repeated images and sound bytes. The inundation of the news media and social media tends to leave us overwhelmed and numb.
And yet, all of this is nothing new. Ancient wisdom tells us this.
Could it be we are looking for the wrong kind of happiness, in the wrong places, and in the wrong way?
This is the point, more or less, of the book of Ecclesiastes.
King Solomon amassed great wealth, hundreds of wives and concubines, was well-learned, and yet he viewed all of it as pointless. What would bring him to that view of life? Well, that’s a long story but it leads to the wisdom found in Ecclesiastes.
Because this book is written in an ancient philosophical form called speculative wisdom, figurative language is used often in Solomon’s contrasting of worldliness and godly wisdom.
Figurative language is used to illustrate or relate what is not familiar or easily understood by connecting a thought or concept with something in real life or something familiar in a physical sense or object.
Solomon speaks of the transitory nature of generations of lives on earth with the constancy of the earth itself. He speaks of the continuing cycles of the sun rising and setting, the directions of the wind, and the flow of rain, streams, and the ocean as endless cycles. These are his examples of the pointlessness of life.
“Absolutely pointless!” says the spokesman. “Absolutely pointless! Everything is pointless.” (Eccl 1:2)
Solomon speaks to the redundancy of life itself. All we do in life no matter how new or special it may seem has been done before. And he drives home this cynical and pessimistic view of life by returning to various generations of people that come and go and are forgotten.
Perhaps this is a reason why we don’t seem to learn from history. The reason history seems to repeat itself is the lack of awareness or remembrance of past events and stories of former generations. Later generations lose perspective or can’t relate to even cataclysmic events.
We try to keep what’s historically significant alive through holidays and events set aside to remind us of them. But after a few generations, even these lose their impact on younger generations wrapped up in current events and concerns; wrapped up in their own pursuit of happiness.
We are creatures of habit in some way or another. Some of us maintain a daily routine or schedule, while others don’t appear to have a rigid or set schedule yet still have a pattern of doing the same things day in and day out.
We need some kind of order in our life and the world around us. No one does well with chaos. In fact, sustained chaotic and jumbled thoughts and actions may be indicators of mental illness or a serious physical condition.
On the other hand, unbroken routines can become monotonous and dull our creativity, energy, and resolve. This is why we need breaks, recreation, and vacations!
When it comes to the broader view of the meaning and purpose of our lives and how we fit in the greater scheme of the world and universe, well, it’s complicated.
Our worldview—how we view the world and our place in it all—is a very personal and subjective issue. What makes it complicated is our individuality—how we are distinct and unique from others.
And yet, the basis for how we view the world simplifies it all.
Our worldview impacts our sense of meaning and purpose in life.
This is the crux of the book of Ecclesiastes. When our worldview is earthbound and based on human nature, it’s easy to develop a cynical or pessimistic worldview.
However, if we believe God is the Creator and Lord of all, we are more likely to see an order and purpose to our life that rises above the cynical and pessimistic view so often presented by those who don’t believe or trust in God.
What is your worldview based on?
Do you see life on earth as boring and pointless or having meaning and purpose?
How you answer these questions is important.
If you’re unsure how to answer these questions, make a note of what and who is important and valuable to you. Write these things down and ask the Lord to help you sort through these things so they become settled in your heart and mind.
What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. 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. Ecclesiastes 1:9-10 NIV