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Author Topic: Ecclesiastes: Solomon's World View
Sa:ji:sdo:de
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Introduction

Hello; and welcome to a very interesting world view based primarily upon empirical evidence and human experience. I'm pretty sure atheists and agnostics will find lots of comments in Ecclesiastes that are quite agreeable.

Afterlife opponents often quote the book of Ecclesiastes; which is a fatal error because proof texts related to the afterlife drawn from the book of Ecclesiastes are inadmissible; and the reason is very simple. Ecclesiastes isn't a book of divine revelation, but rather, a book of humanistic philosophy; and though a holy man wrote Ecclesiastes, and was no doubt divinely motivated to do so; he didn't record his observations from the perspective of an enlightened man who's privy to knowledge beyond the scope of empirical evidence and human experience; but rather, he recorded his observations from the perspective of a man under the sun; viz: a man thinking to himself whose perception of reality is moderated by what he can see going on around him in the physical universe rather than what he cannot see going on around him in the non-physical sphere: and that's why Bible students find so much material in Ecclesiastes contrary to the doctrines of traditional Christianity.

Men under the sun who think to themselves typically find the book of Ecclesiastes to be spot-on in agreement with their own philosophy of life; and no mystery there since Ecclesiastes is primarily an evaluation of life on earth as seen from the earth rather than an evaluation of life on earth as seen from heaven.

Another thing to keep in mind when studying Ecclesiastes is that just because people's statements are recorded in a sacred text does not make their statements eo ipso true; for example Eve’s response to the Serpent.

"And he said to the woman: Indeed, has God said you shall not eat from any tree of the garden? And the woman said to the serpent: From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said you shall not eat from it or touch it, lest you die." (Gen 3:1-3)

Was Eve telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth? No. God forbad them to eat the fruit, yes, but He didn’t forbid them to touch it. (cf. Gen 2:16-17)

The Serpent’s response was untrue too.

"And the serpent said to the woman: You shall not surely die." (Gen 3:4)

Did Eve die? As far as we know; yes, Eve did eventually pass away.

The conversation between Eve and the Serpent is no doubt on record because God wanted it so; but there are untruths in their statements. Solomon's worldly philosophy of life is a lot like that; in other words: Ecclesiastes isn't necessarily totally wrong just because it's an earthly point of view, nor is it necessarily totally correct just because it contains a kernel of truth. No, the danger is that Koheleth's philosophy, like most all philosophy, contains just enough truth to make it misleading. Caveat Lector.

Buen Camino

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Ecclesiastes 1:1-3

†. Ecc 1:1 . .The words of Koheleth son of David, king in Jerusalem.

Koheleth is apparently a transliteration rather than a translation. The Hebrew word is qoheleth (ko-heh'-leth) which means: an assembly gatherer (i.e. a lecturer). A qoheleth assembler isn't a mechanic on a factory assembly line, but rather, someone who assembles a group together for a speech, a seminar, or classroom situation.

Christ was a koheleth. Just about everywhere he went, Jesus set up a soap box and drew crowds.

The lecturer obviously isn't female because Koheleth was a son of David and a king in Jerusalem. Sons and kings are eo ipso male.

Tradition accredits Ecclesiastes to David's son Solomon, the brightest intellectual of his day because of the abundance of his God-given wisdom. None of the other descendants of David ever matched Solomon's intellect. He may not have been much of a soldier, but Solomon had no equals in matters of scholarship.

"Yhvh endowed Solomon with wisdom and discernment in great measure, with understanding as vast as the sands on the seashore. Solomon's wisdom was greater than the wisdom of all the Kedemites and than all the wisdom of the Egyptians. He was the wisest of all men: [wiser] than Ethan the Ezrahite, and Heman, Chalkol, and Darda the sons of Mahol. His fame spread among all the surrounding nations.

. . . He composed three thousand proverbs, and his songs numbered one thousand and five. He discoursed about trees, from the cedar in Lebanon to the hyssop that grows out of the wall; and he discoursed about beasts, birds, creeping things, and fishes. Men of all peoples came to hear Solomon's wisdom, [sent] by all the kings of the earth who had heard of his wisdom." (1Kgs 5:9-14)

Solomon's education would most likely be categorized as Liberal Arts in our day; which is a pretty broad field of study consisting of a variety of subjects.

†. Ecc 1:2-3 . . Utter futility!-- said Koheleth --Utter futility! All is futile! What real value is there for a man in all the gains he makes beneath the sun?

He has a point. What does it benefit people "beneath the sun" to amass a fortune, build an empire, accumulate knowledge, possessions, education, accolades, achievements, and experience when they're only going to die and lose every single bit of it? Here's a humorous epitaph that quite says it all:

Here lies John Racket,
In his wooden jacket.
He kept neither horses
Nor mules.
He lived like a hog,
And died like a dog;
And left his money to fools.

/

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Ecclesiastes 1:4-8

†. Ecc 1:4 . . One generation goes, another comes, but the earth remains the same forever.

Solomon didn't intend for anyone to take his comment to mean that the earth is eternal. No, within context, he only meant that the earth outlasts everybody; viz: compared to human life the earth is permanent while all of us are transient.

It's quite humiliating to realize that a mindless lump of granite with an IQ of zero, and whose personal accomplishments amount to absolutely nothing, will easily outlive the finest minds and the most energetic movers and shakers who ever existed. The rock of Gibraltar, for example, was here before Plato, Alexander the Great, Darwin, Beethoven, Einstein, Eli Whitney, Edwin Hubble, Jonas Salk, and Steve Jobs; and the rock of Gibraltar was still here after they all died. It will still be here after you and I are dead too. Shakespeare once said: All the world's a stage. He was so right. Actors come and go, but the stage is always there; ready for a new cast.

It's just not fair. People are much smarter, more sophisticated, and far more valuable than anything on the planet. But the planet itself-- mute, ignorant, and impersonal --endures forever; while its superiors die and drop off all the time. In the grand scheme of things, Man's tenure on the planet is but for a fleeting moment; then he's gone and forgotten; washed away. For the vast majority of people, it will be as though they were never here at all. The planet was doing just fine before they got here, and it will go on doing just fine after they're gone. In point of fact it would do better if everyone were gone so that nature could be given time to rectify all the damages that man has inflicted upon it.

†. Ecc 1:5 . .The sun rises, and the sun sets-- and glides back to where it rises.

Sounds like Orphan Annie-- "The Sun-ull come owwwwt too-maw-row. Betcher bottum doll-ler that too-maw-rohhhhh, thair-ull be Sun." (chuckle) Annie has it pegged. Maybe clouds block the Sun from view now and then, but the clouds can never stop the Sun from coming up; nor stop it from going down either. The Sun always comes up, and it always goes down-- there's always day, and there's always night

†. Ecc 1:6 . . Southward blowing, turning northward, ever turning blows the wind; on its rounds the wind returns.

Solomon perceived that winds are cyclonic; and he's right. The Earth's air currents don't move straight ahead like waves roaring in on the beach. No, they circulate. High pressure areas move air into low pressure areas. And the winds never blow just once. They keep coming back to blow all over again.

†. Ecc 1:7 . . All streams flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full; to the place [from] which they flow the streams flow back again.

Solomon was pretty doggone savvy about hydrology. It's true. All streams flow towards the sea (duh! gravity makes water flow downhill, and most landmasses are above the level of the sea), but the water doesn't stay there. It returns to the land masses again via evaporation and snow, and rain, and hail, in a perpetual cycle.

†. Ecc 1:8 . . All such things are wearisome: no man can ever state them; the eye never has enough of seeing, nor the ear enough of hearing.

Science is fun. But there is just too much for one man to learn in his lifetime. Even those who specialize in only one branch, like astronomy, or biology, or chemistry, never really get it all. They are ever grasping for more knowledge, but it eludes them. Then they die and someone else comes along to pick up where they left off and continue the search.

A new 8.7 billion-dollar space telescope, said to be many times more powerful than the Hubble, dubbed the James Webb Space Telescope (a.k.a. JWSP) is on track for launch in 2018. What for? Only because Man's eyes never have enough seeing, and his ears never have enough hearing. He presses on for more and more knowledge because he just has to know. The quest for knowledge becomes the entire reason and motivation for missions like the JWSP. It's being built and launched simply for the purpose of discovery.

Nobel Prize winner, author of several best-selling books, and recipient of at least a dozen honorary degrees, Physicist Steven Weinberg (who views religion as an enemy of science), in his book, The First Three Minutes, wrote: "The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it seems pointless. But if there is no solace in the fruits of our research, there is at least some consolation in the research itself . . The effort to understand the universe is one of the very few things that lifts human life a little above the level of a farce and gives it some of the grace of tragedy."

What a dismal appraisal. To a brilliant, secular man like Mr. Weinberg, the human experience is an exercise in futility. The quest for knowledge seems the only thing that gives humanity any purpose to exist at all.

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Ecclesiastes 1:9-11

†. Ecc 1:9 . . Only that shall happen which has happened, only that occur which has occurred; there is nothing new beneath the sun!

Solomon noticed that nature has yet to reinvent itself; and yet to break it's own habits. The tide always comes in, and it always goes out. The sun always rises and it always sets-- there's always a day followed by a night. The wind blows past us, and eventually returns to do it again. In the Spring, leaves appear on trees, and in Autumn, they die and drop off-- every year. In the Winter it's cold, in the Summer it's hot-- always. It rains one day, it clears; and another day the rains return to do it all over again. Every year in the woods, little frogs lay eggs in vernal pools. Their pollywogs grow into more frogs who in turn will lay their own eggs in the very same vernal pools the following year. Birds fly south for the Winter, and birds fly north for the Summer

Every 27.3217 Earth days the moon completes one of its own sidereal days, and every 29.5307 Earth days it completes one of its own lunar months; the meanwhile always showing us the very same face; never the other side. For twelve months, the Sun appears to travel along the ecliptic through each of the constellations of the Zodiac. When it gets back to the Vernal Equinox, does it then change course and take a new path? No. It will go right back through every one of those very same twelve signs all over again.

While my wife and I were gazing at a planetary alignment of Jupiter, Saturn, Venus, Mars, and Mercury some time ago, it occurred to me that I was looking up at a universe virtually the same as the one that the Egyptians looked up at during construction of the Pyramids. They saw the very same stars, and the very same five naked-eye planets more than 4,000 years ago. Political climates, wars, disease, economic ups and downs, death and life-- none of that has influenced the circuits of those five planets. They methodically, silently, and religiously go about their business indifferent to Man's problems; constantly circling the sun and haven't changed their behavior one single bit since the day their creator hung them out there.

Through our Nikon FieldScope, we saw four of Jupiter's largest moons: Io, Callisto, Europa, and Ganymede. Those very same four moons were circling Jupiter on the night that Galileo discovered them with his crude 20x telescope in 1609 AD. Can you guess what those moons were doing 400 years ago back in Galileo's day? The very same thing they are doing now: orbiting Jupiter. And can you guess what Jupiter was doing in Galileo's day? That’s right; the very same thing it does now: orbiting the sun. Nature is truly in a rut.

†. Ecc 1:10-11 . . Sometimes there is a phenomenon of which they say, "Look, this one is new!"-- it occurred long since, in ages that went by before us. The earlier ones are not remembered; so too those that will occur later will no more be remembered than those that will occur at the very end.

When Man discovers something new in nature, it’s best to keep in mind that the new thing he discovered (in nature) didn't come into existence the day he found out about it. No, it was there all the time. He just didn't know about it yet. Like coal and uranium. Did Man invent those? No. Did he invent petroleum? Did he invent tectonic plates? Did he invent galaxies? Did he invent quasars? Did he invent genes? Did he invent DNA? Did he invent electromagnetic waves? No. Did he invent electricity? No. Did he invent gravity? Did he invent magnetism? Did he invent molecules? No, No, No, No. All those things are discoveries, not inventions.

It’s true that Man often manipulates nature to create things like super sweet corn, lasers, penicillin, plastic, cardboard, aluminum foil, gasoline, and nitroglycerine. But left to itself, nature rarely produces anything new because if there’s one thing nature dearly loves; it's routine.

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Ecclesiastes 1:12-16

†. Ecc 1:12-13a . . I, Koheleth, was king in Jerusalem over Israel. I set my mind to study and to probe with wisdom all that happens under the sun.

The phrase "all that happens under the sun" is limited to exactly that. Ecclesiastes is an accumulation of worldly observations; viz: one man's philosophy of life.

Your philosophy of life may not equal Solomon's in eloquence; but then it doesn't have to because one's philosophy of life is their own outlook derived from their own personal impressions, experiences, and observations. What I'm saying is: there is no one correct Ecclesiastes nor one correct interpretation of a book like Ecclesiastes. Though I offer mine for your intellectual enjoyment; you could probably write an interpretation of Solomon's composition of your own just as interesting; or better.

†. Ecc 1:13b-15 . . An unhappy business, that, which God gave men to be concerned with! I observed all the happenings beneath the sun, and I found that all is futile and chasing the wind: a twisted thing that cannot be made straight, a lack that cannot be made good.

From a practical point of view; it's futile to attempt to assign any real meaning to life-- just as there are some things that simply cannot be remedied; such as a tree twisted and gnarled so badly that it's lumber is beyond hope for use in a new home, or a five-foot man trying to meet a six-foot height requirement.

Well; that's Mr. Koheleth's preface to Ecclesiastes; and from here on, he will elucidate his reasons for being so negative about all that goes on under the sun.

†. Ecc 1:16 . . I said to myself: Here I have grown richer and wiser than any that ruled before me over Jerusalem, and my mind has zealously absorbed wisdom and learning.

Solomon wasn't what you might call a warrior king like Alexander the Great or Genghis Khan. He was more like Jacob (who had far less concern for outdoor adventure than his brother Esau). Solomon enjoyed a peace-time economy and generally good relations with his political neighbors. War was rare during his tenure on the throne, the state-of-the-union was tolerable, he was financially independent, comfortable, and had plenty of opportunity to devote himself to self improvement in the study of liberal arts; which are defined as: the studies (such as language, philosophy, history, literature, abstract science) in a college or university intended to provide chiefly general knowledge and to develop the general intellectual capacities (reason and judgment) as opposed to specific professional or vocational skills.

Webster's defines "wisdom" as: sagacity, insight, sagaciousness, sageness, sapience, shrewdness, sound judgment, and good sense. "Learning" is defined as: knowledge, information, education, scholarship, erudition, science, and facts.

Obviously, learning does not eo ipso make one wise or we wouldn't have so many educated people doing so many dumb things.

Solomon's desire to improve his mind isn't uncommon among the idle rich; after all, who better can afford higher education than they? They say a mind is a terrible thing to waste. Well, plenty of poor and middle class minds are going to waste simply for lack of funds. Some have managed to break the chains of ignorance through scholarships or great personal sacrifice on the part of themselves and of their families.

But not Solomon. No, he was born with a silver spoon in his mouth and inherited all the money one could ever possibly need, and then some. Finding the money for an education was the least of Solomon's concerns; and so, having nothing better to do with his time, he went to school; but anon discovered there is no guarantee education will bring people things like peace of mind and less stress. Solomon realized that he had expected too much from the pursuit of knowledge; in other words: education made him neither happier nor better off than before.

Many a privileged youngster has thrown away four perfectly good years of their life in college. They typically enroll in a liberal arts program, not really knowing what they want in life, often change their major, and come out of school four years older than when they first enrolled with no marketable skills, and no idea on earth how they will support themselves. All those tuition dollars, and all that time out of their life-- puff! . . up in smoke, frittered away; gone.

Adults seem obsessed with telling young people not to worry too much about things like career, marriage, family, and retirement because they have their whole life ahead of them yet. No. They don't have their whole life ahead of them. By the time a youngster is out of four-year college, at least 22 of the best years of their life are gone forever and they are in a third decade; rapidly approaching an age when they will be old enough to die of natural causes.

Time and tide wait for no man; with time being the one asset men can least afford to liquidate at bargain prices. You can always catch another tide, but no one yet has caught another youth.

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Ecclesiastes 1:17-18

†. Ecc 1:17-18 . . And so I set my mind to appraise wisdom and to appraise madness and folly. And I learned that this too was to pursue the wind: For as wisdom increases, vexation increases; to increase learning is to increase aggravation.

Sometimes it just doesn't pay to be too smart. People who never ponder the mysteries of life-- existing in oblivion day to day --seem far more content than sages and philosophers who vex themselves trying to justify the human existence. Live and let die is the motto of the simple person. But the philosopher just can't let it go that easily. He agonizes, he ponders the mysteries of life over and over again for the Nth time, and sometimes can't sleep because of it.

There's really nothing intrinsically wrong with searching for a meaning to life. But when people limit their search parameters to the natural world of empirical evidence; then they end up perplexed; and life seems futile and makes no sense.

In my opinion; leaving a supreme being out of one's quest for the meaning of life leaves a key piece out of the puzzle. In mathematical formulas, there is usually at least one constant from which a solution can be derived. Well; to me anyway, the existence of a supreme being is just as valid a constant in the meaning of life as the values of pi and the speed of light; and I think it's an oversight to look for a meaning without it; but hey; that's just me-- others may be just as content with a philosophy of life that's minus a supreme being as I am with a world view that includes one.

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Ecclesiastes 2:1-3

†. Ecc 2:1-2 . . I said to myself: Come, I will treat you to merriment. Taste mirth! That too, I found, was futile. Of revelry I said : It's mad! Of merriment : What good is that?

The only problem with a natural high is that it's so transitory. Joy and excitement are emotions, and emotions can't be sustained for very long before they need rest. Sometimes after a very pleasurable experience like a big night on the town, a great victory, an exciting movie, a day at Disneyland, or a wedding; we feel run down because the merriment wore us out. It's not uncommon for people to actually feel very depressed and let down after a round of excitement. They don't have a mental problem; no, their emotions are just fatigued.

There is nothing intrinsically wrong with entertainment and excitement. Solomon's focus isn't upon the morality of fun-- his focus is upon the value of it. Unfortunately, fun has no lasting value. It's value is temporal. Fun is only good for now, not for later. And things that are fun for the moment, often become boring after a while. I mean, picnics are fun, but who wants to do them every single day? And movies? I love movies like Matrix, Lost in Translation, Love Actually, Moonstruck, Inception, Avatar, Margin Call, and School Of Rock. I've watched them at least six times each. But you know what? I can't watch just those same eight movies all the time. I need variety because fun things lose their fun value when you do them too often.

