To Qoheleth and Back

And I applied my mind to know wisdom and to know madness and folly. I perceived that this also is but a chasing after wind.

Eccelsiastes 1:17

I give today a C-

Usually when I sit down to write these devotions I wait until my head is clear. I take a deep breath, center myself, focus my spirit.

Not today.

Today I’m writing with my head in a fog. (So don’t expect much) I’m doing so intentionally–I wanted to see what pours out of me when I’m not feeling particularly wise. I’d say I’m a little closer to the madness side, to be honest. That’s where the world seems to be, too.

That spectrum between feeling wise and feeling mad did not come into being in 2020. People have been bouncing between those two sides of the continuum all the way back to Qoheleth’s time. Qoheleth means “Teacher”, and he is the author of the book of Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament.

Qoheleth goes on a quest, of sorts, to make sense of life, and comes up short, time and again. Here, he tries to sort out the difference between wisdom and madness and declares it all “a chasing after wind”. He seems to think that depending on your circumstance, distinctions like these lose their meaning.

I look around at things people do and things people say and I make my own judgements — “wow, that’s a really wise decision”, or “That guy is the definition of madness”. Then I realize folks are watching me and thinking the same thoughts!

Maybe Qoheleth is right. Maybe everything is meaningless and subjective. We seem to have lost any sort of communal understanding of what is wise and what is mad. Ask a different age group, a different political party, a different geographical location, everything seems relative and confusing.

In the end, Qoheleth’s answer comes down to this:

There is nothing better for mortals than to eat and drink, and find enjoyment in their toil.

Ecclesiastes 2:24

His solution is that we enjoy our jobs, and then go have an awesome meal afterwards. Wow. I was expecting something more profound. This is The Bible, after all. Is that it?

Is that what’s supposed to rise me up out of my 2020 stupor? “Do your job, and like it? Oh, and have a good dinner?”

Well, there are a few more profound things written in the rest of The Bible. Real words to live by. Words that I would attest fall more on the “wise” side of the scale.

Qoheleth was kind of like that “cool” teacher who was counter-cultural and philosophical and made you question your life. He was definitely on a journey of self-discovery, although his conclusions may not be completely satisfying.

Still, it may be about all I can handle today. I’m feeling weary, a little fed up, and incapable of making sense of all the craziness swirling around.

But you know what? I can go to staff meeting here in a few minutes, and enjoy the company of my awesome staff. And then later, Jan and I will get take out somewhere and probably eat in the car while listening to stand up comedy.

If that’s all I accomplish today, so be it. At best, I give today a B-…

But Qoheleth would give me an A.

Have a great week,