Literary Interpretations of The Bible: Ecclesiastes, part 3
The Path Is More Confusing That You Think
This is the third in a series of articles I am writing on Ecclesiastes, a book of the Old Testament that I believe has a lot of universal appeal and psychological wisdom that extends further than the realms, even, of any organized religion. First the verse and then a very brief commentary. Believers and non-believers welcome!
The End of the Wise and the Fool
12 Then I turned myself to consider wisdom and madness and folly;
For what can the man do who succeeds the king?—
Only what he has already done.
13 Then I saw that wisdom excels folly
As light excels darkness.
14 The wise man’s eyes are in his head,
But the fool walks in darkness.
Yet I myself perceived
That the same event happens to them all.
15 So I said in my heart,
“ As it happens to the fool,
It also happens to me,
And why was I then more wise?”
Then I said in my heart,
“ This also is vanity.”
16 For there is no more remembrance of the wise than of the fool forever,
Since all that now is will be forgotten in the days to come.
And how does a wise man die?
As the fool!
One of the things I like best about Ecclesiastes is that it necessitates the need for something at the center, something to transcend emptiness and uniformity, something to propel meaning towards Life and away from Death, towards the Light and away from the Dark. We see that not happening here; we see all things balancing out, all things reducing themselves to dust, to ash, to death, be it virtue or folly, success or failure. Thus, in the psychological sense, this is true: solid, internal growth must happen to determine one's direction. Balance can result in atrophy and apathy without a direction in which to move, a life goal, a road forward on which to walk with some genuine sense of interest and purpose.
For Christians, this verse may describe a life without Christ: all results are in the end the same; the fruits of one's actions are meaningless, as are the actions themselves, as are the personal development acquired from these actions over time, be it productive growth or decay. Thus, our own efforts towards psychological growth are ultimately meaningless, though they may be beneficial in the short run; our own self-willed determination falls short, or, on the other hand, succeeds -- but either way we are trapped in self, and the self eventually dies, as does the physical body. The accumulation of things and even virtues dies, too, with our mortal bodies. Immortality becomes central if peace cannot be made with some sense of enclosed and permanent limit, i.e. eternal death. Perhaps also, an atonement for our human limits seems meaningless if there is no help from the outside, that is beyond conscious control.
Or...there is some other factor here that I might never see...shalom...