Vanity of Vanities

I thought today, since I am writing about the book of Ecclesiastes, I would start from the beginning.  The very first verse tells us in a sort of cryptic way about the author of this book.  They refer to themselves as the Preacher.  Most people believe that person to be King Solomon.

Ecclesiastes 1:1

The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem.

If you take this verse at it’s face value, the son of David and King in Jerusalem was Solomon.  Some say that “son” may refer to the lineage of King David, but I’ll keep it simple and stick with Solomon as the Preacher.  Who wrote the book isn’t as important as the lessons being taught in this book.  King Solomon starts teaching from the first verses.

Ecclesiastes 1:2-11

Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher,
    vanity of vanities! All is vanity.
What does man gain by all the toil
    at which he toils under the sun?
A generation goes, and a generation comes,
    but the earth remains forever.
The sun rises, and the sun goes down,
    and hastens to the place where it rises.
The wind blows to the south
    and goes around to the north;
around and around goes the wind,
    and on its circuits the wind returns.
All streams run to the sea,
    but the sea is not full;
to the place where the streams flow,
    there they flow again.
All things are full of weariness;
    a man cannot utter it;
the eye is not satisfied with seeing,
    nor the ear filled with hearing.
What has been is what will be,
    and what has been done is what will be done,
    and there is nothing new under the sun.
Is there a thing of which it is said,
    “See, this is new”?
It has been already
    in the ages before us.
There is no remembrance of former things,
    nor will there be any remembrance
of later things yet to be
    among those who come after.

“Vanity of vanities”, Solomon begins.  He is telling us it doesn’t matter who wrote this.  The fame and the credit are meaningless.  All of our actions and accomplishments really mean nothing in the grand scheme of the universe.  It’s not about you or me or anyone.  Generations come and go but the world, the universe goes on.  The greatest person in history, no matter who they may be, is going to die, and the world will go on.  Existence doesn’t not begin or end with any one person or thing.

No matter what you do or say, the sun will come up and the sun will go down.  The winds will blow and the rivers will flow into the sea each and every day whether you exist or don’t exist.

We will have questions in our hearts until the day we pass on.  Questions that go unanswered.  We will have sadness and gloom.  We will have happiness and good cheer.  We will have to toil in some manner each and every day of our lives.  To achieve anything will require work, there is no way around it.

And yet all this strife and toil will produce nothing new.  No matter how great or wonderful we may find our achievements, they have already been done.  When you boil it down to the basics, it’s already been done.  What is here has always been here, we have just figured out new things to do with it.

We feel we have created great things and created great empires but through the ages they will all be forgotten.  Our legacy is just a footnote, soon to be edited out in favor of newer ones.  This is how it will always be.

So Solomon starts off the book of Ecclesiastes by telling us to get over ourselves.  In the scope of the universe you are nothing.  You are not some earth shattering, mind blowing, pioneer of something never seen or done before.  It’s all been done before so ignore the accolades that are given to you by man because in a blink of any eye they will be forgotten.  To think that it will be different is vanity, of both pride and futility.

Solomon does tell us later in the book of Ecclesiastes what is important in this world of vanity.  It is not the accomplishments in our lives and it’s not the legacy that we think we are going to leave the world.

It’s how we live our lives.

Ecclesiastes 2:24

There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God,

© Otis P Smith and About the Groove, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Otis P Smith and About the Groove with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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