Sunday the 5th: All Is Vanity

Posted on February 8, 2018. Filed under: Philosophy, Religion | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

Your words for the day:

  • vanity = wasted effort (according to Dean)
  • disillusioned = learned the ugly truth: dreams are not reality

While writing another article, Quoth the Raven, a single word kept threading its way through my thoughts — vanity. I checked a biblical source for the phrase “all is vanity” which I remembered as coming from the Book of Proverbs (KJV). Turns out, it comes from The Book of Ecclesiastes — every chapter.

My early religious instructors did not spend much time in that particular writing, using the Old Testament primarily as foundation for fulfillment of the New Testament teachings. Ecclesiastes was used to show the result of Man’s folly in earthly pursuits — something which a newbie in Life (such as I was) couldn’t really appreciate.

That book was written by an individual calling himself the Preacher (or Teacher, depending upon which version you are reading). He asserts that he undertook the path of instant gratification just so he could attain wisdom (a la Jimmy Carter’s alleged admission that he only looked at Playboy to read the articles?), and, with that hard-won knowledge, he can now tell others what NOT to do and what to expect if they go ahead and do it anyway. Of course, during this remorseful retelling of his life, he still had access to all the comforts that his would-be students were being denied.

Yeah, I know. It’s hard work, but…  someone had to do it…  right?

My cynicism aside, whether you trek through Life barefooted with almost nothing to ease your discomfort, or that you get chauffeured daily to a five-star restaurant followed by an evening at a posh, upscale theater event, you got born, and, you are going to die.

What a downer to finally realize that whatever you experienced or attained in Life is housed in a sand castle with a sea level view of the incoming tide.

One second after your last breath, it all means nothing.

All is vanity. All is meaningless. Or, to put it my way,


I suspect it was the impending sense of doom and loss – such as the passing of his youth – that impelled the pampered rich kid to adopt the moniker of Preacher (or Teacher) to clean up his image while whining about his loses.  Eccl. 2:

  • (18) I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me. (19) …they will have control over all the fruit of my toil into which I have poured my effort and skill under the sun.  This too is meaningless.”  –Bible, New International Version.

The self-styled Preacher was not alone in recounting all of Life’s wasted pursuits. Shakespeare later echoes this detachment from reality through the character Macbeth:

  • “Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow creeps in this petty pace from day to day to the last syllable of recorded time, and all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death.  Out, out brief candle. Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury signifying nothing.”

If, as we often perceive, the Life experience is totally meaningless, how do we deal with it? This question is answered by the myriad versions of religion that pervade the whole of the human condition. Each individual decides for itself whether there is more beyond this fragile existence, or, whether one’s persona simply dissipates into the vapor of Time. The Preacher’s father, who also moonlighted as a shepherd and poet, assessed his lack thusly:

  • “Such knowledge is too high for me; I cannot attain to it.”

As attested to in a previous article (Wednesday the First), multi-tasking is not my forte. I was born into ignorance and must now depend on others who entered Life in that same condition to fill me in on matters beyond human understanding.  I appreciate the help, but…

I can only deal with NOW:

  • “Yesterday is gone, tomorrow never comes. Just this moment’s joy or sorrow is all our hands may clasp.”  –Anonymous, at least to me.
  • “I have only this one minute, with 60 seconds in it. Didn’t seek it, didn’t choose it. Thrust upon me, can’t refuse it. Just a tiny little minute, but, eternity is in it.” –Anonymous

NOW is all I know. Yesterday is but memory. Tomorrow doesn’t even exist. The only place in Time that I will ever be…

…is NOW.

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