From a practical point of view, entertainment is only profitable for an entertainment vendor. The patron derives no profits from fun. Take a chess game. Chess for some people is very entertaining, and quite relaxing. But there is no profit in a friendly game of chess; only a temporal pleasure. That's Solomon's point. Fun is good if you keep it in perspective. Have fun for fun's sake; but don't expect it to gain you anything of long lasting value-- and for pete's sake, don't let yourself feel guilty about having fun because amusement has a legitimate place in the human existence. Though fun has no eternal value, there's really nothing of eternal value to gain by asceticism either.

†. Ecc 2:3a . . I ventured to tempt my flesh with wine, and to grasp folly, while letting my mind direct with wisdom,

The word for "folly" is from cikluwth (sik-looth') and/or sikluwth (sik-looth'); which mean: silliness. Late night comedy like Saturday Night Live, Conan, David Letterman, and Jay Leno would fit into that definition.

Late night comedy isn't for everyone. Solomon, for example, was just far too sophisticated to enjoy something crass like that. He did give it an honest try though and thoroughly analyzed comedy's potential just in case there might be something he was missing. But comedy bounced right off Solomon. He could recognize humor, but couldn't enjoy it. He was one of those guys who can sit through episodes of Jerry Seinfeld, the Simpsons, and/or watch a romantic comedy like Made Of Honor and wonder what people see in them.

What Solomon was searching for was something to cheer himself up. He was an incredibly brilliant man, but his intellect only made him melancholy. So, along with comedy, he tried alcohol. But alcohol presents its own problems because your body gets used to it. Pretty soon, you have to imbibe larger and larger doses to get a buzz. And then when it wears off, you might have a headache and a hang-over. Same with narcotics. Users need larger and more frequent doses, and when they come down they often become blue and irritable; and sometimes so ill that they die.

†. Ecc 2:3b . . to the end that I might learn which of the two was better for men to practice in their few days of life under heaven.

Well, which is the better of the two-- alcohol or comedy --is a matter of opinion. Some people would prefer not to make a choice between them but to keep both. You could watch Leno with a night-cap or a glass of wine just as easily as not. And actually, those two are a pretty good way to end your day. Leno makes you laugh at the world, and the booze is relaxing so you can sleep better. The key to enjoyment in life is to do all things in moderation. A little wine is okay, but a lot is bad. A little silliness here and there is okay too; but a whole day of it every day all day long would not be a good idea.

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Ecclesiastes 2:4-7a

†. Ecc 2:4a . . I multiplied my possessions.

Even the poor have this opportunity-- to multiply their possessions --and some are pretty good at it in their own way. It's not unusual to see a homeless person with a shopping cart or a bicycle piled high to the sky with things they've accumulated. And many low-income folk here in America have at least two television sets and one car; and sometimes a gun too.

Here in Oregon we have a colloquialism that goes something like this: When the weather gets bad, it's time to go shopping. (chuckle) Who doesn't enjoy buying something new? A new possession can cheer you up; even little doo-dads and trinkets that cost only 49 cents. Whenever we go to the mall, I stop by the LEGO store and check out the key rings and now have Star Wars and Toy Story related rings attached to my backpack and a few more around the house. One is attached to the pull chain of desk lamp in my computer room. A new LEGO key ring always cheers me up. No doubt Solomon would just shrug and wonder why I was buying that stupid stuff.

I'm always thoroughly amazed at how lifted my wife's spirits become whenever she buys herself a trendy new lipstick or nail polish at Sephora's. Multiplying possessions is good for the mood; like Godiva chocolate. True, it's only a temporary high, but it's a good high and I always enjoy buying things, even if it's only second-hand at Good Will or Salvation Army.

†. Ecc 2:4b . . I built myself houses

The filthy rich never seem to be satisfied with just one home. No; they have a house in Bel-Air, and another out on The Hamptons. They have Summer cottages, and they have Winter cabins. They build custom homes costing in the millions of dollars and when they tire of those, they sell, move out, and build another custom home.

†. Ecc 2:4c-6 . . and I planted vineyards. I laid out gardens and groves, in which I planted every kind of fruit tree. I constructed lakes of water, enough to irrigate a forest sprouting with trees.

It isn't unusual for governments to build parks and initiate beautification programs in their cities. What the heck, why not when you can use someone else's money and don't have to pay for it yourself? Solomon received tribute from all his neighboring kingdoms: from the borders of Egypt clear on over to the Euphrates river. It was actually a time of great peace and prosperity in Israel according to 1Kgs 4:20 and 1Kgs 5:5.

Of course Solomon himself didn't do a lick of the work. He purchased slaves and conscripted his own citizens to accomplish his expensive ambitions. David his father conscripted foreigners, but Solomon went him one better with a national draft board that inducted his fellow Jewish men into government service. There was no danger of war at the time. He just needed manpower in the labor camps.

30,000 were conscripted to work with Hiram's axe men up in Lebanon logging for the new Temple, and he had another 70,000 general laborers, plus 80,000 men working in stone quarries-- and not to forget 12,000 horsemen. All his construction projects were very labor intensive because of the lack of machinery and power tools in those days.

†. Ecc 2:7a . . I bought male and female slaves, and I acquired stewards

The Hebrew word for "stewards" is ben, which means sons; viz: children born of slaves he already owned. So the bens cost him nothing all the while that his purchased slaves multiplied among themselves since in that day, the children of slaves were born into slavery.

People like Solomon, born with silver spoons in their mouths, typically don't take into consideration the feelings of others less privileged than themselves. They are often totally self absorbed. Those below them exist only as cannon fodder; lackeys to serve their every wish as if that were somehow the natural order of things.

Well, Solomon was finding out that sometimes the natural order of things works against those who are very intelligent, and against those who are very rich, and against those who are very powerful. Contentment and fulfillment eluded his grasp. No matter how he exercised his advantages in life, Solomon couldn't find peace of mind. He found that for men like himself, life is pointless. The more he sought fulfillment, the more he felt like he was wasting his time trying.

NOTE: An episode in 1Kgs 12:1-14 reveals that Solomon's people sorely resented the labor camps. He delighted himself in the public works that they accomplished with their own backs and the sweat of their own brows while he laid back in his palace and thought up more things for them to do.

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Ecclesiastes 2:7b-8a

†. Ecc 2:7b . . I also acquired more cattle, both herds and flocks, than all who were before me in Jerusalem.

It's interesting Solomon should mention he was a bigger cattle baron than all who were before him. What was he doing? Competing? Can you imagine? He wasn't content with enough. No; he had to have more than enough-- larger herds than all before him so that he became the champion rancher; literally the King Ranch of Israel. For some people, like Solomon, it isn't enough to win; no, all others must lose. Does being number-one really bring contentment? Well, it might for some, but it didn't for Solomon. And you know: it's only a matter of time before competitors like Solomon run out of people to best; and then what?

†. Ecc 2:8a . . I further amassed silver and gold and treasures of kings and provinces;

Solomon's wealth was what's known as tangible assets as opposed to assets on paper. The wealth off many of today's rich men is tied up in investments like derivatives, stocks, bonds, and funds: but much of Solomon's wealth was in precious metals-- real precious metals that you could hold in your hand rather than on-paper precious metals represented by a Wall Street trading account. Though many of today's rich men can show you on-record that they own a certain number of ounces of gold, silver, palladium, and/or platinum et al; where is it? Not in their own hands that's for sure; no, it's in somebody else's hands. Not so Solomon.

"[The Queen of Sheba] presented the king with one hundred and twenty talents of gold, and a large quantity of spices, and precious stones." (1Kgs 10:10)

"Moreover, Hiram's fleet, which carried gold from Ophir, brought in from Ophir a huge quantity of almug wood and precious stones." (1Kgs 10:11)

"The weight of the gold which Solomon received every year was 666 talents of gold, besides what came from tradesmen, from the traffic of the merchants, and from all the kings of Arabia and the governors of the regions.

. . . King Solomon made 200 shields of beaten gold-- 600 shekels of gold to each shield --and 300 bucklers of beaten gold --three minas of gold to each buckler. The king placed them in the Lebanon Forest House.

. . .The king also made a large throne of ivory, and he overlaid it with refined gold. Six steps led up to the throne, and the throne had a back with a rounded top, and arms on either side of the seat. Two lions stood beside the arms, and twelve lions stood on the six steps, six on either side. No such throne was ever made for any other kingdom.

. . . All King Solomon's drinking cups were of gold, and all the utensils of the Lebanon Forest House were of pure gold: silver did not count for anything in Solomon’s days. For the king had a Tarshish fleet on the sea, along with Hiram's fleet. Once every three years, the Tarshish fleet came in, bearing gold and silver, ivory, apes, and peacocks. King Solomon excelled all the kings on earth in wealth and in wisdom." (1Kgs 10:14-23)

Solomon's personal fortune, in adjusted dollars, must have easily exceeded Bill Gates' in that day. But wealth and luxury just didn't satisfy Solomon. I think many of us commoners would be happy not to work another day for the rest of our lives. Or would we? You just never know. Riches don't seem to protect the rich from despondence, boredom, depression, and feelings of failure and futility.

In 1997, Michael Hutchence, the lead singer of a really cool rock group called INXS, had a pleasant dinner with his dad and then went back to his hotel room and hanged himself with a leather belt. He was 37 years old. What the heck was that all about? Hutchence was young, healthy, wealthy, successful, popular, and doing well on the music charts. At dinner with his dad, he had expressed concern about the band's popularity and its future.

What is that saying? Hutchence's happiness was all bound up in music? So his concern over the band's possible decline in popularity made him despondent enough to end his life? It just doesn't make sense. So what does it really take to make some people happy? Well, for Solomon, it wasn't wealth and success; and, apparently for Hutchence, wealth and success didn't do it for him either: nor did youth, fame, nor popularity because real peace is psychological, and nowhere else. When you've got stuff in your head like bad memories, regrets, a history, inner conflicts, a poor self image, or low self esteem and feelings of failure, inferiority, inadequacy, and futility; nothing on earth can remedy that : not therapy, not pills, not dope, not anything─ nothing short of starting life all over again can get that stuff out of your head.

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Ecclesiastes 2:8b-11

†. Ecc 2:8b . . and I got myself male and female singers,

Makes you wonder what kind of music a brilliant, sophisticated guy like Solomon preferred. Rock? Jazz? Pop? Chorale? Rap? Country? Classical? Folk? Blue Grass? Opera? Broadway? Ballads? Spiritual? Barber Shop? New Age? Techno? Lady Gaga? Since electricity had not yet been harnessed in his day, the music available was somewhat primitive, and it was all live and all natural: nothing recorded, nothing electronic, and nothing amplified.

†. Ecc 2:8c . . as well as the luxuries of commoners-- coffers and coffers of them.

"coffers and coffers of them" is apparently a colloquialism similar to "oodles and oodles" or "a ton of 'em" or "a boat load of them" Actually the phrase "as well as the luxuries of commoners" is literally "luxuries of the sons of men." Which could easily be paraphrased "every luxury known to man."

Webster's defines luxury as: 1) a condition of abundance or great ease and comfort; 2) sumptuous environment; 3) something adding to pleasure or comfort but not absolutely necessary; 4) an indulgence in something that provides pleasure, satisfaction, or ease.

No doubt a filthy rich guy like Solomon, seeking the meaning of life, and seeking the best way to pursue life, indulged his every whim in an effort to find out what truly makes life worth living. The man was totally livin' large.

†. Ecc 2:9 . .Thus, I gained more wealth than anyone before me in Jerusalem. In addition, my wisdom remained with me:

That was fortunate; the part about retaining his wisdom. Some people go so far overboard in Hedonism that they mess up their minds. Curt Cobain, the driving impetus of the punk rock group Nirvana, at the peak of his success-- wealthy, married, living in a beautiful home, and everything going for him --ended his life with a shotgun at age 27 because of deep emotional problems. That's awful. If only he had kept his mind in all of his success. They say a mind is an awful thing to waste. Well, a mind is an awful thing to lose too.

†. Ecc 2:10-11 . . I withheld from my eyes nothing they asked for, and denied myself no enjoyment; rather, I got enjoyment out of all my wealth. And that was all I got out of my wealth. Then my thoughts turned to all the fortune my hands had built up, to the wealth I had acquired and won-- and oh, it was all futile and pursuit of wind; there was no real value under the sun!

Some of us would no doubt be very pleased to obtain all the enjoyments money can buy, but Solomon felt enjoyments aren't adequate; something was missing. It would seem that wealth should obtain for its owner more than just luxury, and entertainment, and property, and homes. It should at least make us feel content with life. But for some people it doesn't. So you've got to wonder: just exactly what works? What's the secret to contentment? What really does make life worth the living? What really does make life more than just a pointless human experiment? If only Hutchence and Cobain had known some satisfactory answers to those questions, maybe they'd still be here.

Curly, the tough 'ol leathered trail boss in the movie City Slickers, said the meaning of life is just one thing. When asked what that one thing was, he replied; "That's what you've gotta find out." You see; that one thing is not the same one thing for everyone. You have to find out what that one thing is for you because until then, your life-- a life with no purpose --is quite pointless.

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Ecclesiastes 2:12a

†. Ecc 2:12a . . What more can the king's successor do than what has already been done?

Many of the kings of the Davidic dynasty did pretty much the same thing Solomon did. They initiated building programs and public works, built themselves nice homes, accumulated wealth, built harems, and lived in luxury. None of them ever equaled Solomon's grandeur, but they all did pretty much the same things he did. Solomon recognized that he wasn't an unusual king; just one more doing the things that kings typically do; and when he was dead and gone, the next king would do pretty much what he did. Because of that, as a monarch, he felt predictable and unremarkable. Even though practically everything the man did was on a grand scale, he was still a foregone conclusion.

There can be entertainment and satisfaction in the doing of great projects; but what happens when the task is finished? Oftentimes there's a feeling of let-down; like when finishing a long, complicated, quest-type video game and/or when New York City's sand hogs completed Water Tunnel #3 after thirty-eight years of boring, drilling, and blasting. There's a sudden feeling of emptiness; a feeling of being adrift, and of discombobulation.

Solomon found delight "in" all his efforts, but afterwards, when they were all done, and he leaned back to appreciate his accomplishments, he was disappointed because he felt so empty. So he would begin a new project because it is in the doing of the work where a satisfactory sense of achievement is truly found. Henry Ward Beecher once said: "Success is full of promise; until men get it, and then it becomes last year's nest from which the birds have flown."

During my youth, growing up, I heard a lot about the so-called "work ethic" which Webster's defines as: a belief in work as a moral good. Well, there is nothing wrong in work per se, but what about workaholism? Is that really a moral good? Is that really beneficial to one's mental health?

I have a friend who can't relax. He has to be doing something productive all the time; even during mealtime. Oftentimes he’ll prune his roses while eating a sandwich for lunch because he feels that sitting down to eat is wasteful. He never goes to the movies; nor even watches TV unless it is on while he does the dishes or vacuums the carpet. He has never read any books other than the ones everyone had to read in school. He gets TIME magazine in the mail, but rarely bothers to glance at any of its articles.

He can't take drives in the country because he feels he could better use the time to mow the grass around his rental properties. He arrives at work a full hour early, and volunteers for all the overtime. Some years ago, he bought a computer; but it's still in the box because he was afraid he might spend too much time on it. That was prior to color monitors-- the very first version of Windows wasn't even on the market yet. Now he can't buy software for his computer because it is so obsolete. My friend is a true workaholic.

Work, for work's sake, can't satisfy the human heart no matter how successful the endeavor may be. This helps to understand why so many achievers are basically unhappy people. A single achievement is not enough. Achievers cannot sit back on their laurels. They have to keep finding new things to achieve. When Alexander the Great fought his last battle, it is said that he sat down and wept because he had no more kingdoms to conquer. The poor man was despondent because he had nothing to live for. People like Alexander have a very narrowly defined reason to live. Take it away, and they're adrift.

When workaholics retire, they often feel useless, and sometimes die from lack of meaningful activity. Well; Solomon came to the conclusion that work is okay when it's kept in perspective. But work alone can't provide lasting satisfaction. Looking over his works, Solomon felt very unfulfilled; and contentment continued to evade his grasp

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Ecclesiastes 2:12b-16

†. Ecc 2:12b-13 . . My thoughts also turned to appraising wisdom and madness and folly. I found that wisdom is superior to folly as light is superior to darkness;

Light has always been superior to darkness. Light cannot be dispelled by introducing darkness into a lighted room because darkness is not something that can be produced. It's simply a default condition in the absence of light.

Science and engineering has given us a flashlight, but has yet to invent a flashdark. You simply cannot shine a beam of darkness like you can shine a beam of light. Light is energy. Darkness is totally inert.

Solomon found that wisdom is superior to folly, which Webster's defines : (1) lack of good sense or normal prudence and foresight (2) criminally or tragically foolish actions or conduct i.e. evil and wickedness; especially lewd behavior.

So in the end, after careful consideration, and personally testing both styles of life, he found that it is far better to behave prudently than to act stupid, which is the default in the absence of good sense. I guess that all goes without saying, but sometimes intellectuals are prone to overstating the obvious.

†. Ecc 2:14a . . A wise man has his eyes in his head, whereas a fool walks in darkness.

Silly people just naturally get themselves into trouble all the time because they don't stop and think. We could create a huge list of dumb things that silly people are famous for doing. For example : If you've noticed, many of the advertisements on television target silly people. Why? Because Madison Avenue knows that most viewers of certain kinds of programming don't shop intelligently. They often buy impulsively, guided by their emotions rather than by their better judgment. Silly people are typically sensual rather than sensible; for example:

Studies show that the average voter typically selects a candidate based upon how they feel about the candidate; and then use their intellects to fabricate a justification for their choice. A case in point is America's past US President. Did people vote for Mr. Obama because of his executive ability? No, the man was no more qualified for US President than Hollywood actor Arnold Swarzenegger, the ex governor of Cawleefornyah.

People voted for Mr. Obama on the basis of just two elements of his persona: his charismatic speaking and the color of his skin. (Ironically, voters elected a candidate who campaigned as a Black man; but in reality had a Caucasian mother; i.e. Mr. Obama is neither black or white: he's mulatto. Mr. Obama's skin is actually coffee rather than black; and he's no more an African American than the pop singer Mariah Carey.)

†. Ecc 2:14b . . But I also realized that the same fate awaits them both.

uh-oh! Now we're getting to the heart of the matter: the brevity of life. Solomon is looking ahead to the reality of death; and death is the great equalizer after all isn't it?

†. Ecc 2:15-16 . . So I reflected : The fate of the fool is also destined for me; to what advantage, then, have I been wise? And I came to the conclusion that too was futility, because the wise man, just like the fool, is not remembered forever-- for, as the succeeding days roll by, both are forgotten. Alas, the wise man passes on just like the fool!

