Ecclesiastes is a doctoral dissertation on ambivalence (see my last post). The Teacher is in two minds about life because of the certainty of death:
Light is sweet, and it pleases the eyes to see the sun.
However many years anyone may live, let them enjoy them all.
But let them remember the days of darkness, for there will be many.
Everything to come is meaningless.
Light and darkness chase each other around the globe. People come and go but have no effect on this infinitely recursive circuit despite what they accomplish or accumulate. The ancients saw time as cyclical, changeless and mindless. But the writers of the Bible approached reality with different presuppositions:
- There is a personal Creator.
- Time has a purpose, ergo a beginning and end.
- Life is mortal but not in vain.
These hypotheses can’t be irrefutably proved—or disproved—this side of the grave. The evidence is ambiguous: sunsets and tsunamis, birthdays and funerals, miracles and unanswered prayer. Every joyful experience has its dark antipole (Ecclesiastes 3).
I choose the biblical view of reality—but not all the interpretations attached to it. I can’t explain the ambiguity or avoid the ambivalence. What I can do is resist them festering into apathy: “the absence or suppression of passion; a lack of interest in things others find exciting.” Apathy spawns depression, which drains the life out of life.
I still have character to develop, dreams to pursue, relationships to nurture, adventures to share, sorrows to endure, books to write. I want to make something “so beautiful” out of life’s “so what,” a sentiment Paul Simon captures in his song by that name.
I’m gonna tell my kids a bedtime story
A play without a plot
Will it have a happy ending?
Maybe yeah, Maybe not
I tell them life is what you make of it
So beautiful or so what