Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The 12 Days of Ecclesiastes: Chapter 2

2.2: I said of laughter, “It is madness,” and of pleasure, “What does it accomplish?” 

I wonder what people during Qoheleth's time were laughing about? This verse resounds today in a society that does, at large, celebrate laughter, and often for unfortunately grotesque reasons.

2.3: I explored with my mind how to stimulate my body with wine while my mind was guiding me wisely... 

This statement makes for some interesting considerations as to what constitutes drunkenness. When Qoheleth states that he is exploring with his mind, does this mean he is actually experiencing the effects of wine or is he merely reviewing in his mind the possible effects, were he to take such a course of action as drinking? It is difficult to say, it seems to me. If it is the former, when he mentions that his body was stimulated, this means that he had an awareness that the alcohol was affecting him. Alcohol is a depressant, so perhaps in his angst he was using it to calm himself? If it is the latter, he was more or less devising a mental plan for future action. It is thought-provoking that Qoheleth would even mention that his mind was guiding him in the way of wisdom, as this seems to infer that either the man himself or others around him doubted the morality of his consumption of wine.

2.10: All that my eyes desired I did not refuse them. I did not withhold my heart from any pleasure, for my heart was pleased because of all my labor and this was my reward for all my labor.

This is an interesting turn from 1.3 which I mentioned last time. At least, until 2.11 comes in which says: Thus I considered all my activities which my hands had done and the labor which I had exerted, and behold all was vanity and striving after wind and there was no profit under the sun.

2.17: So I hated life, for the work which had been done under the sun was grievous to me; because everything is futility and striving after wind.

Qoheleth reached a very dark point in his life-world - he hated his life. He's talking about work here again. What does he mean here by work? At this point, I doubt he was solely referring to his occupation, but rather, I think he was referring to every single effort he made. Drawing upon the thoughts of Christian philosopher William Lane Craig, he knew that if the things of this world were really temporal, they were ultimately meaningless. Such things may have held the capacity to be meaningful for finite amounts of time, but in the end, they simply would become non-existent.

2.23: Because all his days his task is painful and grievous; even at night his mind does not rest. This too is vanity.

Insomnia is a symptom of depression and anxiety, both of which Qoheleth, if he was alive now in the human world, likely would have been diagnosed with.

2.24: There is nothing better for a man than to eat and drink and tell himself that his labor is good. This also I have seen that it is from the hand of God.

I don't understand how Qoheleth could tell himself this after what he had written in the previous verses. However, this note of encouragement is well-founded. It is easy to forget God in the small things while we look for Him only in the "grandness." How insulting it must be for an omnipotent God to have his creatures, especially those who claim to have faith, deny his very existence based on mere location (geographical or otherwise).

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