Who's ever heard of Hannes Alfvén? He won a Nobel prize in 1970 for discoveries in magneto-hydrodynamics. Wow! Yeah, okay; wow. Or how about Georges Lemaître? He discovered the universe is expanding in all directions before Edwin Hubble. But how often do Alfvén's or Lemaître's names come up in conversation around the average dinner table? Probably never; in most homes. They might be well known among those who share their interests in astronomy and magneto-hydrodynamics; but Alfvén and Lemaître might just as well have been two nameless, homeless bums sleeping under an overpass for all the fame they have among everyone else.

Most educated people know who Mozart was. But where is the great maestro today? He's gone. He's just as dead as all the people of his day who had no more talent for music than an ostrich. What lasting good did it do him to be a genius if it couldn't give him immortality? Mozart composed something like 600 pieces of music, but the composer of it all was washed away long ago one month short of his 36th birthday.

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Ecclesiastes 2:17-23

†. Ecc 2:17 . . And so I loathed life. For I was distressed by all that goes on under the sun, because everything is futile and pursuit of wind.

The "loathing" Solomon felt wasn't hatred, but rather, just plain old cynicism born of disillusion. When you're young, life is exciting and promising: you're optimistic and ready to roll into the future full speed ahead. But as the years go by, life loses its luster and becomes a drag, and as we get ever older and more debilitated, life becomes something to just get over with.

Just about the time you really get set in life, and have a few things figured out, and start to enjoy it, the aging process moves in to spoil your fun. One of my biggest gripes about life is that youth is wasted on the young. It's us oldsters who need youth, not the young because youngsters fritter away their youth on air-headed nonsense.

One morning on television, Kelly Rippa, of Live With Regis & Kelly, said her little boy was in a hurry to be older. He was only 5 then and wanted to skip the next two years and go straight to 7. See? That's what I'm saying. Kelly's boy was too young to appreciate how valuable youth is. He wanted to shed youth because in his immature mind, older is better.

It's not until our youth is gone that we can fully appreciate it's worth; but by then it's too late. In all of our young, self absorbed stupidity, we carelessly squander away the treasure of youth on meaningless pursuits and sometimes foolishly tempt fate in extreme sports because when we're young, it's all too easy to perceive ourselves suspended in some sort of time-stasis where we'll be forever 21. To our immature minds; older people appear to be born that way and we fail to comprehend that every time we encounter someone older, we are looking at our own futures.

"Time is the fire that consumes us all."
(Dr. Soran to Captain Picard in Star Trek: Generations)

†. Ecc 2:18-21 . . So, too, I loathed all the wealth that I was gaining under the sun. For I shall leave it to the man who will succeed me-- and who knows whether he will be wise or foolish?-- and he will control all the wealth that I gained by toil and wisdom under the sun. That too is futile. And so I came to view with despair all the gains I had made under the sun. For sometimes a person whose fortune was made with wisdom, knowledge, and skill must hand it on to be the portion of somebody who did not toil for it. That too is futile, and a grave evil.

It's bad enough that the wealthy have to leave their fortunes behind, but even worse when foolish relatives end up with it and fail to appreciate the toil and conscientious effort put into accumulating that wealth. The dumb ones start living it up, not taking into consideration that money spent is money gone forever. What will be left for the next generation if the first wastes the primary inheritance and fails to invest for the future?

Some people try to write their wills and trusts in such a way that their estates can't be wasted; but don't always succeed. In spite of the instruction and good example they may give, fathers and mothers have no way of knowing what their posterity will do with the wealth and property they worked so hard to accumulate during their lives.

†. Ecc 2:22-23 . . For what does a man get for all the toiling and worrying he does under the sun? All his days his thoughts are grief and heartache, and even at night his mind has no respite. That too is futile!

One of the disadvantages of striving to gain wealth is the sleep that's sometimes lost over it. Solomon observed that a rich man's abundance won't permit him to sleep (Ecc 5:12) for example: Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley, the most popular youth-oriented male singers ever to record music, shared a common malady: both had trouble sleeping. In contrast, I'm an obscure retired welder whose wife complains falls asleep too easily. Well, the difference is, I have peace of mind; whereas those two guys didn't.

"People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs." (1Tim 6:9-10)

Managing an empire is no picnic. There's long hours, employee disputes, tax problems, investment risks, OSHA, EPA, legal hassles, Federal interference, lawsuits, deadlines, time pressure, accounting errors, loan calls, and all that sort of thing; not to mention debt. Haw! debt is the the Grim Reaper for quite a number of mega businesses like the auto industry. Debt is what ultimately toppled the energy giant ENRON; wiping out 1.2 billion dollars in retirement funds, and 2 billion dollars in pension funds.

You know what else befalls empire-builders? Broken homes. Ray Kroc, the McDonald's mogul, was on his third marriage when he passed away. Jesus once said that you can't serve God and mammon. Well; you can't serve money and family either. Wealth-seekers generally serve the money and leave their families to sink or swim.

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Ecclesiastes 2:24-26

†. Ecc 2:24-26a . .There is nothing worthwhile for a man but to eat and drink and afford himself enjoyment with his means. And even that, I noted, comes from God. For who eats and who enjoys but myself? To the man, namely, who pleases [God] He has given the wisdom and shrewdness to enjoy himself;

A person's financial means can enhance their peace of mind and feelings of security. But to hoard wealth, to stock-pile it, being miserly and stingy, never doing something worthwhile with your means, never doing even yourself any good with it; is not wise. Some years ago, I heard about an elderly couple who died. When the house in which they had lived for many years was torn down, an amount of cash was found in the walls totaling about $40,000. The coroner's determination of cause of death? Malnutrition.

Money is a medium of exchange. Unless it's spent, it can do little or nothing for you. You can't eat money, but it will buy your food. It can't keep you warm, but it will buy your clothing and heating oil. Money is not a conveyance-- it can't be ridden like a magic carpet to transport you from point A on over to point B; but it will buy you a car, a bicycle, or a bus ticket. It can't chew your food, but it will pay a dentist to fix your teeth. Its possession doesn't make you a rock star, but it will buy you a ticket to an AeroSmith concert. Money has no scenic glaciers, but it will buy you a birth onboard a Princess Line cruise ship to Alaska.

"Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment." (1Tim 6:17)

That verse reveals that all the opportunities this world has to offer are provided by God for Man's enjoyment. Therefore, it is absolutely not a sin to enjoy life. Some people feel guilty about success. But that is an unhealthy attitude. Others take vows of poverty in order to enhance their piety. But it isn't necessary to be poor in order to please God. Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, were all very wealthy men whose circumstances-- which enabled them to live high on the hog --were made possible by God's providence. Wealth isn't intrinsically sinful. It's how people use their wealth that matters.

†. Ecc 2:26b . . and to him who displeases, He has given the urge to gather and amass-- only for handing on to one who is pleasing to God. That too is futile and pursuit of wind.

That scene is repeated over and over again in American tort jurisprudence. Business moguls in this country continually amass fortunes upon fortunes, only to be hauled into court and surrender some of it to the people they oppressed, beguiled, cheated, and ruined in their quest for riches. The Firestone tire scandal was one, and the on-going situation between smokers and Big Tobacco is another good example; not to mention the abysmal liability that oil companies accrue by shipwrecks and offshore drilling disasters.

And, oh! . . here's a really good one. Back on April fool's day of 2001, Jodee Berry, a waitress at one of the Hooters restaurants won a beer sales contest in which she was led to believe by management that the prize would be a brand spanking new Toyota. When it came time to pay up, Jodee was taken, blindfolded, out into the parking lot and presented with a toy Yoda-- a figurine of the Star Wars Jedi master. Well, Jodee didn't think that was very funny and took Hooters to court. The case was settled, and Jodee's lawyer said she won enough money to buy any Toyota she wants.

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Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

†. Ecc 3:1 . . A season is set for everything, a time for every experience under heaven.

This next section smacks of fatalism and predestination, but actually it only speaks of events that are quite normal and commonplace under the sun.

†. Ecc 3:2a . . A time for being born and a time for dying,

Those two events are open ended and their precise moments aren't chipped in stone. Every person experiences a birth, and each will experience a death too. Birth and death are like appointments. As soon as a women senses that she has conceived, she knows it's only a matter of time before she gives birth to a child so she has to begin planning for its arrival. Same with death. We all know we're going to die some day; it's just a matter of time.

But the problem with death is its stealth. We're young only till somewhere in our mid thirties and then to our horror begin to gradually wither. One of the biggest surprises of Billy Graham's life was age. He always believed he would die some day, but Billy wasn't prepared to get old first. His is not an unusual case. Most of us readily anticipate death; but seldom anticipate losing form and function.

†. Ecc 3:2b . . a time for planting and a time for uprooting the planted;

Farmers are constantly cultivating, planting, harvesting-- and then tilling what's left after the harvest to prepare for the next crop.

†. Ecc 3:3a . . a time for slaying and a time for healing,

A rabid dog has to die. But when your pet is hit by a car, you take it to the vet.

†. Ecc 3:3b . . a time for tearing down and a time for building up;

My dad worked many hours with his bare hands building us a home when I was a kid. He sold it when I was 11 years old. Twenty-three years later, all of dad's hard work was torn down and hauled off to make way for an RV storage lot; and the property denuded of trees and scraped bare by bulldozers. It's like we were never even there.

†. Ecc 3:4a . . a time for weeping and a time for laughing,

Sometimes people laugh and weep all at the same time; like at a wedding.

†. Ecc 3:4b . . a time for wailing and a time for dancing;

In a war, the victors celebrate and the vanquished mourn-- like in professional sports. The cameras always show the winners elated, jumping up and down, clapping themselves on the back, emoting for the press, and pouring ice water on the coach; but over on the other side, the losers are all glum and silent and dragging themselves back to the locker room.

†. Ecc 3:5a . . a time for throwing stones and a time for gathering stones,

It would be nice if the Palestinians would follow that and pick up after themselves when they're done pelting Israeli soldiers.

†. Ecc 3:5b . . a time for embracing and a time for shunning embraces;

Sometimes lovers and friends need to make up and settle their differences before they hug.

†. Ecc 3:6a . . a time for seeking and a time for losing,

In other words: A time to search and a time to give it up for lost.

†. Ecc 3:6b . . a time for keeping and a time for discarding;

Today's hot couture is tomorrow's Good Will donation.

†. Ecc 3:7a . . a time for ripping and a time for sewing,

When doctors need access to an injured patient's body, they often cut clothing off with scissors rather than fussing with buttons and zippers. The very same clothing can be repaired later by needle and thread.

†. Ecc 3:7b . . a time for silence and a time for speaking;

They say silence in golden, but sometimes it's yellow; know what I mean?

†. Ecc 3:8a . . a time for loving and a time for hating;

A time for love might be when your friends come over for dinner-- through the front door. However, if they sneak in the back way while you're out, and steal your 50" plasma TV so they can sell it for meth; that might be reason enough to dump your friends for new ones.

†. Ecc 3:8b . . a time for war and a time for peace.

Peace is much to be preferred to war. But sometimes war is necessary to procure and to preserve peace. We live in a big bad world where there are people more than happy to oppress you, abuse your human rights, control your movements, restrict your speech, clamp down on dissent, take away your wealth and possessions, destroy your home, separate you from your family, and put you to work in a gulag where you'll be underpaid, malnourished, constantly hungry, politically indoctrinated, and poorly clothed for the rest of your life.

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Ecclesiastes 3:9-15

†. Ecc 3:9 . .What value, then, can the man of affairs get from what he earns?

In other words: What does the worker gain from his toil? Well . . one thing he does not gain is control over the "times" listed in the previous eight verses because many circumstances in life are unpredictable and out of our hands no matter how much money a person might be prepared to spend.

†. Ecc 3:10 . . I have observed the business that God gave man to be concerned with:

The "business" of course just being the daily round of life beneath the sun.

†. Ecc 3:11 . . He brings everything to pass precisely at its time; He also puts eternity in their mind, but without man ever guessing, from first to last, all the things that God brings to pass.

Man is fraught with anxieties; and some of those anxieties are aggravated by uncertainty about the future. Within no sphere is that more evident among Americans than in their thoughts about retirement. Oftentimes people are so concerned about their futures that they fail to enjoy the present; so life slips past them until one day they realize they should have lived life when they had the chance instead of waiting till they retired.

†. Ecc 3:12-13 . .Thus I realized that the only worthwhile thing there is for them is to enjoy themselves and do what is good in their lifetime; also, that whenever a man does eat and drink and get enjoyment out of all his wealth, it is a gift of God.

There's nothing intrinsically wrong with preparing for the future, but surely not to the expense of missing out on life in the present. It's far better to enjoy life as you live it, and thank whatever god it is that you recognize for the pleasures you have at hand right now, not for the ones that may or may not come your way later. I've actually known men in my line of work who stayed on the job as long as age allowed just to get that very last penny of retirement benefit only to die within two years after leaving.

NOTE: Throughout the book of Ecclesiastes, the author uses a nondescript name for "God" which is 'elohiym (el-o-heem') a plural noun that means: gods. `Elohiym is an ambiguous word used of either gods in general or of one specific supreme being.

The three sacred names for the Bible's God-- Shadday, 'Adonay, and Yhvh --are nowhere in Ecclesiastes. The reason for that is quite simple. Solomon-- if indeed he's the author --refers to a supreme being in Ecclesiastes in a general sense; sort of like the common expressions: "Thank God nobody got hurt" and/or "God forbid!" There's nothing particularly religious in those kinds of expressions.

†. Ecc 3:14a . . I realized, too, that whatever God has brought to pass will recur evermore: nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it--

That frustrates and irritates some people because they would like to make some changes in the universe and change the world to suit their feelings. But the gods aren't budging. They're the ones in control. Man is not the one controlling the scheme of things. Man is a prisoner of the gods' sovereign control and there is not one single thing he can do about it.

†. Ecc 3:14b . . and God has brought to pass that men revere Him.

Unfortunately Man hates God for being the one in control. They neither fear Him, nor respect Him, nor yield to His sovereign authority. On the contrary, they very much resent God, and want Him deposed.

†. Ecc 3:15 . .Whatever exists today and whatever will exist in the future has already existed in the past. For God calls each event back in its turn.

What's that saying? History repeats itself? Who would have thought that people 3,000 years ago shared today's evaluation of world events? Modern man isn't really so modern after all; is he?

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Ecclesiastes 3:16-22

†. Ecc 3:16 . . And, indeed, I have observed under the sun: Alongside justice there is wickedness, alongside righteousness there is wickedness.

Back in the early days of movie-making, good and evil were well defined. The bad guys were totally bad and the good guys were totally good. Today, the difference between the good guys and the bad guys is blurred. The people we consider to be on the side of right, are often very immoral. They're dishonest, they sleep around, they steal, they break into people's homes, they don't respect private property, they bicker and quarrel, and they are exceedingly insubordinate with their superiors. The difference between the good and the bad is no longer black and white; but relative. The bad guys are badder than the good ones, but the good guys themselves are bad too.

The current on-going pedophilia scandal in the Catholic community is a glaring example of wickedness in the same place as righteousness. With alarming regularity we see more and more criminal cops in the news-- cops who should be upholding the law, not breaking it-- and should be protecting people, not intimidating them, breaking their arms, electrocuting them with stun guns, and shooting them full of bullet holes. To every bad cop I would like to say: Wearing that badge doesn't make you right; it just makes you a bully with a gun and a canister of pepper spray.

Imagine the chagrin of a San Diego municipal judge back in the 1980's when one day, to his utter shock and dismay, a hooker he frequented appeared in court as a witness to testify in a case he was hearing. Upon taking the stand, the hooker greeted the guardian of jurisprudence and expressed amazement that one of her Johns was on the bench.

†. Ecc 3:17-18 . . I mused: God will doom both righteous and wicked, for there is a time for every experience and for every happening.” So I decided, as regards men, to dissociate them [from] the divine beings and to face the fact that they are beasts.

When you get right down to it: when you strip away people's accouterments; what's left is really little more than human wildlife. In point of fact, to call a human being a beast is an insult to the animal kingdom because people are capable of doing things that are lower than an animal. I've yet to hear of an animal getting drunk and beating his wife; nor have I yet to hear of an animal betting the family's entire week's food budget on one pony at Belmont; nor have I yet to hear of an animal rolling a car into a lake with their kids inside in order to keep a boyfriend.

†. Ecc 3:19-20 . . For in respect of the fate of man and the fate of beast, they have one and the same fate: as the one dies so dies the other, and both have the same life-breath; man has no superiority over beast, since both amount to nothing. Both go to the same place; both came from dust and both return to dust.

Some people are inclined to think it is arrogant of Man to suppose he's the only form of intelligent life in the universe. But what is Man anyway but an unsanitary primate with a 3-pound lump of flabby organic tissue sufficing for a mind? We should want more of his ilk in the universe? I don't think so. Man is hardly more intelligent than an orangutan; and ten times more immoral. And besides; he's made of clay. And you know what happens when clay is all wet? It gets stuck on itself. But death is the great equalizer.

Beasts die and people die too; so people really have no advantage over a cow in that respect. True: a cow won't die rich, but then the rich take nothing out with them when they die; same as the cow: so who's really better off in the ground? the bovine or the rich man? Neither: they're equals in that respect.

†. Ecc 3:21 . .Who knows if a man's life-breath does rise upward and if a beast's breath does sink down into the earth?

Solomon has a point. Who today has a red-phone line connected to the afterlife? Nobody. People pride themselves on their faith in holy books like the Bible and the Koran; but really don't know for certain whether or not all of the writings in either book are actually true; do they?

Solomon never met anyone who came back from the dead with a tale to tell about the afterlife. How about you? Who have you known personally who died, was buried, and then later came back?

As brilliant and as intellectual as Solomon was, he was just as much in the dark about life after death as everybody else. Can you prove beyond a shadow of all reasonable doubt that there exists another life for human beings after death? No, you can't; and you won't know for sure until the day comes when you actually make the trip yourself.

†. Ecc 3:22 . . I saw that there is nothing better for man than to enjoy his possessions, since that is his portion. For who can enable him to see what will happen afterward?

There used to be a commercial on TV that went something like this: You only go around once, so do it with all the gusto you can get! Is that really such bad advice seeing as no one really knows for sure what happens after we die? What if all those super pious churchians who practice a life of strict self denial discover later after death that it was all for nothing? Wouldn't that be tragic? It is stupid to suffer self denial when no one really knows for rock-solid sure whether or not it counts for anything.

