Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Circle of Life

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Image Courtesy "Views of the Solar System"
What if?

What if you were in a position of leadership and had ultimate wealth? Let’s say you were living at a time of peace and had nothing but free time on your hands. Then what if you also had a very keen, knowledgeable mind and were curious to discover what life was all about? What is the purpose of life and why are we here?

Ecclesiastes—it’s been called the inspired book of error.  It is one of my favorite books, and possibly also one of the most misquoted books. The very rich and wise author of Ecclesiastes was a King who lived at a time of prosperity and peace, and who set about to answer the questions I’ve asked above.

The significance of this book is that it looks at life from the viewpoint of both a human and eventually a divine perspective. In his quest for understanding, the King begins the book with this phrase:

Vapors of vapors and futility of futilities, says the Preacher, Vapor of vapors and futility of futilities! All is vanity (emptiness, falsity, and vainglory).

In other words... everything is utterly meaningless!

This is probably the reason so many people don’t read Ecclesiastes. They believe Solomon was depressed when he wrote it. They claim he was in a state of backsliding and did things he shouldn’t have. Well, I can’t argue that he did some surprising things in his quest to get understanding. However, I don’t believe he was depressed. 

The book has some amazing insights throughout, and if you hang on until the end, you realize that there is a light at the end of this sometimes very dark tunnel of an existence.

All the philosophies that people have tried to live their lives by are attended to in this book. He covers it all. He tries it all. He withholds nothing. Then he graciously shares it with us in the hope that we can escape much of it and come to the final conclusion through the words of his journey.
At times I drive myself crazy thinking circles around it. What is the point of our existence?

This is the first item that Solomon covers; the circle of life. He looks at mankind: We get up, go to work, go to sleep, get up, go to work, go to sleep --
Our generations: “One generation dies, and another generation is born...” Vs.4
Our days and nights: The sun rises, the sun goes down, then it rises...
The wind: “It goes to the south, and circles about to the north, it circles and circles about continually, and on its circuit, the wind returns again.” On and on and on....
The rivers: “All the rivers run into the sea, yet the sea is not full. To the place which the rivers come, to there and from there they return again.” Another circle.

When looking at ourselves, no matter what we do or where we are in life, are we ever satisfied?  What has been will be again, for there is nothing new under the sun. We lose the knowledge of the ages, and in turn, future generations will lose the knowledge of our time.  They know now that in ancient times, they did cataract surgery (prior to 1 B.C.), brain surgery (3000 B.C.), cosmetic surgery (1 B.C.) and other types of surgeries.  See: http://www.crystalinks.com/ancientmedicine.html

I want to point out that there is a lot of truth in the Ecclesiastical passages above. We see and experience these things every day. They are common knowledge, and from a purely human point of view, this is what life seems to amount to. There is a reason for that.

Solomon goes on to say that, “Even wisdom brings vexation, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.” I’ve noticed that the more I learn, the more I realize I don’t know, and then I go about to learn more, only to find that there’s still more to learn, and the circle continues in a never ending spiral.

The older I get, the more I begin to understand people. I look at myself and see the things that are dark and dangerous. I look at my past and I sorrow over my own foolishness—but yet I’m helpless to change it. I try to be a better person, but often fall back into that same old person that I want to change...it’s kind of like losing weight.

Solomon’s findings are that the universe goes on and we are lost in its grasp. This philosophy is the conclusion of reductionism: the belief that life can be reduced to mere mechanistic processes. There is no soul, no spirit, no God. The universe is a machine. We are machines with no significance, no meaning.

Before I depress you, remember that it takes at least two for a debate, and there is still another perspective on all of this. It is that apart from God, there really is no meaning to our existence. Then, we truly are just  bits of dust spinning around on a little fleck of a planet in the grinding gears of a mechanistic universe.  Our meaning lies in a hope, or a belief if you will. There is a God and nothing has any true and lasting meaning or value without this basic understanding.

Point of Interest: Scientists didn’t discover the circuit of the wind until centuries after Solomon wrote this. They also did not understand the evaporation cycle of the waters.

I hope this hasn’t been too detailed. I would love to cover some of the other things Solomon looked at in his quest to find the meaning of life in future posts.

Thanks for visiting!