For Life: L’Chaim
Ecclesiastes, Chapter 9
The book of Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament of the Bible is considered one of the Books of Wisdom of Hebrew Scripture. The other books are Psalms, Job, Proverbs, and the Song of Solomon. The very title, Ecclesiastes, is derived from the Greek translation of the Hebrew name for Qohelet — a word that refers to a preacher or teacher. That wise individual leads all seekers of the true meaning of life.
That meaning of life, in spiritual terms, can become dismally clouded by the almost paralyzing negative emotions, a state of mind and condition of soul that may very well be the devil at work. Even the most sensitive and long-suffering of souls can thus become hardened to the elan of life. Life cannot be successfully faced with complete innocence toward the world, but neither can it be truly lived with the staining taint of gloom and doom that lurk ‘round every corner.
Ping-ponging from hope to despair, and back again, that emotional yoyo-ing might be an ingrained and pleasurable habit for a certain kind of person who never grew up, and really didn’t want to. As for me, I try to calibrate even my most passionate feelings in accordance with a ripening faith in tomorrow, and in the unknown mysteries of life. Those baffling enigmas just might comprise that inexplicable yet profound meaning of life that is addressed in Chapter 9 of Ecclesiastes.
One certainty is certain in the evil time of today’s modern world of technological “enlightenment”:
The culture of death does not contain the culture of life.
I believe that the dead know nothing, because the spirit of any good and godly deceased person ascends, and the body remains, on earth, as in dust to dust. I also believe that every sadness in life, in its proper time, yields a corresponding joy, perhaps an even greater source of triumphant bliss. The lamentations of humanity are not dealt to us so that we must suffer horridly and blindly wail and self-flagellate; but that we might build fortitude, and faith, from suffering through love.
Anguish is the wretched condition that the uppity libertines of iniquity create for others around them, or, for the more ambitious among the arrogantly evil, for all of mankind. I dare to defy that man-made misery. I throw a stiff hand to the connoisseurs of fault-finding. I march unflinchingly away from anyone who picks at her own wound, and then blames others for her affliction.
At times, I grow listless and weary, listening to the groaners and their martyred gripes about life. I’ve got my own annoyances to own and to put an ending to; I need not take on the bellyaches of others. For every pesky complaint that I choose to hear, there exists a pathway out of that lousy circumstance that I then ignore. For each hostile emotion to which I surrender, I also refuse to yield a portion of my heart to a love that could then be given to a soul truly in profound need of any tender mercy.
I toss away the self-defeating expectations of what ought to be; and I embrace the passion of working toward a dream of what could be.
Stinking thinking always stinks. It carries with it all of the bile and bitterness of the atheist, of the self-worshipping infidel, of the sourpuss on a sugar-high of cynicism; and it breeds all of the contempt for a Divine Power viewed as indifferent, or punitive, or both.
Perhaps the personality, or nature, of an individual determines one’s attitude toward life, toward the hills and valleys in that life. Scholars, shrinks, teachers and preachers have long argued their rather subjective opinions on the matter of living life and interpreting the will of God within that life. If one believes that the plan of God for any man is purposely and viciously hidden as a savagely perplexing mystery, and as an intentional source of tribulation, then such a God can easily become a Creator with cruelty as a unique talent.
The ancient Israelites were the among the earliest backsliders of the world. The Books of Wisdom of the Old Testament bear testament to their pitfalls and downfalls. People to this day carry on in those spiritual traditions that succumb to dire warnings and the exhortations and expectations of an avenging futility in ever finding a respite from misfortunes and fears. Breaking with such a bad tradition is very much in keeping with the spirit of an Almighty who wants a winner, not a loser, in life. That happily fulfilled disciple leans on the Ever-lasting Life.
A merciful Creator does not demand that any man, woman or child cravingly fall down upon the knees, awaiting a celestial whupping. Destiny caresses its doer as much as it jostles him toward his road in life. The Creator thus requests of any human being equal parts of compassion, discipline, desire, patience, and dutiful humility before the face of one’s fate.
It is the learning of that benevolent fate that grants the meaning of life to the stalwart individual who has sought those truths, and become wise enough to accept them.
Ecclesiastes Chapter 9
1. For all this I considered in my heart even to declare all this, that the righteous, and the wise, and their works, are in the hands of God: no man knoweth either love or hatred by all that is before them.
2. All things come alike to all: there is one event to the righteous, and to the wicked; to the good and to the clean, and to the unclean; to him that sacrificeth, and to him that sacrificeth not: as is the good, so is the sinner; and he that sweareth, as he that feareth an oath.
3. This is an evil among all things that are done under the sun, that there is one event unto all: yea, also the heart of the sons of men is full of evil, and madness is in their heart while they live, and after that they go to the dead.
4. For to him that is joined to all the living there is hope; for a living dog is better than a dead lion.
5. For the living know that they shall die; but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten.
6. Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun.
7. Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart; for God now accepteth thy works.
8. Let thy garments be always white; and let thy head lack no ointment.
9. Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest all the days of the life of thy vanity, which he hath given thee under the sun, all the days of thy vanity: for that is thy portion in this life, and in thy labour which thou takest under the sun.
10. Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.
11. I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.
12. For man also knoweth not his time: as the fishes that are taken in an evil net, and as the birds that are caught in the snare; so are the sons of men snared in an evil time, when it falleth suddenly upon them.
13. This wisdom have I seen also under the sun, and it seemed great unto me:
14. There was a little city, and few men within it; and there came a great king against it, and besieged it, and built great bulwarks against it;
15. Now there was found in it a poor wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city; yet no man remembered that same poor man.
16. Then said I, Wisdom is better than strength; nevertheless the poor man’s wisdom is despised, and his words are not heard.
17. The words of wise men are heard in quiet more than the cry of him that ruleth among fools.
18. Wisdom is better than weapons of war: but one sinner destroyeth much good.