NOTE: Seeing as how Ecclesiastes is a book of philosophy, rather than revelation; then it's no surprise when we encounter things in here from the point of view of an agnostic quite often.

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Ecclesiastes 4:1-6

†. Ecc 4:1-3 . . I further observed all the oppression that goes on under the sun: the tears of the oppressed, with none to comfort them; and the power of their oppressors-- with none to comfort them. Then I accounted those who died long since more fortunate than those who are still living; and happier than either are those who have not yet come into being and have never witnessed the miseries that go on under the sun.

I'd be curious to know just exactly when, where, and how Mr. Born-with-a-silver-spoon-in-his mouth king Solomon was exposed to the "tears" of the oppressed. Maybe he was talking about all the hapless Jewish men he conscripted to work like slaves in his stone quarries and logging camps.

Some people really are better off dead, and also better had they not been born. I mean, for some people, what's the point of living at all.

It's difficult for the average American to appreciate the misery of people in other countries living in poverty, want, squalor, tyranny, despotism, and oppression. When I was a little boy living in San Diego back in the early 1950's I went on a trip with my parents to Tijuana. As we walked across a bridge over the Tijuana River, I looked down below at a pitiful community just like the community filmed in the movie Slum Dog Millionaire. The jam-packed homes (rudimentary shelters actually) were constructed of cardboard, sheets of plywood, corrugated tin, and sign boards. The children were all barefoot and there were no streets and sidewalks; just riverbed soil. I have no clue what they did for sanitation. It's my guess all their offal went into what there was of the Tijuana River as raw sewage.

Those people down in that riverbed weren't living; they were existing, and that with no more dignity than a hog in a wallow. (In later years, the community was washed away by unusually high water and subsequently the site permanently closed to squatters by the government.)

Hafez al Assad, deceased father of the current dictator of Syria, Bashar al Assad, was ruthless towards his political opponents. In the early 1980's, he dispatched his air force to bomb the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood's densely populated neighborhoods in the area of Hama. (I'm talking about Syrian citizens in a Syrian city; not foreigners in a foreign country). Afterwards, Hafez had his army bulldoze the smoking remains. Between 10,000 and 40,000 people were killed, and thousands more were jailed, tortured, and left to languish in prison. Protests from human rights organizations bounced off Hafez like a BB off of depleted uranium plating.

Ryan Crocker, a US ambassador who served in Damascus during the transition from Hafez to Bashar, said of the son: "Any suggestion that Bashar is a push-over is an illusion. He's so personable that it's easy to underestimate him. But rest assured, he is his father's son." Mr. Ryan is so right. It isn't unusual this very day to be dining out in Damascus while at the same time having to listen to dreadful screams coming from a second-floor window of the Bab Touma police station. In the street, people cast each other knowing glances but nobody says a word because someone might be listening.

There's little to no justice in China. Fully 99 percent of all trials result in a guilty verdict. If you're executed with a gun, the state sends your family a bill for the bullet.

In Kim Jong-Il's North Korea, three generations of a family can be punished for one member's alleged crime. As of 2008, Mr. Jong-Il had 200,000 of his own countrymen detained in labor camps: and don't get me started on Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe.

†. Ecc 4:4 . . I have also noted that all labor and skillful enterprise come from men's envy of each other-- another futility and pursuit of wind!

Most of us are pretty satisfied with what we have until we see someone with something better. Just because the Devil wears Prada, is it really essential that everyone else does? Gordon Gekko, of Wall Street/Money Never Sleeps, said : "While I was away, it seemed greed got greedier; with a little bit of envy mixed in. Hedge funders were walking home with 50, 100 million bucks a year". They say money is the root of all evil. Well, I would have to say that envy is money's kissing cousin. Bring those two together and the markets can become very volatile and just as vulnerable.

†. Ecc 4:5 . .The fool folds his hands together and has to eat his own flesh.

Just the opposite of those who strive to get ahead, is the lazy good-for-nothing, who can't be motivated to go out and find work or start a business. The others have it all, while he has nothing at all. At least the greedy and the envious have food on the table and a place to live. The fool is homeless and probably lives out of dumpsters, or worse, panhandles and mooches off friends. (One of my all-time favorite panhandler's makeshift cardboard signs said : Dreaming of a cheeseburger.)

†. Ecc 4:6 . . Better one handful with tranquility than two handfuls with toil and chasing after the wind.

In between the go-getters, and the homeless bums, are the moderate people. They don't have to have the best that life has to offer, nor the most money, and they don't want it. Their motto is : Better isn't necessary when adequate will do. These are happy with what they have and make do with what they can afford.

Moderate people aren't lazy, but then again, neither are they achievers nor overly industrious. They don't need a lot, they're easy to please, and are usually very content; e.g. when they shop for diamond jewelry, the stones don't have to be flawless; just sparkly and pretty. They might splurge on a consumer-priced Bulova or a Seiko, but won't shell out the extra dough for a Breitling or an IWC even though they're the better timepieces. They prefer cars that are economical rather than cars that are cool, fast, and fitted out with the latest electronics. They eat at ordinary buffets and restaurants rather than fancy, black-tie supper clubs; and their back yards are likely to have just as many weeds as ornamental shrubs. While others chase status, moderates prefer to chase sales and clip coupons.

But the sad part is; those greedy, leveraged-to-the-hilt hedge-funders and are the very ones ravaging the moderates' retirement plans. And if the fund goes belly-up-- as many did in the last sub-prime blood bath --what do they care? It wasn't their money that was lost; it was yours while they escaped with a bail-out and/or a golden parachute. And the bail-outs? Who pays for those? Duh . . . the moderates' via federal taxes; of course.

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Ecclesiastes 4:7-12

†. Ecc 4:7-8 . . And I have noted this further futility under the sun: the case of the man who is alone, with no companion, who has neither son nor brother; yet he amasses wealth without limit, and his eye is never sated with riches. For whom, now, is he amassing it while denying himself enjoyment? That too is a futility and an unhappy business.

That surely describes people like Ebenezer Scrooge-- Charles Dickens' friendless loner in A Christmas Carol --the prince of misers. The man has great wealth, and sees the amassing of wealth as the only justifiable reason to be alive. He despises family life, shuns circles of close friends, and regards charitable causes as theft. The man won't even spend his money on decent food to nourish himself; let alone wood or coal to heat his dismal home. His fortune does neither him nor anyone else any real good at all except provide him with questionable old-age security.

†. Ecc 4:9-10 . .Two are better off than one, in that they have greater benefit from their earnings. For should they fall, one can raise the other; but woe betide him who is alone and falls with no companion to raise him!

Webster's defines "synergism" as: interaction of discrete agencies, agents, or conditions such that the total effect is greater than the sum of the individual effects.

John Nash put that principle into his Nobel Prize-winning economic theory. He felt that it is possible to not only do yourself the better good, but at the same time to do it in such a way that your efforts mesh with the efforts of others so that all benefit.

Marriage is a synergic arrangement. Partners are more secure, and usually accomplish much more together than an individual on their own; and they look out for each other too. When a wife gets a muscle spasm in her back, and can't walk, then the husband can put her on a blanket and drag her down the hallway to the bathroom. When the husband's car blows a heater hose on the way home from work, the wife can use her own car to come and get him at the repair shop and bring him home for dinner. Plus, if both work, their combined income makes it possible to carry a mortgage instead of throwing money away on rent.

†. Ecc 4:11 . . Further, when two lie together they are warm; but how can he who is alone get warm?

To be warm, as in Ecc 4:11, implies more than merely warding off a chill. It means to be comforted. There is very little solace to be found in solitude. Loner type of people often end up plagued with depression and dark thoughts because God didn't create Man to live alone. People are designed to be couples.

"Then Yhvh God said; It is not good for Man to be alone; I will make a suitable aid for him." (Gen 2:18-19)

The word aid isn't spelled with an "e" as in aide; but rather as in First Aid. So women weren't intended to be a man's assistant, but rather his assistance; viz: a crutch, someone to lean on. So then, women who compete with men-- and/or ridicule, carp, chafe, dominate and demean them --are twisted females, and total failures at being women. They've got the gender; but lack the heart to go with it; and God pity a man's children who grow up with a mother like that.

†. Ecc 4:12 . . Also, if one attacks, two can stand up to him. A threefold cord is not readily broken!

All he's saying there is that a single strand of hemp by itself is weak; but when woven together in multiple strands, becomes very strong; viz: the combined strands become force multipliers.

In the darkening days in which we live in America, jogging and bicycling alone can be very dangerous in a city park; especially after sundown. It's far more sensible to mingle with others; even if they're strangers. People alone are easy marks for muggers and wilding attacks. Nobody's invincible. Even a tough guys like Chuck Norris and Jason Stathan

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Ecclesiastes 4:13-16

†. Ecc 4:13-16 . . Better a poor but wise youth than an old but foolish king who no longer has the sense to heed warnings. The youth may have come from prison to the kingship, or he may have been born in poverty within his kingdom. I saw that all who lived and walked under the sun followed the youth, the king's successor. There was no end to all the people who were before them. But those who came later were not pleased with the successor. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

That passage observes the instability of political power, and the fickleness of popularity. The incumbent ruler may have at one time heeded his advisors' input and lead his country wisely. But when he got old, he stopped listening to them. As a result, a younger generation despised him for being egotistic, out of touch, and insensitive to his countrymen's feelings. His arrogance and egotism made him a prisoner of his own foolish mind and eventually, he was either deposed, or voted out of office.

A younger man, unknown till now, an underdog, whose platform preached political reforms, a hope you can believe in, environmental improvement, and economic recovery; made impressive speeches and won the people's hearts. He took over, led his country out of economic depression and to great victories over their enemies. His country enjoyed worldwide prestige and great prosperity. But the younger leader's popularity didn't endure. He himself aged and stopped listening to the voice of the people and his advisors' input, and he too then became unpopular with a younger generation; who then began clamoring for his overthrow just like his own generation had done to his predecessor. It's an endless cycle. Politicians are loved when they are voted in, and hated when they are voted out.

Oliver Cromwell, who took the British throne away from Charles l, and established the commonwealth, said to a friend : "Do not trust to the cheering, for those same persons would cheer just as much if you and I were going to be hanged."

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Ecclesiastes 5:1-6

†. Ecc 5:1 . . Be not overeager to go to the House of God: more acceptable is obedience than the offering of fools, for they know nothing [but] to do wrong.

Old Testament Judaism was built around a fully functioning Aaronic priesthood whose duty was to collect sacrifices and offerings from the people. But the worshippers abused the system because they lived like the Devil during most of the year and tried to make up for it with sacrifices. To see how God feels about that kind of religious hypocrisy, just read the first chapter of Isaiah.

In no uncertain terms, God angrily spurned his people's offerings-- their prayers, their holy days, their festivals and feast days, and yes even their sacred Sabbath observances because although they were very religious, they were, at the same time, a hard-hearted, stubborn pack of scofflaws.

You can see the very same thing going on in Christianity. Many pew-warmers live utterly worldly, carnal lives all year long and expect that church attendance on Easter Sunday will somehow make up for it. That day is the most heavily attended church day in Christendom. People who normally wouldn't step over the threshold of a church door all year long, will attend on Easter Sunday so they don't feel completely heathen. Easter service, to them, is some sort of redemption day, somehow wiping away a whole year's worth of impiety and is supposed to convince Jesus they truly love him after all.


NOTE: Just for the fun of it some day, position yourself where you can watch the front of a church when it's let out Sunday morning and observe the number of Christians who J-walk back to their cars. (chuckle) You might be surprised.

†. Ecc 5:2-3 . . Keep your mouth from being rash, and let not your throat be quick to bring forth speech before God. For God is in heaven and you are on earth; that is why your words should be few. Just as dreams come with much brooding, so does foolish utterance come with much speech.

You know, prayer is not a mandated requirement. If you've really nothing to discuss with God, then skip it: say nothing; remembering that God is a king, and kings shouldn't be treated as if they're dumb enough to suffer fools and waste their time listening to filibusters and bombastic rhetoric.

†. Ecc 5:4-6 . .When you make a vow to God, do not delay to fulfill it. For He has no pleasure in fools; what you vow, fulfill. It is better not to vow at all than to vow and not fulfill. Don't let your mouth bring you into disfavor, and don't plead before the messenger that it was an error, but fear God; else God may be angered by your talk and destroy your possessions.

The "messenger" is translated from mal'ak (mal-awk') which is somewhat ambiguous. It can mean a messenger, an angel, or a prophet, or a priest or a teacher.

At Gen 48:16 it refers to God; and it probably refers to God here too in Ecc 5:4-6.

A holy vow is between you and God, not between you and your church. So don't be rash with your promises nor make excuses for reneging. A promise is a promise; and God will hold you to your vows even if you can't afford it. You just try to be lax in your payments with a shylock and see what happens. You risk fractured ribs by men who are very good at breaking things over people's heads. When the points are due, that's when they're due; not later. If shylocks are to be feared, then God needs to be feared even more.

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Ecclesiastes 5:7-11

†. Ecc 5:7 . . For much dreaming leads to futility and to superfluous talk.

God's people should be known for keeping their feet on the ground, and their head out of the clouds. Religion is not supposed to be in words. It's supposed to be in shoe leather, in your everyday life. It's supposed to be in honesty and integrity-- it's in few words, and it's in keeping your word. Flowery prayers, and showy vows and pledges don't please God near as much as just simply being a man of your word. You can't buy God off with churchianity nor can you fool Him with it into thinking you are somehow pious and above reproach when the truth is; you're not.

†. Ecc 5:8 . . If you see in a province oppression of the poor and suppression of right and justice, don’t wonder at the fact; for one high official is protected by a higher one, and both of them by still higher ones.

Existing alongside America's elected officials, is a shadow government called the bureaucracy. Bureaucrats are non-elected officials who are actually the ones conducting much of the government's business. High profile bureaucrats would be the President's cabinet. But many others operate completely invisible to the general public until they become implicated in a news-worthy scandal.

Too many bureaucrats are looking out only for themselves; most especially their jobs. So they tend to make every effort to please their superiors; often to the detriment of the voting public's best interests. No one should be shocked at this. It's pretty normal because after all, human government is staffed by human beings with human feelings and ambitions.

†. Ecc 5:9 . .The increase from the land is taken by all; the king himself profits from the fields.

Government officials are sometimes said to be feeding at the federal trough. Like greedy swine, they gobble up a large percentage of the gross national product to pay their own wages, perks, and benefits; and to finance ear-marks and pork. But citizens benefit in many ways from taxes too. So the government is not the only one taking a piece of the country's wealth.

†. Ecc 5:10 . . A lover of money never has his fill of money, nor a lover of wealth his fill of income. That too is futile.

Money may not be the number one thing in life; but it's way ahead of whatever is number two. When Shia LaBeouf's character asked Josh Brolin's character-- in the movie: Wall Street/Money Never Sleeps --what his number is; viz: the number of dollars that would be enough for him to walk away from investment banking and retire; Brolin's character answered: More.

People obsessed with money actually love and revere it; and make any and every sacrifice to get it. They stay up late, work long ridiculous hours, disconnect from their families, and even betray their friends' trust to get it. Their minds are filled with thoughts about money, their lives are controlled by getting it and guarding it; and while they have it: they feel a great sense of pride, achievement, security, and independence.

The amount of money they possess pales in importance compared to their rabid desire to simply amass it. I've heard it said that success is the best revenge. There are too many people out there in the business world who need money simply to feel better about themselves, and to get one over on their rivals.

†. Ecc 5:11a . . As his substance increases, so do those who consume it;

The wealthy often find themselves hounded by foundations, causes, charities, and freeloading relatives and friends. MC Hammer, a very popular rapper in the 80's and 90's, was quite rich at one time but spent it all on not just himself, but on his entourage as well. Making money in a big way involves the employment of a staff; and those kinds of staffs aren't cheap. They all average six figures; not to mention their bonuses which commonly run up to seven.

†. Ecc 5:11b . . what, then, does the success of its owner amount to but feasting his eyes?

Past world heavyweight boxing champion Joe Louis was heard to say: I don't like money actually, but it quiets my nerves. Yes, money is good for feasting the eyes, and provides a certain sense of security. However, money is no guarantee your nerves will be calm, nor that your sleep will be sound; nor that your security is assured.

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Ecclesiastes 5:12-16

†. Ecc 5:12 . . A [slaves'] sleep is sweet, whether he has much or little to eat; but the rich man's abundance doesn't let him sleep.

When you have nothing, you don't worry too much about losing it. But when you have a lot, then you fear going broke; and along with riches comes eating gourmet foods which sometimes cause indigestion and acid reflux.

I know a man who, as he got older, became concerned about dying before owning a really good watch. So, he took some money out of his home equity line and bought a Rolex Explorer II, a TagHeuer Chronograph, a Rolex Datejust, and an Omega Double Eagle Chronograph. All totaled, he shelled out roughly $20,000. He's very happy with the watches, but now worries all the time they might get stolen. He didn't have those kinds of worries when he owned timepieces no more expensive than a Casio G-shock.

†. Ecc 5:13-14 . . Here is a grave evil I have observed under the sun: riches hoarded by their owner to his misfortune, in that those riches are lost in some unlucky venture; and if he begets a son, he has nothing in hand.

That is so sad. The ENRON scandal brought to light the dangers of investing in a retirement system that is solely dependent upon just one company's prosperity. When the stock price of ENRON plummeted, the value of its employee retirement system plummeted too; and so steep was the collapse, that many of the energy giant's rank and file were left with virtually zero dollars in their retirement accounts.

A veteran electrician with PGE (Portland General Electric) related how his account was worth something like $348,000 when ENRON's value began to fall. He couldn't do anything about it because his account was frozen while the executives at ENRON were permitted to move their money to safety. By the time the PGE electrician's account was unfrozen, its value had dropped to $1,200.

The sub-prime Wall Street disaster did the very same thing to a pretty good number of vulnerable retirement accounts. Though the Federal Reserve bailed out the big investment banks, it did nothing for the little banks nor for the innocent folks who were ruined by the collapse.

†. Ecc 5:15 . . Another grave evil is this: He must depart just as he came. As he came out of his mother's womb, so must he depart at last, naked as he came. He can take nothing of his wealth to carry with him.

I once heard a story about a very famous rich man who died. At the reading of his will, newspaper reporters were required to remain outside and not allowed to interview the heirs until later. When the reading was over, a reporter approached one of the lawyers and asked how much the old gentleman left. The lawyer replied: He left it all.

Yes, the rich man couldn't take a single dime of his wealth into the next life. It all stayed here and he went into eternity completely broke.

