Wednesday, March 9, 2011


"Everything is meaningless."  I'll warn you before you begin to read; this is not going to be a literary masterpiece.  If you usually enjoy my blogs, you probably won't enjoy this one.  It might be a little scattered.  It might be a little aimless.  You might feel like there is no point or purpose.  But, sometimes emotions are difficult to translate into words.  I'm experiencing this as I write this blog.  I've noticed this before, but this is the first time I decided to meditate on it.  I can feel intense emotions and feel as if the words should spill out onto the keys of my laptop, but there seems to be a barrier that I can't quite put my finger on.

I woke up to a morning that was unusually dark, cold and breezy for this time of year.  Spring had already begun to make itself known over the last couple of weeks, the groundhog didn't see it's shadow, so I had assumed winter had packed it's bags, said it's goodbyes and bid us farewell.  Don't get me wrong, I actually like winter, and the unexpected cold snap is somewhat welcome.  But as usual, a drastic change in the weather means a drastic change in my overall mood.  Melancholy, meditative and a bit reflective is how I would classify my disposition as of late.  I feel in no ways apathetic or unmotivated.  There seems to be a lot going on upstairs, but the door's locked for right now.  I've carried this mood with me throughout this week.  "For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven." 

You might say that this blog is meaningless, and you might be right.  I'm wondering that myself right now.  But life is like that sometime, isn't it?  One moment our life purpose seems clear and distinct, and the next we might question for what purpose we even exist.  It reminds me of the apparent dichotomy between the Old Testament books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes.  Most of Proverbs and all of Ecclesiastes were written by Solomon, and could be considered some of the deepest literature ever written.  Proverbs begins and ends with structured wisdom and the sage advice of someone who seems to have a firm grasp on the meaning of existence.  Both books are attributed to the Biblical genre of "wisdom" literature, but it's literally almost as if the author finishes Proverbs and then mockingly screams out to you, "Just kidding!" as Ecclesiastes begins.  "Meaningless!  Meaningless!" says the teacher, "Utterly meaningless!  Everything is meaningless." (Ecc. 1:2)  OK, but what was that whole book of Proverbs about then?

The book goes on to emphasize the injustices of life and the seemingly constant battle with pain and suffering.  In a very candid method, Solomon reveals his deep conviction that the exhaustive pursuits of life are without reason and inevitably amount to nothing.  Overall, you get the impression that he sees only complete meaningless of life and the impossibility of understanding the nature of our existence.  Ultimately, one is left with an apparent duality of emotions when compared with the book of Proverbs.  "Lean not on your own uderstanding."

But is there really a tension between these two books, philosophy and theology?  I don't think so.  What I think Solomon reveals to us in these two amazing pieces of literature is a tension that exists in most of our lives.  We often settle into a rhythm of life, in which we think we have all the pieces to the puzzle.  We begin linking piece after piece, all the while believing that the picture is being revealed.  Our pace increases as the number of puzzle pieces decreases, and we feel the confidence of eventually accomplishing our goal.  But what happens if we get to a point of realizing that several puzzle pieces are missing?  What happens when we realize that the image revealed is not what we thought it was going to be?  And what happens if someone trashes our puzzle?  "Meaningless.", but "Does not wisdom call out?  Does not understanding raise her voice?"     

"All share a common destiny."  I'm beginning to realize that life can be like this for some of us.  We chose certain paths in life, made turns that seemed right at the time, and continue racing through life, anticipating that the goal will eventually be revealed to be what we've always anticipated.  We grow and we learn.  We build, we develop and we acquire.  We fill our minds with endless knowledge, all the while thinking that the more knowledge we file away, the closer to the finish line we will eventually end up.  But does more knowledge always equal more understanding?  Do more pieces always complete the puzzle?    

"Give me neither poverty nor riches"  When you think about, there is really not a huge difference between the acquisition of knowledge and the seemingly meaninglessness of life.  In fact, each one could easily exist in complete independence of one another.  We fill our minds with more and more wisdom, but without a clear grasp of the mundane realities of life, our endless pursuits will only equate to frustration and a lack of fulfillment.  More wisdom does not always equal a clearer understanding of life, and our grasping of this truth is very critical to our understanding of ourselves and the mysteries of God.  But isn't that what faith is all about?  An incomplete puzzle, with missing pieces?  An image that we cannot fully make out, but nonetheless are aware of its clarity and reality?      

Reality is that there are times when all the puzzle pieces are just not there.  No one stole them.  They weren't misplaced.  You weren't ripped off.  in fact, there's a good chance that the pieces never existed in the first place.  And yes, the puzzle will remain incomplete, the image will not be realized and we might just have to start a new puzzle.  But one thing I've learned over the years, is that the early stages of putting together a puzzle are the most enjoyable.  As you get close to completion, it becomes less of a challenge and you begin to see what the picture is going to be already.  Sure, you get the satisfaction of finishing, but the challenge and pursuit begin to fade as reality begins to set in.  You acquired a lot of pieces, and they fit together perfectly, but what you are left with is just a picture that was separated into hundreds of parts for no apparent reason, other than putting them back together again.  "So I commend the enjoyment of life, because there is nothing better for a person under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany them in their toil all the days of the life God has given them under the sun."    

1 comment:

vicki said...

hey jake - lots of food for thought here and i want to spend some more time with this. re the 'puzzle' that resonates for me re how we can feel pieces are 'missing'/stolen etc. I don't believe it is ultimately about building a new puzzle, but rather that life/and ULTIMATE meaning is about transcending the puzzle, which IS meaningless (for me) if seen only as an end in itself - no matter how pretty the 'completed' picture. I seek that Mystical Hope that transcends the puzzle pieces and admittedly have been very influenced by those such as Richard Rohr, Cynthia Bougeault, Basil Pennington , Thomas Merton. Now I am opening to making all of that my own - knowing that placing my hope in the puzzle pieces is a bad idea cause someone can come along , bump the table and toss it all on the floor in an instant, OR one can 'complete' the puzzle and realize that the picture wasn't as pretty as they'd thought it would be and want another puzzle anyway....