12 I, the Teacher, was king over Israel in Jerusalem. 13 I devoted myself to study and to explore by wisdom all that is done under heaven. What a heavy burden God has laid on men! 14 I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind. 15 What is twisted cannot be straightened; what is lacking cannot be counted. 16 I thought to myself, "Look, I have grown and increased in wisdom more than anyone who has ruled over Jerusalem before me; I have experienced much of wisdom and knowledge." 17 Then I applied myself to the understanding of wisdom, and also of madness and folly, but I learned that this, too, is a chasing after the wind. 18 For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief.
What a heavy burden God has laid on men! I agree.
The word Honor is the Hebrew is the same word for "weight". There is a gravity to being human that no other creature, nor creation experiences. We are, as the Psalmist says, "crowned with glory and honor". This makes us feel things that animals don't. This makes us see things that the rest of creation misses. We aren't oblivious. It cannot escape our attention. We will eventually take notice of the "weight of glory" as C.S. Lewis calls it. It is a burden to bear to be sure, but it is also what makes us human. What makes us special. What makes us like our Creator.
It is true...to know more--is to see more--is to feel more. When you set out to explore wisdom and devote yourself to "understanding" (standing under), you find yourself wonderstruck and dumbstruck with the immensity and intensity of it all. Without community you can perish in the pondering. Anyone who seeks to go further and dig deeper and fly higher must sojourn to those places with others. To scuba dive or mountain climb alone is foolhardy. We must do these things. We must explore, but not by ourselves for ourselves. We were meant to go there with others who are bearing witness and bearing weight with us. Life becomes meaningless very fast apart from community.
Once again...I appreciate Solomon's candor. He, I believe, is being honest to himself and honest to God in his interpretation of reality. He really feels all of these things he's describing so poetically and profoundly.
But I must contend with his conclusions.
First, he hadn't seen all the things done under the sun, and even if he had, all of them are not meaningless. Granted, all of the things he had given himself to like wealth, wisdom, wine, women and work had all proven to be wisps of waste...dissipation. But everything is a waste when it is chased as the object of worship. These things, when worshipped, always break the hearts of their worshippers. But put in their proper place and experienced as God intended, there is satisfaction to be found in each of these that points you to the giver of the gift. Instead of being the point, they point. And when they point they don't disappoint.
It is a chasing after the wind, if you're expecting to catch it. If you're letting the wind refresh you on a hot day, well then it fulfills. If you're trying to bottle the wind and sell it, well, prepare to be devastated. Wind wasn't meant to be chased and caught. It was meant to chase and catch you.
And the part about never being able to straighten what has been twisted, I think he's speaking out his own inability to take the crooked parts of his heart and find alignment. His twisted life had given him the impression that everyone was just like him and that no one could find recovery. It's easy to believe everyone is just like you when you're struggling. It's easier to believe that everyone is incorrigible than to hold out hope that your own hard heart could soften on days.
I concur, there are days that it feels like the more knowledge I accumulate, the more grief I carry. I start to believe that tomorrow will come with even more sorrow. Every minute will carry with it the floating lint of letdown that will find its way to my heart and stick like birdox. Sometimes I just can't turn on the news or read the newspaper...I just can't handle any more exposure to bad news. So I can see where it would be easy to just stop reading, learning, leading or listening. Just pack it in.
And without God and His indwelling Spirit, I fear that's what I would do. I would call it quits and throw in the towel. I would join Solomon in his rage against the machine. I would go off on people and damn the whole of life itself. Lord knows, there are days I want to.
But I can't. I can feel all these things with Solomon and I can attest to the truth of his emotions and even his experiences, but I just can't bring myself to agree with his expressions no matter how poetic they sound. I don't believe that life is meaningless just because I feel like it is. I don't believe knowing more is the problem even though it brings a grief unspeakable sometimes. I don't believe that the world, even in it's depraved state, is void of value as Solomon purports. I believe just the opposite, in fact. And it's what makes me wake up each day looking for God and for good. And when I look for God and good in life, I find what I'm looking for. If I look for bad, I find what I'm looking for just the same.
So I say with the Apostle Paul, "Do not be overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good." Romans 12:21. That's my motto.
Isn't it amazing that what Solomon was saying was true, but it was not right? I find it fascinating.