There is a story, in Luke 16:19-31, of a rich man who died and went to the fiery portion of Hades. In life he lived sumptuously, eating the best of foods and drinking the best of wines. But in Hades, the poor fellow doesn't even have so much as a glass of water. You know, restaurants put glasses of water on our tables as a matter of courtesy. The water is free. It's on the house. You don't need to be wealthy to merit a glass of water in a restaurant. But in the fiery portion of Hades, nobody is given any courtesy whatsoever no matter how prominent they may have been in life.

†. Ecc 5:16 . . So what is the good of his toiling for the wind?

It isn't intrinsically evil to save and invest. After all, Solomon wrote in Proverbs that it's wise to look ahead, and parents are wise who lay something aside for their children. But the people who hoard, and who amass wealth simply for the sake of possessing it for themselves, are laboring for the wind. They can't possibly keep it into the next life, so the best thing for them to do is share it while they are here where it will do the world some good. It's okay to keep enough for yourself for now and for the future, but when there's a ridiculous surplus, find a way to disperse it. Otherwise, your hoarding serves no useful purpose, and at death your wealth is surrendered anyway.

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Ecclesiastes 5:12-16

†. Ecc 5:17 . . Besides, all his days he eats in darkness, with much vexation and grief and anger.

Wealthy people don't usually eat in the dark. Many have very nice chandeliers over the table. But in their hearts often lurk evil thoughts, bad memories, regrets, grievances, resentments, disputes, hard feelings, and a bad conscience. They're really no different than the average man in that arena. Like they say: So and so puts his pants on one leg at a time just like everyone else.

†. Ecc 5:18 . . Only this, I have found, is a real good: that one should eat and drink and get pleasure with all the gains he makes under the sun, during the numbered days of life that God has given him; for that is his portion.

Solomon mentions death so often that you might think he was obsessed with it. But really, he wasn't. His philosophy of life was such that he took death into consideration so that his days weren't spent as if they were infinite and he expected to live forever. A balanced philosophy of life has to include the very real possibility of imminent death to keep things in proper perspective.

"Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted: but the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away. For the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and the flower thereof falleth, and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth: so also shall the rich man fade away in his ways." (Jas 1:9-11)

"Come now, you who say; Today or tomorrow we shall go into such and such a town, spend a year there doing business, and make a profit-- you have no idea what your life will be like tomorrow. You are a puff of smoke that appears briefly and then disappears." (Jas 4:13-14)

"For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away" (1Pet 1:24)

"A voice rings out; Proclaim! Another asks; What shall I proclaim? All flesh is grass, all its goodness like flowers of the field: Grass withers, flowers fade when the breath of the Lord blows on them. Indeed, man is but grass: Grass withers, flowers fade" (Isa 40:6-8

Man is but perishable fruit like peaches, pears, strawberries, cantaloupe, avocado, and oranges: and no amount of refrigeration will keep him fresh. Regardless of the amount of rest, fresh air, good diet, and exercise; man begins to wither right around the age of 32 or 34.

Youngster's can't picture their expiration date as three brief decades: to them, 32 years seems long and way out in the distance. Hence the withering process often sneaks up and takes them by surprise like starting a frog off in cool water and slowly bringing it up to a boil. Of a sudden, one day it swats them in the face like a rolled up newspaper that they're "old school" replaced by a young, hip generation wherein they've been accustomed to thinking all along was themselves.

The withering process, once it starts, is relentless. Like a Terminator: it can't be bargained with, it can't be reasoned with, it doesn't feel pity or remorse or fear, and it absolutely will not stop-- ever! --until you are dead. Once the withering process sets in, from that moment on, man is shackled to a living death

†. Ecc 5:19-20 . . Also, whenever a man is given riches and property by God, and is also permitted by Him to enjoy them and to take his portion and get pleasure for his gains-- that is a gift of God. For [such a man] will not brood much over the days of his life, because God keeps him busy enjoying himself.

Within the context of the book of Ecclesiastes, a "gift of God" should never be taken literally. It's just a colloquialism, like the common term "act of God" used to label the cause of natural calamities like earthquakes, floods, storms, miscarriages, and stuff like that.

I'm in my retirement years, and one of the things I avoid is keeping too busy because I don't want the final years of my life to pass quickly. They'll pass soon enough; but when you keep busy, time really has a way of flying. On the flip side is one's mental health. Keeping busy does have a way of preventing people from doing too much introspection and reminiscence thereby developing a chronic case of the blues. One's mind can atrophy too if they never do anything to exercise their intelligence. So I try to strike a balance: I keep somewhat physically busy, and I keep somewhat mentally busy too; while carefully avoiding excess in either area.

/


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Ecclesiastes 6:1-9

†. Ecc 6:1-2a . .There is an evil I have observed under the sun, and a grave one it is for man: that God sometimes grants a man riches, property, and wealth, so that he does not want for anything his appetite may crave,

Here we go with that "gift of God" thing again; but these are typically a genre of gifts that Solomon observes "under the sun" rather than in the sphere of true providence. Just because somebody is rich is no indication their prosperity was engineered by God. Even career criminals, Wall Street barracudas, predatory lenders, and corrupt politicians are often rich; no thanks to God. Some feel the Kennedy clan is blessed, yet they are very well off due to grandpa Joe's lack of scruples.

†. Ecc 6:2b . . but God does not permit him to enjoy it; instead, a stranger will enjoy it. That is futility and a grievous ill.

That is the classic "the Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away; blessed be the name of the Lord" attitude. Calling any act of God "futility and a grievous ill" would normally be considered accusing God of sin, except that in this case, Solomon doesn't really mean it that way. To an intellectual, the concept of God is merely academic; and an "act of God" is really no more literal than pie in the sky or the man in the moon.

A common example of this "evil" about which Solomon spoke is someone who worked hard all their life, saved and invested wisely, and then one day WHAM, during a routine physical exam, their doctor shocks them with the life-changing news they have on-set Alzheimer's. Guess where that person's savings and investments will end up now. Yes, towards medical attention and long term care. The health care system, and it's medical professionals, will make a big dent in their life savings.

†. Ecc 6:3-6 . . Even if a man should beget a hundred children and live many years-- no matter how many the days of his years may come to, if his gullet is not sated through his wealth, I say: the stillbirth, though it was not even accorded a burial, is more fortunate than he. Though it comes into futility and departs into darkness, and its very name is covered with darkness, though it has never seen or experienced the sun, it is better off than he-- yes, even if the other lived a thousand years twice over but never had his fill of enjoyment! For are not both of them bound for the same place?

One advantage a stillborn child enjoys over and above the living is that although it never had a chance to live; it doesn't know what it missed either. In its case, ignorance is truly bliss. The person who had the means and the wherewithal to enjoy life, but failed to take advantage of it before they died, will suffer unspeakable mental anguish throughout eternity for missing their chance to enjoy life before it was too late. In that respect, the miscarried child is much better off because it has more peace of mind than others even though it never owned anything; no, not even so much as a name to call its own.

I knew an older man once who owned a very expensive wrist watch that he reserved for special occasions. Well; that is short sighted if you ask me' He should wear that nice watch whenever he gets the chance because life is so uncertain. People should enjoy their nice things while they can rather than wait till they're at the point of death. Life is not a do-over. You've got live it as you live it: not wait till a more opportune moment; which, as sometimes happens, quite possibly may never come. Carpe Diem: seize the day. People who put off living life to its fullest till later often find out it's too late to do so.

†. Ecc 6:7-8 . . All of man’s earning is for the sake of his mouth, yet his gullet is not sated. What advantage then has the wise man over the fool, what advantage has the pauper who knows how to get on in life?

Food and water are two things in life that, like sleep, cannot be taken just once because once is not enough. You have to eat again, you have to drink water again, and you have to sleep again. That is a law of life for both the stupid and the intelligent, for both the rich and the poor, for both the female gender and for the male gender. No one is exempt from that law-- all are equal in those respects-- except for the reticent 17 year-old Twilight vampire Edward Cullen of whom it's said never needs sleep.

†. Ecc 6:9 . .What the eyes see is better than what the soul desires. This too is futility and a striving after wind.

Sometimes I think the most content people are the blind because they go shopping with their heads instead of their eyes. People invariably buy things that are far more expensive than what they could get by with if they had to.

This same weakness of the eyes will compel a boy to marry a beautiful girl who is totally wrong for him. The Creator made women to be a man's very best friend first, his lover second, and the mother of his children third. But some men just can't get past a girl's looks; and as all women know, when it comes to love; men use their eyes much better than they use their heads. They often pick a wife without thinking because looks mean almost everything to the average man; and a woman's personality is only secondary, if it's taken into consideration at all.

Women, as a rule, focus on the aspects of intimacy and relationship; but men, as a rule, focus on the physical aspect. One of Billy Crystal's lines from City Slicker says it all: "Women have to be in the mood, while men just need a place."

Take a look around the magazine racks in Barnes & Noble some time. The regular racks contain lots of magazines with girly covers; and inside them are lots of girly photographs; while over in another aisle away from the racks, are shelves displaying the romance novels. Most guys don't care for romance novels; those are for the women; because romance novels are to women what girly pictures are to men; just in a different way. Photographs stimulate men through their eyes, while novels stimulate women through their feelings; which easily explains why some men would rather walk the neighbor's dog than sit through a chick flick.

/


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Ecclesiastes 6:10-12

†. Ecc 6:10 . .Whatever happens, it was designated long ago and it was known that it would happen; as for man, he cannot contend with what is stronger than he.

I guess you could call that attitude fatalism.

Some things really are predestined and often we just have to face the facts; e.g. old age and death are two of life's unpleasant realities. Everyone is stuck with debilitation and there's no use in fighting it. Menopause is another chipped-in-stone fact of life that is just as real as the air we breathe all around us. If couples aren't careful, and let too much time slip by, menopause will steal away their chances for a baby. And on top of that, the older a woman gets, the more her eggs age and become less viable than when she was young. The same problem exists for men, just in a different way. Men aren’t born with all their sperm cells. Fresh ones are manufactured by their bodies all the time. However, those fresh cells are the cells of an aging man. So if a man waits to have children when he's old, his chances of producing a child with birth defects increase.

Some people enjoy toying with death; and go hiking in the wilderness all alone and/or jump off high places with a bungee cord. Some say people like that have a death wish. No, what they really have is a wish to flirt with death and live to tell about it. Their attitude is : If you aren't walking on the edge; then you're taking up room.

Personally, I don't want to die like a fool. People who tempt fate by participating in extreme sports are just asking to be dead and/or crippled for life before their next meal-- and then what?

†. Ecc 6:11-12 . . Often, much talk means much futility. How does it benefit a man? Who can possibly know what is best for a man to do in life-- the few days of his fleeting life? For who can tell him what the future holds for him under the sun?

Solomon's comment pertains to a man's time "under the sun" rather than after his death.

They say for every action there's a reaction; and that's generally true. But who can really predict the repercussions of their decisions? In other words: when a butterfly flaps its wings in England, does it put in motion other acts of nature that eventuate in a typhoon in Samoa?

Life isn't like a chess game where the masters can see twelve moves ahead. No, life is oftentimes a gamble. A young fellow contemplating the risks and responsibilities of marriage once lamented to me how chancy it is to get married in these days with the world in such turmoil and the economy uncertain. But I said to him: Life goes on.

My friend realized of course that life does go on even under the extreme threats of nuclear war, terrorism, air and water pollution, drug cartels, road rage, brown-outs and water shortages, insane oil prices, acid rain, crime, prejudice, drive-by shootings, global warming, unemployment, economic collapse, and reactor melt-downs. People do manage to somehow cope and keep going. Well, not long after that, he married his best girl; who proved to be just the right one for him too. His pretty bride made him forget all about the dangers of lay-offs, spiraling medical costs, and mortgage debt. My young friend never felt better in his life. Carpe Diem.

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Ecclesiastes 7:1-4

†. Ecc 7:1a . . A good name is better than fragrant oil,

A companion to that saying might be a proverb also authored by Solomon.

"Like a gold ring in the snout of a pig is a beautiful woman bereft of sense." (Prv 11:22)

Cosmetics, fashions, jewelry, hair, manicures, wonder bras, pantyhose, killer curves, and/or Spanks and scents can't make up for a bad name. No matter how dolled up, or shined up, nor how good a person smells; if they are a pig, they will continue to act like a pig. Better to be a plain Jane with a sweet personality than a super model who affects everyone around her with a witchy attitude.

†. Ecc 7:1b-2 . . and the day of death than the day of birth. It is better to go to a house of mourning than to a house of feasting; for that is the end of every man, and a living one should take it to heart.

Nobody under the age of twenty-one is ever going to take that one seriously. Birthday parties and beer busts are far more fun than funerals; although as I get older, I tend to dread my birthdays more and more. When I was young, birthdays were fun, and getting older was exciting. But aging is not so fun anymore. Age is turning me into an ogre, and I can't stand the sight of myself in a mirror; especially one of those large full-length bathroom mirrors they invariably install in motel rooms.

But a funeral can really make you aware of your own mortality in a very special way. My wife's mother died in 2005, my own mother one year later as well as a good friend at work; and my favorite nephew dropped dead to the floor in 2015. All those passings disturbed me because I realized the grim reaper had started picking us off one by one, and it's only a matter of time now before my own number comes up.

†. Ecc 7:3-4 . .Vexation is better than revelry; for though the face be sad, the heart may be glad. Wise men are drawn to a house of mourning, and fools to a house of merrymaking.

Those kinds of "wise men" are well known as party poopers. While it's true that revelry can't make a person truly happy on the inside, it would still seem a much better choice than dwelling upon Death. You know; it's only natural that Solomon would believe that mourning is better than revelry because he was a wet blanket to begin with; and his nature to shun merriment. (Ecc 2:1-2)

Solomon didn't even know how to have fun. The problem is; he was just too smart for his own good; so smart in fact that all his knowledge and intellect clouded the man's spirit and prevented him from having any fun at all. (Ecc 1:16-18)

Solomon really needed to get out and paint the town once in a while; see a good movie, ride a pony, go to Las Vegas, stroll the beach, take in a Broadway play, roll the dice, joust a windmill, drop a coin in a wishing well, go boating, let his hair down, play a video game, maybe even get plastered sometime-- anything but sit around thinking about old age and death. No wonder the poor man was so negative! In the movie Titanic, Leonardo DiCaprio convinces Kate Winslet that there is more to life than being rich. He suggests she learn to ride a horse like a man and learn to spit like a man. Sure: why not take off the Spanx, lose the Silkies panty hose and Jimmy Choo heels, and try something silly like skipping a stone across a pond?

I once heard Billy Graham say: The smallest package in the world is a man all wrapped up in himself. Well . . amen to that! Billy was so right. And I would add that the most unimportant man in the world is one who is totally self-absorbed. Some people really need to get out and do a little mixing and have a good time once in a while: break the monotony, do something stupid, get out of their rut; live a little.

But Solomon just couldn't do it. There are some people not only fun-challenged, but they can't permit themselves to indulge in fun. It's like a mental block-- an aversion. They're afflicted with fun-impotence. They feel guilty about having fun, they scorn fun, and look down upon themselves for letting any into their lives.

/

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Ecclesiastes 7:5-9

†. Ecc 7:5-6 . . It is better to listen to a wise man's critique than to listen to the praise of fools. For the levity of the fool is like the crackling of nettles under a kettle; for that too is transitory.

The "praise of fools" is from the Hebrew word shiyr (sheer) which means: a song; singing; viz: a lullaby. I guess you could liken a fool's praise to the chirping of a bird-- tweet, tweet, tweet. Birds make sweet sounds; actually very soothing and entertaining at times, but nonetheless, they only serve to help us escape reality-- they don't tell the hearer very much truth about himself.

Nettles make very poor firewood. They burn very brightly, go up with a woosh almost as soon as they're thrown into a fire; but produce very little heat and soon go out. Oak and Pine are far better. Those sturdy woods burn slowly and quietly, make good coals, and produce lots of usable heat for a long time. The praise of fools is like birds twittering and nettles burning: noisy, momentarily soothing, a brief caress with no long-lasting usefulness; while a wise man's critique may not be so cheering, but can result in life-changing improvements.

†. Ecc 7:7 . . Unjust gain robs the wise man of reason and destroys the prudence of the cautious.

The praise of fools is typically unmerited, and often falls in the category of flattery; which, if a wise man takes seriously, he's just downright stupid no matter what his IQ.

The word for "fool" is from keciyl (kes-eel') which means: fat, i.e. (figuratively) stupid or silly. I guess that means some people are fat-heads. Roget's Thesaurus synonyms for fat-headed are: dull, asinine, and thick-witted-- in other words: a numbskull. Those are not attributes you need to see in a person who is patting you on the back and telling you how wonderful you are and how good a job you did. You certainly would not want to take a fat-head's praise too seriously because to see yourself through the eyes of a fat-head is to accept a false impression of yourself; and that could prove to be very self-destructive in the long run.

†. Ecc 7:8-9 . .The end of a matter is better than the beginning of it. Better a patient spirit than a haughty spirit. Don't let your spirit be quickly vexed, for vexation abides in the breasts of fat-heads.

Not all matters are pleasant matters. Some are bitter. Those matters are best not taken up at all; and quickly ended if they begin.

To start a quarrel is to open a sluice; before a dispute flares up, drop it." (Prv 17:14)

Parenting is one arena where it doesn't pay to be a fat-head. It's very important to pick your fights with care, rather than simply react. It is not a good idea to flare up and quarrel with your children over every little thing. Let little things slide; and only make a fuss over things that really make a difference in the long haul.

"Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged." (Col 3:21)

One of the most dysfunctional families I've ever seen is the fictional one portrayed on the HBO series Sopranos.

AJ Soprano's dad Tony is a mob boss whose parenting style mirrors his criminal management practices; which is that of a despotic, bullying sociopath. Tony constantly oppresses his son AJ with thoughtless remarks, manhandling, unfairness, profanity, purple epithets, sarcasm, ugly criticism, bickering, demeaning humor, confrontations, sneering, scorn, relentless ridicule, intimidation, shouting, rage, and threats.

AJ rarely, if ever, is given a word of sympathy or encouragement. Typically, everything he does is wrong and his father impossible to please. Subsequently; AJ feels unwelcome in his own home-- a person of little consequence whose thoughts and feelings neither matter nor count. His home's living hell turns AJ into not only a loser, but also an emotional train wreck; and then his dad ends up asking the inevitable question eventually asked by every abusive parent: Where did I go wrong? Duh.

/


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Ecclesiastes 7:10-14

†. Ecc 7:10 . . Don't say; How has it happened that former times were better than these? For it is not wise of you to ask that question.

