I guess you could say that the book of Ecclesiastes is probably my favorite book of the Bible in many respects. Perhaps it’s because I’m a contemplative soul as was Solomon. And though I cannot relate to the King’s exorbitant wealth and relative ease, I unreservedly get on board with the conclusions he came to about life as a result of pursuing anything his heart so desired and my own sophomoric attempt at the same.
For indeed all the time in the world and a blank check does give one a slight edge in sifting through a lot of fool’s gold for us. Enough that perhaps we could take a modified detour from that expedition before it’s too late, and well; not die in the pursuit thereof. Having hopefully also learned the heart of the matter from a man who took the bullet of lived experience for us and came out on the other side with something to say worth lifelong contemplation and hopefully emulation. That is, to anyone who cares to listen.
Wind Chasing Distractions
The truth is that the word “vanity” is used some 29 times in the 12 chapters of Ecclesiastes and the phrase “chasing after the wind” about 8 times, together signifying that the myriad of things we chase after in this life to the exclusion of God are mere “vapor”, “mist”, “smoke and mirrors”; or quite frankly are like an impossible striving to somehow “catch the wind”. It’s like an endless moving picture of human hamsters running on a wheel, forever reaching for that next step, not realizing we are going nowhere, only really, really, fast. Which is in and of itself killing us consequently, rather than breathing anything called real life into us.
Solomon refers to things such as our human desire to increase in wisdom and knowledge, and having this insatiable appetite for books and learning, which in the end he reminds us merely leads to vexation, grief, and pain. The pain coming from the undeniable recognition of the evil of mankind that knows no limits, and for that which even in our best efforts cannot undo.
He reminds us equally of becoming workaholics and laboring and toiling under the sun to accomplish things that many will not appreciate, many will be jealous of, and in the end some other unworthy soul will take over and run into the ground; and that in the end will get us no satisfaction when all is said and done.
Even pleasure, he says, that only the truly rich and powerful can explore to its fullest extent, leaves one empty, chasing after wind again, and continually seeking for more and more fulfillment that is always just one sandwich shy of the picnic we thought it would be. And in its pursuit, many a man and woman pass from this life far too early having never truly lived at all.
And then there is that good ole fountain of youth that only the most fortunate of us can pursue. That which causes us to work out night and day, eating only the finest of foods and healthy delicacies, along with taking more vitamins than one can possibly truly digest into our cells properly. Meanwhile we look for the latest doctor or health guru to tell us what there is left to for us to do in order to somehow guarantee that we find that perpetual youth that will give us lifelong testosterone supply and six pack abs far longer than anyone might care to notice.
And then there is the constant chasing after the wind of mapping out our life from dusk to dawn with missions, goals and 5-year plans that many will not achieve no matter how hard they try. And those that do will often bypass many they love along the way and miss many of the simpler things in life that give us wonder and amazement, sacrificed at the altar of do more, be more, achieve more.
Solomon then reminds us about the competitive spirit in man that seeks to be the best at everything he touches. Constantly striving and pushing to achieve more and more, only to realize at death’s door that he never truly lived and never gave the God who made him as much as a passing glance. Seeking to make a name for himself that will be remembered becomes the Achilles heel of forgetting the stark realization that dead men truly tell no tales, and hearses do not come equipped with a trailer hitch. It is a constant pursuit, a constant chasing after the wind; all the while believing he will wake up one day and arrive at some nirvana of experience that leaves him with some legacy that will in short order be forgotten by father time.
From One Wind Chaser to Another
I’ve chased many of these winds at times in my life, minus the excessive financial portfolio of Solomon, and more like Jimmy Buffet I suppose. Oftentimes we think we have checked these wind distractions off our list and have learned a thing or two to show for it, only to be pulled back into the chasing wind’s lair by a sundress, a Joe Rogan episode, or a fancy new day planner, sure to make us something we are not quite yet.
It never ceases to amaze me as I have the weekly mirror talk how utterly predictable it is as brother James once reminded us, to look into the mirror forgetting who we are or merely pretending we were someone else, yet again. And though the saying goes, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me”, the chance we will be fooled again is as certain as white on rice and April the 15th. So we rinse, repeat, and buy a new mirror I suppose, and when it stops nobody knows.
Eternity in Our Hearts?
Part of the problem of course is that we spend far less time on filling the void of the “eternity in our hearts” with something well; eternal, rather than temporal. For through being kicked around and struggling through life, we’ve somehow become convinced that this is not as it supposed to be (we’re partially right of course), so the quest to “save ourselves” becomes an adrenaline satisfying hopefulness that we cannot seem to resist. Yet most of us remember far too late that the founder of our faith carried a cross and told us the utter ridiculosity, that through that introspective door and that door alone could the truly “eternal” be found in this temporal life.
Of course, the truth is, Solomons’ sage advice was only a prelude to that momentous Golgotha event that put the final bow on what he had to say to us. But the real travesty is, that the very things he warned us about, if his historical synopsis holds true, is that he spent his life buying new mirrors too, and chasing sundresses, and their “chasing wind” gods, rather than being the exemplar of the class penned with his very own name.
Houston, We Still Have a Problem
Life is funny like that is it not? Oh, to be sure, Solomon got it partially right for our education purposes. And his conclusion was that the whole duty of man was to fear God and keep his commandments, while equally enjoying the temporality of the good gifts afforded us along the way. But it does cause one to wonder that if the wealth of Elon Musk and the intellectual acumen of Jordan Peterson couldn’t get a man like Solomon to the pearly gates, then why are we still forever chasing the wind?
Another well crafted piece of art Mark. I do enjoy hearing the echo of the dribble as you consistently push the defender down the court setting yourself up for the eventual three pointer, talking trash to him all the way into his side of the court, weaving the ball between your legs daring him to try and take it from you. You’ll make him chase you as you go from one side of the court to the other, toying with him as you talk smack, telling him he knows that you’re going to sink the dagger in with no time left on the clock and there’s nothing he can do to defend against your attack… he yells, “bring it big boy” and snarling a half smile feeling he’s going to cram it back down your throat, screaming “get that “stuff” outta here”… but he comes up empty as he hears nothing but nets, or string music as it snaps in the hot summer air as you fade away jogging backwards and laughing in his face as he hangs his head demoralized…
You’ve brought us another wonderfully crafted writing enticing us to read back through Solomons perusal of the vanities of life and especially as we are getting older and realize the futility of chasing the wind, I find myself thanking Jesus for another day on this side of the veil and truly understanding that we must practice love… it’s not always easy, but it’s the most fulfilling exercise we can engage in that really matters. I’ve been so magnificently blessed being married to my baby these past 39 years, to have such a rich love for all my loved ones, my parents, my children and those who started my learning of how to love, my grandchildren… but the most important decision I ever made was to ask Jesus to be my Lord. He’s never failed me and has walked with me throughout my entire journey, simply loving me and telling me to do the same…I pray Jesus continue to bless you equally Mark, you’re the true Mark of a man… love you brother.
I have always loved the wisdom of Ecclesiastes and the sarcasm and humor in it. I think of that song, “The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind…” of Bob Dylan’s. More people should take heed.
Absolutely my friend.