Trying to catch the wind
The catchphrase, knowledge is power, became popular in the age of Information Tech (IT). This expression is usually attributed to Sir Francis Bacon, a philosopher, statesman, and scientist. By knowledge, he meant science and was considered the originator of the scientific method.
Today, the expression knowledge is power is more often linked to the abundance of information available via the internet. But information doesn’t always produce knowledge. This should be somewhat self-evident with all the conflicting and confusing information available on the internet today.
The concept of knowledge as power has more ancient roots than the 16th century (Bacon). This same thought is noted in the Proverbs where knowledge is related to wisdom rather than mere information (Prov 24:5-6).
On the opposite end of this spectrum is the expression—ignorance is bliss. If this seems contradictory to knowledge is power, it is. And yet, there is some merit to the idea of ignorance as bliss.
After a lifetime of pursuing wisdom and knowledge, Solomon says it’s like, trying to catch the wind. Is he implying that ignorance is bliss?
Can ignorance really be bliss?
If we knew all that would happen to us in our lifetime before it took place, it would tend to either paralyze us with fear or motivate us to make different decisions. This is seen in more than a few movies and stories with alternative endings where someone goes back in time to change an event or decision.
But life isn’t a series of events, it’s much more. How can we begin to list all the people and experiences of life? As said many times before, a person’s life can’t be summed up in the dash between the dates of their birth and death.
One of the best things about having grandchildren is watching them learn and grow from infancy to adulthood. This is something we don’t always appreciate enough while raising our own children because life is busy.
But grandparents are often freer to enjoy the wonder and surprise they see in their grandchildren’s eyes and on their faces when they discover some new thing, taste, or experience in life. As grandparents, we delight in their newfound knowledge of things we already know.
I’ve watched other grandparents, and experienced for myself, the reminiscence and reflection upon the wonderment and innocence of childhood and the loss of it as we grow older.
Solomon’s thoughts and words in Ecclesiastes—his existential reflections—reveal how knowledge is power and ignorance is bliss converge as a conundrum.
Solomon refers to himself as the king of Jerusalem, as if to verify the gravity of his thoughts about life. Some commentaries question if Solomon is the actual author of Ecclesiastes, but much of what is said seems unique to him. No other king of Jerusalem could or would say such things.
A repeated theme in this book is the burden of trying to make sense of all that takes place in life “under the sun.” This is emphasized by this fourth exclamation of how futile or pointless this search is.
Solomon interjects another phrase used several times to underscore how pointless this effort is to understand or experience all things. He says it’s, “like trying to catch the wind.”
Solomon then describes the limitations upon all of us—No one can straighten what is bent. No one can count what is not there. (Eccl 1:15 GW)
Solomon also makes it clear these are his inner struggles and thoughts when he says, “I thought to myself…,” as he reflects on his personal investment in wisdom and knowledge. He concludes that only great heartache and pain are what is gained by seeking more and more wisdom and knowledge.
This conclusion at the end of Chapter 1 is stated as a warning Solomon will unpack in later thoughts.
What can we do with all of this negative and discouraging talk?
The only way to keep from becoming cynical and hardened in our hearts is to maintain a sense of perspective and to have a hope greater than our thoughts and experiences.
Instead of being weighed down with the burden of what we can’t change or understand, we need to hold to what we know. This requires some existential reflection of our own.
Every person has limitations. This is the reality of being human.
We can’t “straighten what is bent” as if it were never bent. And we can’t “count what is not there.” In other words, we can’t know what we don’t know.
God is sovereign and knows all things. He alone can restore or straighten what is bent, including you and me. He is the One who hung the stars in the universe and even named them, yet we cannot see or count them all (Isaiah 40:25-26).
When we see futility and senselessness in life, we need to remember our life, all lives, have purpose and meaning. When challenged with what we don’t understand or have difficulty accepting, we need to entrust such dilemmas to the Lord who does understand.
When our sense of who we are and our significance is centered and grounded in the Lord, we gain an eternal perspective and hope that surpasses everything life on earth has to offer.
Is your life grounded and centered in the Lord, or are you still trying to catch the wind in some way or another?
Do you have a faith that sees beyond what your limitations are?
God is able to straighten what is bent. He knows what we don’t know.
He is able to restore and fulfill in us a sense of purpose and significance, even when we feel lost and adrift in this world. We just need to ask for and trust Him to help us.
I’ve used my mind to understand wisdom and knowledge as well as madness and stupidity. ⌊Now⌋ I know that this is ⌊like⌋ trying to catch the wind. With a lot of wisdom ⌊comes⌋ a lot of heartache. The greater ⌊your⌋ knowledge, the greater ⌊your⌋ pain. Ecclesiastes 1:17-18 GW