The problem with the good old days is that we often conveniently forget the bad parts and sometimes invent good parts to take their place; viz: the good old days are often a combination of poor memory and a good imagination.

Lyrics in Carly Simon's song Anticipation say: "I tell tomorrow, these are the good old days". Get her point? You are living in some good old days right now, this very moment; and in the future you'll look back on them with the same wistful fondness that you are now looking back on earlier good old days. Carly's song was released on an album in 1972, some 40 years ago as of 2012. Was she right? Were those days good old days for her?

Sometimes there's no denying the good old days really were better than our present lot in life. People with serious illnesses and handicaps were certainly better off before those problems degraded their quality of life. I think a young girl with Herpes and/or an unwanted pregnancy would agree that things were better before.

Myself, I would have been dead with appendicitis as a teen-ager were it not for modern medicine. And yet again in my 40's with a kidney stone. And yet again in my fifties with Grave's Disease (hyperactive thyroid). I think anyone would agree Americans are far better off today economically than the 1930's. So not all the good old days were good. Some of those good old days would have been fatal for many of us-- not only in health, but also in hard labor and low pay.

†. Ecc 7:11-12 . .Wisdom is as good as a patrimony, and even better, for those who behold the sun. For to be in the shelter of wisdom is to be also in the shelter of money, and the advantage of intelligence is that wisdom preserves the life of him who possesses it.

Solomon's comment is for those who "behold the sun" as opposed to those who behold the face of God.

Wisdom isn't just an accumulation of information like a journal or an encyclopedia. Wisdom is a combination of knowledge and understanding gained through experience. That's why so many young people are air-heads. Although they're better educated; they just haven't lived long enough to really know the score.

But youth isn't necessarily an indicator that somebody hasn't got any sense. If young people are fortunate enough to have the benefit of a mentor, like say a savvy parent or a connection in the Big Brother program of their town, then they have on tap the wisdom of an older person who knows many ins and outs of life. However, too many young people are vain, conceited, and arrogant, and tend to have the attitude of a know-it-all. For them, a mentor serves no purpose because those kinds of young people are of the sort who want to find out everything for themselves, rather than be instructed.

Wisdom is a far better inheritance for a young person than money and property. Wisdom will enable a wise youth to get the money and property later. But no amount of money will enable a dunce to attain wisdom.

"What good is money in the hand of a fool to purchase wisdom, when he has no mind?" (Prv 17:16)

Good sense is far more important than money. A young co-worker of mine, who had been out of work for quite a while, took his very first paycheck to a sound shop and spent the entire thing on a $700 stereo system for his car. The car was an old clunker and the stereo was actually worth more than the car. Now there was a boy who seriously needed some counseling.

"There is desirable treasure, and oil in the dwelling of the wise, but a foolish man squanders it." (Prv 21:20)

†. Ecc 7:13-14 . . Consider the work of God; for who can make straight what He has made crooked? In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider: surely God has appointed the one as well as the other, so that man can find out nothing that will come after him.

Solomon's references to a God are mostly rhetorical in the book of Ecclesiastes. When he says "consider the work of God" I suspect he's just referring to the natural order of things under the sun.

The Scottish poet Robert Burns noticed that life sometimes throws a curve ball at you in spite of your best precautions. Fate often casts its long shadow when human beings set about planning their lives.

Burns was out one day plowing in the field and uprooted a mouse's underground nest who was all set for the oncoming winter. The mouse had picked a fallow field as the site for its winter retreat thinking it would be safe and snug; unmolested during the cold. But it didn't (or maybe we should say it couldn't) know the workings of powers higher than itself-- in this case, human beings and their farm machinery.

But, mousie, thou art no thy lane
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes o' mice an' men [Oft go awry]
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain for promis'd joy.

Take for example Job (Job 1:1-3). He was all set to enjoy retirement when of a sudden, without the slightest warning, his world fell apart even though he was the most righteous man of his day and deserved only the best of luck rather than bad. But completely unknown to him were higher powers-- God and the spirit world --in a contest of loyalties; with 'ol Job right smack in the middle of their contentions. Consequently; he lost everything-- his family, save for his (un)loving wife, his livestock, all his houses; and his health. In very little time, Job went from wealthy retiree to disabled pauper.

Job surely knew he didn't deserve the bad luck that came his way. But like Robert Burns said: The best laid plans of mice and men oft go awry. Why? Because as Solomon indicated; you can neither predict nor fathom the ambitions of powers and circumstances beyond your control. The spirit world is a higher power than Man, just as Man is a higher power than mice. However, as mice cannot control the ways of Man, neither can Man control the ways of the spirits. Therefore; both men and mice are subject to the whims of powers beyond their control so that neither one is superior to the other in that respect.

I have seen property owners forced out and/or displaced because of ambitious free-way construction, road widening projects, and port of entry expansion along waterfronts. That's a very common sight here in America. So then, like the mousie in Burns' poem; your land is never really your land. Higher powers are at liberty to condemn your property and take it away from you at will for what they inevitably call "the greater good".

/


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Ecclesiastes 7:15-18

†. Ecc 7:15-16 . . In my own brief span of life, I have seen both these things: sometimes a good man perishes in spite of his goodness, and sometimes a wicked one endures in spite of his wickedness. So don't overdo goodness and don't act the wise man to excess, or you may be dumfounded.

Some ultra ascetic types are obsessed with self denial-- don't do this, don't do that, don't go here, don't go there, don't look at this, don't look at that. I once knew an ascetic type who actually felt guilty simply by walking through the door of a Blockbuster video store; and was so offended by young people's music that he made his teen-age son listen to his boom box outside; even in inclement weather.

Dr. Laura (who's normally pretty level-headed) says that any parent that would take their child to a mall that has a Victoria's Secret store is a bad parent. That's asceticism (not to mention bigotry). Well; asceticism can guarantee no one long life nor does it necessarily make one a better person. Asceticism can, in fact, result in a superiority complex and, maybe even neurosis.

It would seem that the best way to enjoy) a long life, as opposed to merely existing, is by sensible practices in diet and health. But those things, as sensible as good diet and healthy habits may be, won't guarantee good health and a long life. I once worked in a family-owned boatyard in San Diego run by a man and his three brothers, and his two sons. One of the sons was a model citizen and the picture of health. He was married and had a little girl, didn't run with a bad crowd, didn't smoke or drink, didn't stay out late, didn't eat fatty foods or sweets, jogged regularly, attended church every Sunday and played piano for the choir, and he was young; barely twenty-six years old.

Well, one day he complained of stomach pains and upon examination there was found in his abdomen a cancerous growth as big as a child's nerf football. He underwent surgery, lost a testicle, suffered through chemo-therapy, and last I knew, was doing okay. The cancer was in remission but they had to keep an eye on him all the time.

In contrast, the vaudeville, TV, and movie star George Burns smoked a cigar every day of his life until he died at age 100. Go figure.

You know, life is short. If us "good" people deny ourselves every little pleasure, one day we'll regret it, especially if our own life ends too soon and those we consider wicked live full, prosperous lives long after we ourselves are passed away.

†. Ecc 7:17-18 . . . On the other hand, don't be too wicked either-- don't be a fool! Why should you die before your time? So try to walk a middle course-- but those who fear God will succeed either way.

The recommendation in that passage is to do everything in moderation. That's the key. Excess is what ruins people-- too much tobacco, too much coffee, too much gambling, too much education, too much ignorance, too much quarreling, too much sugar and fatty foods, too much alcohol, too much work, too much play and even too much religion. Too much of anything is bad; even too much recreation. Everyone knows that, but no one takes it to heart. Some abstain from everything thinking to make themselves ultra pious. But piety is not found in excessive self-denial. After all, God created all things for Man to enjoy, rather than abstain from them. (1Tim 6:17)

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Ecclesiastes 7:19-22

†. Ecc 7:19 . .Wisdom makes one wise man more powerful than ten rulers in a city.

It's not too difficult to find city managers with lots of political savvy, but at the same time, too many are irresponsible adults who can't be trusted with either money or power.

The wise man is circumspect; which Webster's defines as careful to consider all circumstances and possible consequences, i.e. the wise man is smart enough, and prudent enough, to decide upon a course of action that's best for everyone rather than only for himself and/or special interests.

†. Ecc 7:20 . . For there is not one good man on earth who does what is best and doesn't err.

Solomon was a keen observer of people in power. He knew they couldn't be trusted. Too many people look to government to improve their quality of life and to remedy society's ills. That is a bad habit because human government is made up of human beings, and human beings cannot be trusted to always do what is right because they have private ambitions, axes to grind, hands to shake, boots to lick, favors to repay, promises to keep, opportunities to grab, and friends to curry. They also have mental, physical, and emotional problems that effect their judgment and sometimes put them in a bad mood. Sometimes they drink, which loosens them up and often disposes them to do things that are not in the public's best interests.

Only the foolish believe their government to be as pure and honest as the angels of God. They aren't. They weren't in Solomon's day; and they sure aren't now. The voters who put their hero in office, believing him to be a Messiah capable of healing their country's ills and giving people hope, are often very disappointed to discover he's just another cheap politician with a charismatic persona and feet of clay rather than gold.

†. Ecc 7:21-22 . . Finally, don't pay attention to everything that is said, so that you may not hear your slave reviling you; for well you remember the many times that you yourself have reviled others.

There are some instances in life where ignorance is truly bliss; and this is one of them. Some people just have to know everything others are saying about them. That's not a good idea. People are only human, and humans love to gossip and say negative things about others. If you are prone to talk about others, then it is a sure bet others are prone to talk about you, because they are just as human as you. Solomon advised against being overly wise and overly foolish. I would add: don't be overly sensitive.

The golden rule applies here as well as any other place: Do unto others as you would like it done unto you. So don't crowd people or monitor their conversations like Big Brother or something. They need to be free to talk about you; just as you need freedom to talk about them.

But beware of vicious gossips and rumor mongers. Some of us talk about others for fun and don't really mean anything by it; but some are out to stir up trouble and deliberately assassinate reputations. They come up to you and say: "You should hear what so and so is saying about you". People like that are a menace to society.

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Ecclesiastes 7:23-27

†. Ecc 7:23-25 . . All this I tested with wisdom. I thought I could fathom it, but it eludes me. [The secret of] what happens is elusive and deep, deep down; who can discover it? I put my mind to studying, exploring, and seeking wisdom and the reason of things, and to studying wickedness, stupidity, madness, and folly.

Well; Solomon is not the first one to grapple with the mystery of life and fail to make any sense out of it. Many famous philosophers of the past came up empty handed too. The happiest people seem to be those who don't think very deep. They just live out their lives like a nutria or a dragonfly without the slightest concern about their origin nor the way things are, nor of the future. Maybe they have the right idea after all.

†. Ecc 7:26-27 . . Now, I find woman more bitter than death; she is all traps, her hands are fetters and her heart is snares. He who is pleasing to God escapes her, and he who is displeasing is caught by her. See, this is what I found, said Koheleth, item by item in my search for the reason of things.

Most men "under the sun" would agree with Solomon that women are a necessary evil; and mostly evil. "You can't live with 'em, and you can't live without 'em." How many times I've heard unhappy men sound that lament.

According to Gen 2:18-24, God created Woman so the male would have a supportive friend; a certain somebody who understands him and relates to him; someone he could lean on. Adam discovered that animals can't relate to Man, unless of course a particular man happens to be an animal himself. One of my all-time favorite bumper stickers goes like this:

MEN ARE NOT PIGS!
Pigs Are Gentle, Sensitive, Intelligent Animals

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Ecclesiastes 7:28-29

†. Ecc 7:28a . . As for what I sought further but did not find,

Apparently, the thing that Solomon sought further (in addition to the investigations he has made up to this point) was a human being free from the foibles of human nature. Is it actually possible that the world cannot produce even one single human being who is 100% rational and sensible?

†. Ecc 7:28b . . I found only one human being in a thousand, and the one I found among so many was never a woman.

(chuckle) If left up to Solomon, America would never have a female President.

His comment doesn't mean Solomon did actually find a truly 100% percent sensible person; only that he found one that was sensible in his own opinion; which is a subjective evaluation. That kind of determination has no value in reality because it's a judgment based upon one's own personal (and possibly biased) point of view. Although it appears in that verse that Solomon is being terribly sexist about the intelligence of women; he isn't actually suggesting there are no sensible women at all, but that in his own personal experience, sensible women were even more rare than sensible men.

In the movie As Good As It Gets one of the main characters (a writer played by Jack Nicholson) was asked by an admirer how he was able to understand women so well-- knowing what goes on in their hearts and minds and putting it down on paper. He answered; "I start with a man, and take away reason and accountability." (chuckle) Nicholson's character, by the way, was a very self-centered, obsessive-compulsive individual who harbored some strong anti-social opinions about women and LGBT.

†. Ecc 7:29a . . But, see, this I did find: God made men plain,

Plain can mean simple or uncomplicated; which seems to be exactly what he's saying. God made Man an uncomplicated being; but he didn't stay that way.

†. Ecc 7:29b . . but they have engaged in too much reasoning.

The word for "reasoning" is from chishshabown (khish-shaw-bone') which means: a mental or mechanical contrivance, i.e. a warlike machine or a mental machination, e.g. sophistry and rationale.

Some people do tend to complicate everything by over-thinking. They can't just take things as they are, and let things happen. No, they have to complicate everything. Then there are those who can't permit themselves to accept anything they don't understand. So their minds remain forever vacillating in a limbo between two opinions. They're indecisive, and oftentimes insecure, because for minds like that, there are no absolutes and no way of knowing what's for real and what's not for real. So they're forever stalling with yeah-but, maybe, possible, could be, and what-if.

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Ecclesiastes 8:1-5

†. Ecc 8:1-2a . .Who is like the wise man, and who knows the meaning of the adage : A man's wisdom lights up his face, so that his deep discontent is dissembled? -- I do!

There's another way to say some of that.

"Crafty people know how to hide their true feelings."

Every day I'm asked by somebody; "Hey, how's it going?" or "How are you today?" Of course I always smile and say; "Great" or "Okay" but inside I might not be having a good day at all. People don't want to hear about your problems. Sometimes just for fun I'll answer those kinds of greetings with; "I'm blue, depressed, overweight, in ill health, despondent, and wish I was never born." Or I'll say; "I feel pretty good; for a guy my age." (chuckle) Those always gets a reaction.

†. Ecc 8:2b . . Obey the king's command, I say, because you took an oath before God.

An oath taken "before God" may not seem valid to an atheist, but when the wording is formal; as in legally binding oaths required for various government positions, then the oath becomes enough rope to hang yourself with if you go back on it.

†. Ecc 8:3-5a . . Leave his presence; do not tarry in a dangerous situation, for he can do anything he pleases; inasmuch as a king’s command is authoritative, and none can say to him: What are you doing? One who obeys orders will not suffer from the dangerous situation.

In Solomon's day, it wasn't wise to provoke a king, nor to interfere with his business, nor to block his way when he came down your street. Kings were despotic monarchs: they answered to no one, and could have people executed at whim all without the bother of due process. This is still true today in a number of nations. Every year, Parade magazine publishes a list of the world's ten worst dictators. Those men practice a degree of tyranny that you definitely do not want to oppose if perchance you're one of their citizens.

†. Ecc 8:5b . . A wise man, however, will bear in mind that there is a time of doom.

No matter who you are, or how high your station in life, no one is above the law. Those who become just a little too familiar with kings, dictators, and presidents, sometimes think their association with those high-ranking leaders gives them some sort of immunity. That's when they get careless, goof up and cross over a line; and the ruler, who in the past was their friend, then becomes their dread enemy.

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Ecclesiastes 8:6-8

†. Ecc 8:6-7 . . for there is a time and a judgment for everything. Yet it is a great affliction for man that he is ignorant of what is to come; for who will make known to him how it will be?

We have to expect to get caught up sometimes in circumstances beyond our control. Often those circumstances are unforeseen and blindside us-- they catch us off guard, and unprepared to cope with them.

Sometimes in the performance of duty, or in compliance with the law, (serving King, country, or employer) people have to do unpleasant things in order to avoid unpleasant consequences; e.g. young men in the Marines may be called to go kill people they've never met; or construction workers may have to destroy crucial habitat for a mall; or friends may be subpoenaed to testify in court against their buddies.

Sure they could refuse to go off to war, and they could refuse to drive a bulldozer through wetland habitat, and they could refuse to testify. But there is a price to pay for anarchy and insubordination. The young Marine could be prosecuted for dereliction of duty, the construction guy would most likely be fired, and the friend who refuses to help the law convict their buddy could be hauled into court for the crime of misprision. Those kinds of circumstances are cold, hard facts of life; they are a normal part of the human experience. They come at us like juggernauts; big-foot trucks that crush us under their tires; permanently altering our personalities and the way we feel about ourselves.

†. Ecc 8:8 . . No man has authority over the life-breath-- to hold back the life-breath; there is no authority over the day of death. There is no mustering out from that war; wickedness is powerless to save its owner.

The ultimate life-changing circumstance-- DEATH --is the supreme circumstance, the undefeated champ, rated as among those beyond our control. No king can stop it from laying claim to his life; as if it were one of his subjects. No draft dodger can run away to Canada to avoid Death's induction. Death's time cannot be delayed by failure to appear in court. One day; in spite of anyone's strong objections to the contrary, our number will come up-- at that time no matter who we are, or who we were, we will die; and it matters little how, or when, or where we depart. The world was getting along just fine without us before we arrived, and it will do just fine without us after we're gone. A supervisor once told me; "Cliff, don't ever think you can't be replaced."

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Ecclesiastes 8:9-13

†. Ecc 8:9 . . All these things I observed; I noted all that went on under the sun, while men still had authority over men to treat them unjustly.

Solomon's venue throughout the book of Ecclesiastes is "under the sun". It's important to always keep that in mind or risk getting the wrong impression from his sayings. His is not a book of inspired doctrine; but rather of inspired philosophy from the perspective of an earthy man rather than a heavenly man.

I have personally experienced Solomon's observation on several of the internet forums I've been on in the last fifteen years. I have been given infractions by forum managers for flaming based solely on complaints lodged by somebody whose nose got bent over something I posted. I was summarily convicted of flaming without the prosecution first establishing intent of malice. That is not only unjust, but it isn't even rational jurisprudence in a land where the accused are presumed innocent until proven guilty. (emphasis upon proven).

Another unjust habit that internet forum managers have is that of construing the language of their rules to mean whatever suits their purpose. Forum contributors don't stand a chance against those kinds of arbitrary management practices.

Soviet leader Joseph Stalin eliminated threats to his power through Purge Trials and widespread secret executions and persecution of his own fellow Soviet citizens. He left behind a legacy of repression and fear as well as industrial and military power. Stalin rid himself of all potential rivals in the party, first by having many of them condemned as deviationists, and later by ordering them executed.

To ensure his position and to push forward "socialism in one country" he put the Soviet Union on a crash course of collectivization and industrialization. An estimated 25 million farmers were forced onto state farms. Collectivization alone killed as many as 14.5 million Soviet people, and Russia's agricultural output was reduced by 25 percent, according to some estimates. (Time Magazine voted Joseph Stalin as Man Of The Year in 1942)

Stalin is only one example of the many oppressive rulers in the course of human history, like Pol Pot, Saddam Hussein, Robert Mugabe, Hosni Mubarak, and Kim Jong Il who use and abuse their citizens; instead of managing countries for the country's good, these kinds of rulers manage countries for their own personal good.

†. Ecc 8:10a . . And then I saw scoundrels coming from the Holy Site and being brought to burial

It is truly amazing how the wicked of the world have the nerve to attend church and synagogue. Where's their conscience? And then their families have the chutzpah to make sure the wicked get honorable, Church sanctioned funerals when they die!

Paul Castellano-- John J. Gotti's predecessor as boss of the Gambino clan --was denied a funeral mass in 1985 based upon the notoriety of his background. The decision was backed up by canon law, which prohibits funeral Masses that would engender public scandal among the faithful.

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, Rome can deny a Mass of Christian Burial in the case of those persons who have not lived in communion with Rome according to the maxim which comes down from the time of Pope Leo the Great: (448) quibus viventibus non communicavimus mortuis communicare non possumus (We cannot hold communion in death with those who in life were not in communion with us).

†. Ecc 8:10b . . while such as had acted righteously were forgotten in the city.

Many good people often live out their lives in total obscurity, never basking in any limelight nor making a name for themselves. Their funerals? You won't see them on a nationally televised broadcast.

†. Ecc 8:10c-13 . . And here is another frustration: the fact that the sentence imposed for evil deeds is not executed swiftly, which is why men are emboldened to do evil-- the fact that a sinner may do evil a hundred times and his [punishment] still be delayed. For although I am aware that it will be well with those who revere God since they revere Him, and it will not be well with the scoundrel, and he will not live long, because he does not revere God.

Justice is indeed slow, especially if the accused has lots of money because their lawyers can tie up the courts for as long as ten years with appeals and continuances.

BTW: John J. Gotti died in 2002. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn finally did permit a mass of Christian burial for Mr. Gotti but only after he was in the ground. Still it just seems so preposterous to grant a man like that any kind of Christian burial let alone one garnished with a high mass.

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Ecclesiastes 8:14-17

†. Ecc 8:14 . . here is a frustration that occurs in the world: sometimes an upright man is requited according to the conduct of the scoundrel; and sometimes the scoundrel is requited according to the conduct of the upright. I say all that is frustration.

Nowhere is that principle more evident than in group discipline. The military commonly punishes an entire platoon for the bad conduct of just one man. In that scenario, there is no individual justice; but collective justice; so that the innocent suffer right along with the guilty. The same effect occurs in group rewards. The people who performed well get no more honor than the people who did poorly because the group as a whole gets the credit; not the individual.

Injustice of that nature is indeed frustrating; but nevertheless, unavoidable under the sun.

†. Ecc 8:15 . . I therefore praised enjoyment. For the only good a man can have under the sun is to eat and drink and enjoy himself. That much can accompany him, in exchange for his wealth, through the days of life that God has granted him under the sun.

There are some things in life; like injustice, that we just have to accept. To fret about it is totally a waste of precious life and energy. It is far better to cope, to adjust, to adapt, and to enjoy life as best as possible with what you have at hand to work with and within the circumstances wherein you find yourself imprisoned.

†. Ecc 8:16 . . For I have set my mind to learn wisdom and to observe the business that goes on in the world-- even to the extent of going without sleep day and night--

Well; Solomon was one of the filthy rich and could afford to lose some sleep now and then, but working men dare not deprive themselves of sleep. They need their rest; and don't need to lay awake nights fretting over things in the world that are beyond their IQ, and beyond their control.

†. Ecc 8:17 . . and I have observed all that God brings to pass. Indeed, man cannot guess the events that occur under the sun. For man tries strenuously, but fails to guess them; and even if a sage should think to discover them he would not be able to guess them.

The View Point Inn, perched along the rim of the Columbia Gorge in Oregon, was slowly sinking into financial ruin for lack of business. Then, out of the blue, the production company of the first of the Twilight series of movies selected the inn for Edward's and Bella's prom scene. Subsequently the inn became a popular tourist attraction, and co-owner Geoff Thomson said the inn's business improved 30 to 40 percent. You just never know what a day will bring forth.

Chess masters can often see twelve moves ahead. But they cannot see into their opponent's mind. Just when the master thinks he has the game figured out, his opponent launches an unsuspected strategy and throws the master's calculations off and he must begin to calculate a different twelve moves ahead than before.

Solomon may have been just a bit too superstitious in this regard. He seemed to think that God's hand is in everything. Although that really isn't true, it is a pretty good way for a philosopher to explain away things that we can neither control, alter, foresee, nor do anything about. He can just say: "It is Allah's will." or he can say: "The gods do as they please."

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Ecclesiastes 9:1-3

†. Ecc 9:1 . . For I have taken all this to my heart and explain it that righteous men, wise men, and their deeds are in the hand of God. Man does not know whether [it will be] love or hatred; anything awaits him.

That was certainly true of Joseph. He was a very good boy; favored by God, yet sold into Egyptian slavery by his own kin. Same with John the baptizer. He too was a good, and wise, man-- the forerunner of Christ. Yet at the young age of thirty, still in the prime of his life, he was beheaded at the whim of a silly young girl whose dancing happened to please a tetrarch. God did nothing to prevent it. Are any of us any safer?

†. Ecc 9:2-3a . . For the same fate is in store for all: for the righteous, and for the wicked; for the good and pure, and for the impure; for him who sacrifices, and for him who does not; for him who is pleasing, and for him who is displeasing; and for him who swears, and for him who shuns oaths. That is the sad thing about all that goes on under the sun: that the same fate is in store for all.

Oftentimes when people contract fatal diseases, they whine: "Why me" Answer: Why not? Yes, why not because we're all just lobsters in one of those fish tanks they have in sea food restaurants.. The cook gropes about and the lobster he catches is just a matter of chance. And eventually he gets them all, one by one.

It seemed to Solomon that good people shouldn't have to die. But actually, death is merciful. What if people lived forever? They would continue to age more and more till they were totally debilitated and looked like emaciated mummies. They would have to be carried around like baggage, completely dependent upon the young for subsistence; and forever enduring an unbearable quality of life.

†. Ecc 9:3b . . (Not only that, but men's hearts are full of sadness, and their minds of madness, while they live; and then-- to the dead!)

The word for "madness" is from howlelah (ho-lay-law') which actually means folly; not insanity. Webster's defines folly as (1) a lack of good sense or normal prudence and foresight, (2) criminally or tragically foolish actions or conduct, (3) a foolish act or idea, and (4) an excessively costly or unprofitable undertaking.

If we take the far view-- if we weigh the value of Man's thoughts and endeavors against the depth of eternity --then nothing a man under the sun does has any real meaning and purpose. After the earthly man lives out his pointless existence, he dies and rots away like common road kill.

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Ecclesiastes 9:4-10

†. Ecc 9:4 . . For he who is reckoned among the living has something to look forward to-- even a live dog is better than a dead lion--

As long as people are still alive, there's always the thought that one day their ship might come in. But once you're dead, there are no more ships other than the one that ferries people across the river Styx.

†. Ecc 9:5-6 . . since the living know they will die. But the dead know nothing; they have no more recompense, for even the memory of them has died. Their loves, their hates, their jealousies have long since perished; and they have no more share till the end of time in all that goes on under the sun.

On the face of things, those who have passed on experienced the final phase of life; the last item on their bucket list: and now have nothing left to do. They're all done. They were born (we all are) they lived (we all do) they died (we all will). And everybody not only experiences the final phase, but most everyone also experiences the common experiences of life-- love, hate, and rivalry. Every generation goes through the very same things while they're here.

†. Ecc 9:7-10 . . Go, eat your bread in gladness, and drink your wine in joy; for your action was long ago approved by God. Let your clothes always be freshly washed, and your head never lack ointment. Enjoy happiness with a woman you love all the fleeting days of life that have been granted to you under the sun-- all your fleeting days. For that alone is what you can get out of life and out of the means you acquire under the sun. Whatever it is in your power to do, do with all your might. For there is no action, no reasoning, no learning, no wisdom in Sheol, where you are going.

That's the first, and the only time in Ecclesiastes where the word "sheol" appears. It's from the Hebrew words she'owl (sheh-ole') and/or sheol (sheh-ole') which are essentially equivalent to the New Testament's haides which was the ancient Greeks' world of the dead (usually subterranean; viz: the netherworld)

Sheol is often interpreted "grave". That's a good choice of words for the man under the sun; i.e. a rational man thinking to himself whose perception of reality is moderated by what he can see going on around him in the physical universe rather than what he cannot see going on around him in the non-physical sphere.

The man under the sun generally understands that he needs to squeeze every drop of juice out of the orange of life before it's too late. That is both sad and frustrating for many because circumstances will not permit them to enjoy life as much as they would like. They will never achieve their highest potential, never eat right, never dress right, never have a family of their own, never be pretty, never be handsome, never be thin, never be rich, never be intelligent, never be famous, never be popular, never have good health, and never have a home of their own-- the grave precludes the possibility of achieving any of that.

Since a lifetime is so little time to enjoy life, it's tragic that the good life is taken away from us so easily because there's simply not enough time in life to make up for lost time.

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Ecclesiastes 9:11-12

†. Ecc 9:11a . . I again saw under the sun that the race is not [always] to the swift, and the battle is not to the warriors, and neither is bread to the wise, nor wealth to the discerning, nor favor to men of ability;

Typically races are won by the swift, but if the swift should trip and fall, they will lose the race in spite of their superior speed. Battles are usually won by the valiant, not the timid. But again, not always. If the valiant are dunces, then the timid with brains can outsmart them. Food and money are usually plentiful in the homes of people who have a head on their shoulders; but again, if the wise should suddenly lose everything by an economic catastrophe; like the Wall Street collapse of 2008, then all the financial know-how in the world won't buy them a single loaf of bread down at the local Safeway.

The word "favor" is from chen (khane) which means: graciousness, i.e. subjective (kindness, favor) or objective (beauty). For some strange reason, nature allows only a relatively small percentage of beautiful people to have any brains or develop any really useful, productive skills. Most of the achievers in life, like chemists, astronomers, architects, mathematicians, writers, movie makers, physicists, engineers, and designers et al; are ordinary-looking people. The beautiful people are often dead wood (and dead heads). Whenever I look behind the scenes of really difficult movies like Inception, Matrix, Avatar, and Monsters Inc.; I'm amazed at the rather unexceptional looks of many of the makers of our favorite movies. They just don't appear to be all that smart and creative.

I noticed the same thing in my job as a Federal civilian employee. The headquarters in my district has a noticeable shortage of attractive men and women because the government, as a rule, doesn't hire people in respect to how well they fill out their clothes, but in respect to how well their minds work.

†. Ecc 9:11b . . for time and chance overtake them all.

There are no guarantees in life. It's a gamble. I know of a clerk in Costco who spent four years in college majoring in Sociology. There was plenty of demand for people with that kind of a degree when he entered college; but by the time he finished school, the demand had vanished and my graduate friend had to get a job as a fry cook in a Mongolian grill.

†. Ecc 9:12 . . And a man cannot even know his time. As fishes are enmeshed in a fatal net, and as birds are trapped in a snare, so men are caught at the time of calamity, when it comes upon them without warning.

A machinist employed by the Corps of Engineers here in Portland Oregon where I once worked as a welder, volunteered to go and help out with the rescue and clean-up operation in New York after the World Trade Center was hit with airliners flown by Islamic extremists. On return, he remarked how he was puzzled by parking structures near ground zero full of very expensive autos like BMW, Corvette, and Lexus that were covered with dirt day after day. He wondered why the people who owned those beautiful cars never washed them.

Then he realized why. It was because those cars once belonged to commuters who worked in the Trade Center-- commuters who were caught by total surprise in the sudden destruction of not only their place of employment, but also of their very lives. Whatever they had planned for that day, was instantly canceled forever. The owners never dreamed that the miles they drove to work that day would be their very last.

Sudden-death incidents like that happen all the time. Not long ago actor Bill Paxton was in the hospital for treatment of an aortic aneurism when he suddenly died of a stroke on the operating table. It took his life right out of the blue like a stray bullet from a drive-by.

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Ecclesiastes 9:13-17

†. Ecc 9:13-16 . .This thing too I observed under the sun about wisdom, and it affected me profoundly. There was a little city, with few men in it; and to it came a great king, who surrounded it and built mighty siege works against it. Residing in the city was a poor wise man who might have saved it with his wisdom, but nobody thought of that poor man. So I observed: Wisdom is better than valor; but a poor man's wisdom is scorned, and his words are not heeded.

A pity that the truly wise are not always famous nor widely respected; whereas the boastful, the narcissistic, and the ambitious always seem to find ample public opportunity to express their opinions, and ways to get them implemented.

Can you define the difference between a statesman and a politician? A statesman has his country's, and his countrymen's, best interests to heart. A politician has only his own and/or his party's best interests to heart. Very few statesmen wield power in the USA. Judging by current events, and recent political scandals, it's mostly the politicians who are running things.

Has a particular politician ever made you angry? Has a particular political body ever made a decision that, to you, seems they have mental illness and/or have forgotten to take their medication? Have you ever wished that you were there to make that critical decision? Maybe there were some issues that troubled you. Maybe the person holding office is voting in such a way as to hurt your district, harm your state and/or ruin your country. If so, perhaps you'd like to run for political office.

You might begin by reading every available article on local and/or state government. You could also make a habit of catching the local evening news so as not to miss a report on a particular bill or hot political topic. You could also begin talking and discussing your political ideas with others every chance you get.

However, unless you have access to millions of dollars, you can forget running for either the US President, the US Senate, or State Governor. The poor cannot run for office no matter how wise and capable they might be because wisdom and ability do not count in politics. Political office is typically only for the powerful, the influential, and for those who have very rich friends and the support of very large special interests.

†. Ecc 9:17 . .The words of the wise heard in quietness are better than the shouting of a ruler among fools.

Unfortunately, the words of the wise are all too often heard in private. They seldom have a large public audience because the wise are neither popular, nor charismatic. The masses want to be entertained by a silver-tongued speaker of grand verbiage and a promoter of impossible social agendas. Bombastic plans for the future seem to be the tried and true method of every successful politician. They offer hope you can believe in; but in reality, all they actually have to offer are impossible ideals.

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Ecclesiastes 9:18

†. Ecc 9:18 . .Wisdom is more valuable than weapons of war, but a single error destroys much of value.

Although wisdom may have more value than a cruise missile, it isn't nearly as effective as that weapon in its purpose. It should be noted that a cruise missile isn't launched indiscriminately; but usually launched only after the wisdom of diplomacy has run its course and left the wisdom of warfare no choice but to do its thing; and it's thing these days can be the destruction of an entire city by just one bomb.

Equipment and munitions, no matter how sophisticated nor how destructive, are wasted in the hands of those untrained and unskilled in their use. So wisdom and weapons of war work together for a victory. But obviously wisdom is the more valuable of the two because it is through wisdom that war materiel is employed to its best effect.

President John F. Kennedy once commented in a speech: Every man woman and child is under a nuclear sword of Damocles, hanging by the slenderest thread, capable of being cut at any moment by accident, miscalculation, or by madness.

In other words, geniuses figured out how to harness fission, but its application is sometimes subject to the arbitrary discretion of fools and Murphy's law.


NOTE: A really good example of a single error destroying much of value was a 1998 NASA Mars robotic probe that failed to achieve its intended orbit around Mars due to ground-based computer software which produced output in non-SI units of pound (force)-seconds (lbf·s) instead of the SI units of newton-seconds (N·s) specified in the contract between NASA and Lockheed.

As a result of that one software boo-boo; the spacecraft encountered Mars on a trajectory that brought it too close to the planet, causing it to pass through the upper atmosphere and disintegrate. All the ingenious designing and engineering that went into constructing a perfectly good orbiter, and getting it out to Mars, went for naught.

Another good example was the Hubble Space Telescope flub. Nobody physically tested the Hubble's optics before sending the machine into near-earth orbit because a computer model convinced the telescope's makers that the optics were okay as-is and needed no testing. As a result, Hubble's initial data produced images little better than those seen by an elderly person with cataracts. Ouch!

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Ecclesiastes 10:1-4


†. Ecc 10:1 . . Dead insects will cause even a bottle of perfume to stink! Yes, an ounce of foolishness can outweigh a pound of wisdom and honor.

Before the wonders of modern chemistry, perfumes were made (and many still are) from animal and vegetable sources. Those, being all-natural, in a day prior to modern preservatives, could spoil if the perfumer wasn't careful to keep his product protected from exposure to temperature, insects, dirt, moisture, and other contaminants. All the skills and patience and knowledge exercised in the making of expensive scents could be completely annulled by simply forgetting to put the cap back on a jar.

Anyway, Ecc 10:1 certainly rings true in this day and age as the Roman Catholic Church's credibility steadily goes down the tubes because of its ongoing pedophilia scandals aggravated by its deplorable cover-ups.

And we shouldn't forget to mention law enforcement officers stepping out of character to take bribes, commit murder, robbery, theft, kidnapping, assault, battery, and rape.

†. Ecc 10:2 . . A wise man's mind tends toward the right hand, a fool's toward the left.

The right hand is the most useful and dexterous of the two hands. (at least for right-handed people anyway). It swings hammers and it writes letters. It pulls back the bow string, and it wields the sword and axe. It holds your cup of coffee, and it stirs cake mix. So to put your mind towards your right hand is to make your mind the leader in your efforts; in contrast to the fool who doesn't bother taking time to think anything through before charging ahead. The fool leaves behind him a wake of errors; and is always learning things the hard way. His favorite (full time) university is the School Of Hard Knocks. Pity, but it seems to be the only way he ever learns anything.

†. Ecc 10:3 . . A fool's mind is also wanting when he travels, and he lets everybody know he is a fool.

For some strange reason, the average male doesn't like to ask for directions when he travels. Women usually don't mind at all because they want to get where they're going. The men want to get there too, but they don't want to get there as wimpy men; they want to find their own way there as macho men. They prefer to think of themselves as commandos, patrol leaders: map and compass experts. So they often end up lost and turned around because their male ego will not permit them to let somebody (especially wives and girlfriends) help them find the way.

And then there are people who don't prepare for emergencies when they travel. They don't bring a car blanket, no paper towels, no tarp, no flares, no water, no first aid supplies, no flashlight, no food, their spare tire is flat, nor have they a clue how to install their car's tire chains (that is; if they even have a set) and they try to get by all year long on regular tires rather than go to the trouble of purchasing and installing seasonal tires.

†. Ecc 10:4 . . If the wrath of a lord flares up against you, don't give up your post; for when wrath abates, grave offenses are pardoned.

It is amazing how time has a way of healing things, and making people's anger dissipate. If your boss blows his top at you for something or other and rakes you over the coals, don't lose heart and quit your job just yet. He'll cool off after a while and soon be back to his old self again. Sooner or later, the boss himself will trip up and do something stupid like sexual harassment or creating a hostile workplace; thus putting himself in the awkward position of owing you one. Then you'll be even, and can go on as if nothing ever happened; and he'll be very glad you didn't do something rash like haul him down to the Equal Employment Opportunity office and make an issue of his professional conduct.

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Ecclesiastes 10:5-10


†. Ecc 10:5-6 . . Here is an evil I have seen under the sun as great as an error committed by a ruler: Folly was placed on lofty heights, while rich men sat in low estate. I have seen slaves on horseback, and nobles walking on the ground like slaves.

That is more a contrast between the nature of two types of character than actual estate. A good biblical example of what Solomon is talking about can be seen at Acts 23:23-24:27; where Paul the apostle mounted his defense against the accusations of his Jewish enemies before a Roman governor named Felix.

Felix wasn't born into nobility. No, he was actually an emancipated slave who worked himself up to rank by craftiness and cruelty. Felix ruled, not with a nobleman's mentality, but with a slave's. Tacitus, Hist. 5, says this of Felix: Per omnem saevitiam ac libidinem jus regium servili ingenio exercuit -- "He used royal power with a servile genius, and in connection with all the varieties of cruelty and lust."

Felix should have been judged by Paul, not the other way around. As Paul discoursed on righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix became nervous and said: That's enough for now! You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you. (Acts 24:25)

Felix's wife, Drusilla, was a piece of work herself. Her father was Herod Agrippa 1, the one who ordered the death of James the brother of John (Acts 12:2). Her great uncle, another Herod, ordered the Lord's cousin John beheaded (Mk 6:27). And last but not least, her great grandfather was the infamous Herod who ordered the slaughter of pre-schoolers. (Matt 2:16)

†. Ecc 10:8-9 . . He who digs a pit may fall into it, and a serpent may bite him who breaks through a wall. He who quarries stones may be hurt by them, and he who splits logs may be endangered by them.

Anyone who's ever chopped kindling, already knows how easy it is for sticks of wood to fly up into your face from a blow of the axe.

One of the most dangerous jobs up here in the northwest is logging. There's ten ways from Sunday to get yourself injured logging. Chain saws rip men, loose boughs called widow-makers fall on their heads, cables called chokers sometimes catch the men and crush their hands, tear them in half or pull an arm or leg off their bodies; falling trees lurch and skid rearwards off the stump to hit the logger if he forgets to stand off to the side. They are constantly tripping and falling, getting scratched, bitten by bugs, yelled at, cursed, and threatened by the Bull of the woods (their foreman).

Should men stop logging because it's dangerous? Should they stop digging trenches for pipelines because sometimes the trenches cave in? Should they stop tearing down old buildings for new shopping malls and apartment houses because there might be a rattler. or a scorpion, or a brown recluse spider in the rubble? No. All those hazards just quite naturally come with the turf.

Blue collar men are constantly in danger. But a wise worker will pay attention in safety meetings, and put into practice what's he's taught so he doesn't inadvertently kill himself in the process of bringing home the bacon. My boss always said: Cliff; I don't care if you get killed on the job just so long as you do it safely. (chuckle) That's one of the paradoxes of the blue collar world. Safe working practices save many lives and limbs; but none are fool proof.

†. Ecc 10:10 . . If the axe has become dull and he has not whetted the edge, he must exert more strength. Thus the advantage of a skill [depends on the exercise of] prudence.

We have a saying in the blue collar world: Work smarter, not harder. Many times a job can be facilitated by just simply taking the time to go and get the right tool instead of struggling to make do with the wrong one. But men can be stubborn; and are sometimes careless, lazy and/or in a hurry; with predictable results.

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Ecclesiastes 10:11-15


†. Ecc 10:11 . . If the snake bites because no spell was uttered, no advantage is gained by the trained charmer.

That continues the thought from verse 10; "Thus the advantage of a skill [depends on the exercise of] prudence."

Trained snake charmers lose control over cobras when they fail to exercise the snake charming skills they learned in training. Charmers can't just sit there and do nothing. The snake might strike and end the show before the charmer gets any money from his audience. That principle obviously applies in just about any area of life where skills (and prudence) are required to produce results; like driving a car, SCUBA diving, banking, typing, sewing, cooking, rock climbing, welding . . whatever. Trainings and skills are only valuable when they're applied and put to use.

†. Ecc 10:12-14a . . A wise man's talk brings him favor, but a fool's lips are his undoing. His talk begins as silliness and ends as disastrous madness. Yet the fool talks and talks!

There are some shows on television that I simply cannot endure because the hosts are so rude and disorderly; for example The View, and Kathy Lee Gifford and Hoda Kopb. Those people continually interrupt each other and hardly let the others complete a sentence before blurting out their own thoughts; and many times all are talking at once with a din that reminds me of a chicken house with all the birds clucking and squawking in an incoherent cacophony.

For some people, every conversation is either a filibuster or a monologue: they do all the talking. I used to work with a young man who not only talked very fast, but with a pretty fair amount of animated arm waving and head tossing to go with it. He had a maddening habit of never finishing one topic at a time. In mid sentence he would branch off to another; leaving the first incomplete. His conversation was like that continually and the effect was nerve jangling because your mind was constantly shifting gears trying to keep up with each new train of his thoughts.

People's words are like pools of water. Some are very deep; yet so clear that you can see all the way down. Others are shallow, but alas, so murky that you cannot see even one inch below the surface.

†. Ecc 10:14b . . A man cannot know what will happen; who can tell him what the future holds?

Well . . some people seem to know about everything. No matter what topic comes up in conversation, they have something to share about it as if you were the student, and they the master; and they are prolific with rash predictions about this and about that.

†. Ecc 10:15 . . A fool's exertions tire him out, for he doesn't know how to get to a town.

(chuckle) There's a modern colloquialism similar to that one: So and so is so dumb that he doesn't know his right hand from his left. Or: He wouldn't be able to find his nose if it wasn't attached to his face. That's the general impression bucket-mouthers make upon their victims

"Sooner meet a bereaved she-bear than a fool with his nonsense." (Pro 17:12)

"A knowledgeable man is sparing with his words; a man of understanding is reticent. Even a fool, if he keeps silent, is deemed wise-- intelligent, if he seals his lips." (Pro 17:27-28)

It isn't necessary to be an aged wizard like Gandalf to be truly wise because wisdom isn't really measured by a person's age. It's measured in good sense. Frodo the Hobbit, although young and inexperienced, is wise in his own way. Some of his friends are total idiots. But not Frodo. Although he enjoys a good time as well as any of his peers, Frodo is careful to avoid stupidity. Because he exercises a considerable amount of self control, Frodo is the only inhabitant of Middle Earth who can be trusted to bear the one ring that rules them all.

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Ecclesiastes 10:16-19


†. Ecc 10:16a . .Woe to you, O land, whose king is a lad

It is a very sad time in a country's progress when the young are getting their own way. God is known for punishing Yhvh's people by saddling them with immature leadership and with disrespect for senior citizens. Some see lowering the USA voting age to 18 as progress and a step in the right direction. The Bible would see it as an evidence of America's decadence.

"He will destroy all the nation's leaders-- the heroes, soldiers, judges, prophets, diviners, elders, army officers, honorable citizens, advisers, skilled magicians, and expert enchanters. Then he will appoint children to rule over them, and anarchy will prevail. People will take advantage of each other-- man against man, neighbor fighting neighbor. Young people will revolt against authority, and nobodies will sneer at honorable people." (Isa 3:2-5)

Children's activities, like little league baseball and cub scouts, need adult supervision. Kids, no matter how intelligent, just haven't the maturity to rule either themselves or others. Management of lands and peoples requires a degree of maturity, experience, and self discipline; which is why it's totally stupid to lower the voting age instead of raising it especially when the new 21 in America is now somewhere around 26 and air-headed entertainment like Jersey Shore and parent-bashing sitcoms are getting such high ratings.

†. Ecc 10:16b-17 . . and whose princes feast in the morning. Blessed are you, O land, whose king is of nobility and whose princes eat at the appropriate time-- for strength, and not for drunkenness.

The word for "princes" is from sar (sar) which means: a head person of any rank or class-- captains, chiefs, generals, governors, keepers, lords, taskmasters, monarchs, kings, magnates, barons, czars, foremen, supervisors, etc.

A hearty breakfast of pancakes, fruit, and cereal wouldn't be considered feasting. But a banquet, replete with alcohol, so early in the day, would have to be construed as indulgence. Here in America, where we have so much, overeating is a big problem. Many of us don't eat because we're hungry. No, we eat for recreation: simply because we like food. You want to see true hunger? Just look at the plight of the people of Afghanistan. Many of them are eating grass, insects, and soil just to have something in their stomachs.

Overeating is not the same as gluttony. Real gluttony is where revelers stuff themselves then regurgitate it so they can continue. But chronic overeating can be evidence of the possible presence of other vices. There used to be an old saying that chubby people are the happiest people. But we now know that over-eating is often the result of psychological problems like depression and anxiety disorders. Is that the kind of people we need in positions of leadership? I seriously doubt it.

†. Ecc 10:18-19 . .Through slothfulness the ceiling sags, through lazy hands the house caves in. They make a banquet for revelry; wine makes life merry, and money answers every need.

People with vices often put a higher priority upon satisfying their appetites for sex, food, substances, and gambling than taking care of business. Drug addicts often lose their jobs for non-productivity and tardiness. Some lose their friends, and their mental health. Gamblers risk the loss of their homes, credit ratings, and bank accounts. Binge eaters risk heart attacks, strokes, and hardening of the arteries. Smokers risk cancer, premature aging, and high blood pressure. And addicts on meth risk losing their teeth. The best time to break a bad habit is before it starts.

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Ecclesiastes 10:20


†. Ecc 10:20 . . Do not revile the king even in your thoughts, or curse the rich in your bedroom, because a bird of the air may carry your words, and a bird on the wing may report what you say.

The word for "revile" is from qalal (kaw-lal'); and basically means: to belittle, vilify, despise or express contempt for someone. It can also mean to wish (either in your heart or out loud) for someone's misfortune, or to hope they experience some sort of harm, calamity, and/or injury.

Vilifying the rich is one thing; but vilifying those that employ you in their business is quite another and can possibly lead to the loss of a promotion, or even your job.

Solomon's advice on this point is extremely valuable; and the practice of discretion is an outstanding social skill. It never seems to fail, that when friends get together, some begin airing petty grievances against their supervisors. Of course they wouldn't dare do this if any of the supervisors' friends were around; but they make the common mistake of assuming their friends are all loyal, and can keep a secret, and protect them from scandal. But you just never know who among your friends might be wearing two faces; and looking for an opportunity to curry favor with the very person you just now ran into the ground.

Even the walls can quite literally have ears. Here's how. One year, we were on vacation and staying at a friend's home in the town where we were. Well, one evening as my wife and I were planning our itinerary for the next day, I complained that the day would be ruined if our host wanted to come with us. Guess what? Their home had central heating and every room was equipped with a vent that connected to the main ductwork; which quite effectively carried sounds to every room in the house like a tubular telegraph system. Our host overheard everything we said.

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Ecclesiastes 11:1-2


†. Ecc 11:1-2 . . Send your bread forth upon the waters; for after many days you will find it. Distribute portions to seven or even to eight, for you cannot know what misfortune may occur on earth.

In Solomon's opinion; a well-rounded person is charitable. Altruism is one of those characteristics that should be included in everyone's social résumé; and makes us a better person for it. Nowadays, college aspirants have to put in some time benefiting their communities in some way because it looks good on a college application.

They say charity begins at home. From there, it moves on out into the neighborhood, and ultimately into the world: foreign aid for example. Some people object to foreign aid because it drains American resources badly needed on the home front. But drain or not, it's a good policy. Not only is it humanitarian, and therefore morally right; but you just never know when America herself will be down and out and the very people who were down on their luck that we assisted with weapons, food, technology, and medicine, might one day reciprocate and help us out in some way.

"I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings." (Luke 16:9)

America is sometimes accused of buying friends with foreign aid, and no doubt some of that is true. But not always. And even if it were 100% true; so what? You don't need to love people to be charitable. It makes good sense to build yourself a base of good will just in case you need a favor some day. People you have helped are more inclined to help you back than those you ignored; and in this big bad world, you need all the friends you can get.

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Ecclesiastes 11:3-8


†. Ecc 11:3-6 . . If the clouds are filled, they will pour down rain on the earth; and if a tree falls to the south or to the north, the tree will stay where it falls. If one watches the wind, he will never sow; and if one observes the clouds, he will never reap.

. . . Just as you do not know how the life-breath passes into the limbs within the womb of the pregnant woman, so you cannot foresee the actions of God, who causes all things to happen. Sow your seed in the morning, and don’t hold back your hand in the evening, since you don’t know which is going to succeed, the one or the other, or if both are equally good.


Just about any mention of a "God" in the book of Ecclesiastes is superficial rhetoric, and has nothing to do with genuine faith.

What Solomon is saying is: If people waited until all the conditions were just right, life would pass them by. In other words: Life is a risk. Take it.

†. Ecc 11:7-8 . . How sweet is the light, what a delight for the eyes to behold the sun! Even if a man lives many years, let him enjoy himself in all of them, remembering how many the days of darkness are going to be. The only future is nothingness!

We know from the revealed portions of scripture that the future is definitely not darkness and nothingness. But from the point of view of the man under the sun, one's existence on earth is relatively brief in comparison to one's non-existence in the grave. Philosophically then, it's stupid to deny one's self the pleasures this life has to offer when death is so inevitable.

In the movie Moonstruck; Olympia Dukakis' character asks Danny Aiello's character why men chase women. He suggested that men chase women because they fear death. Well, if not the moment of death, then surely they fear the aging process that gets men to the moment of death; which is the root cause of the so-called middle-age crisis. The aging process then, is a sort of world-wide pandemic for which there is no known cure; and the condition thus far has always been terminal.

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Ecclesiastes 11:9-10


†. Ecc 11:9-10 . . O youth, enjoy yourself while you are young! Let your heart lead you to enjoyment in the days of your youth. Follow the desires of your heart and the glances of your eyes-- but know well that God will call you to account for all such things-- and banish care from your mind, and pluck sorrow out of your flesh! For youth and dark hair are fleeting.

I let my past go too fast
No time to pause
If I could slow it all down
Like some captain, whose ship runs aground
I can wait until the tide comes around

(RUSH: Time Stand Still, 1987)

Life can't be put on hold, nor can one pause and savor the moment because moments are momentary. The instant moments happen, they become fixed in the frozen sea of the past. People who think to "save" themselves for marriage for example, can do no such thing. One cannot "save" life as if it were possible to put life in storage. No, life goes on. When people try to "save" themselves for later; they only end up letting themselves go to waste because youth isn't static; no, youth is trailing off behind you at warp speed; ergo : the time to live life is while you have it; not wait to live it later after you've gone to seed.

Young people should enjoy a young person's life to the fullest while they have the chance; but of course not to excess because any reasonable sense of justice expects a day when a supreme being will call everyone into account. But nevertheless; there is a lot to life that can be fully enjoyed only while we are young. Age takes the pleasure out of many things in life that were once fresh and exciting.

Take Disneyland in Los Angeles for example. Walt's park was built in the 1950's, completed just three years before I became a teen-ager. Oh; how I yearned to go there and ride the Jungle Cruise, a boat ride on the rivers of the world-- and we lived in San Diego, only a measly ninety miles from Anaheim. Well, my mom and dad never did take us; and I didn't go on my own until I got out of the Army. I went; but it was more of a curiosity than a pleasure. You know why? Because I wasn't a kid anymore. So don't let youth slip through your fingers. Don't put off kid things till you are older; because when you are older, they won't be near as much fun nor will they be nearly as interesting either.

There was a time when I had 20-20 vision and could gaze at the stars with my naked eyes and see them all crisp and sharp, even the really tiny ones. Then one day I started noticing birds with four wings. Astigmatism had crept up on me and there was nothing I could do about it except start wearing glasses. In later years, I started developing cataracts; which make it really hard to drive at night because the headlights of oncoming cars are like looking at flares through an oily window and make it really hard for me to see the white lines.

Romance especially is dulled by age. When you're young, love and romance take your breath away, you can't sleep for the excitement of it all, and all you can think of is being with your lover. Well, when you get older, it's not like that. And I don't mean real old either. People in only their mid thirties and forties no longer feel the same rush any more.

As a case in point, I dated a little in high school. Afterwards, during three years of active duty in the Army I avoided girls and did no dating at all. After discharge, I dated a girl when I was 21 and then completely lost interest in dating till I was 32. But guess what? That decade of celibacy rendered me almost completely frigid. I could feel very little chemistry with girls; they were simply people of a different gender. The only reason I married at all is because of the aging process. One day while shaving, as I looked in the mirror I noticed my face beginning to sag and my hair thinning and receding. It was a wake-up call. I realized the time of life for starting a family was rapidly slipping away where before I gave it no thought at all.

Life is one of those things that you cannot go back and do over. You're only young once; and you feel the feelings of the young only once too; and that's for a relatively brief time compared to the remainder of your life.

I was once asked, in the 6th grade, by a sadistic male school principal who caught me acting silly in the cafeteria: "Aren't you ever going to grow up?" I answered; "I don't want to grow up." He was immediately indignant, and demanded to know why. I replied; "Because grown-ups are unhappy." He was annoyed by my answer; but no doubt knew in his heart I was right. I never saw that man happy. He was always irritable and upset at the students for one thing or another and everyone feared him. You know, looking back, I don't think that man was even 35 yet; and just look how much of the exuberance of youth he had already lost even by the time of that relatively early age.

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