This has been an interesting week with a lot of stuff going on in the world (when is it not) with some of it even relevant to our study. Among the things that might be relevant was the passing this week of a tech icon Steve Jobs.
As most of you know he was a founder, along with Steve Wozniak, of Apple and regarded as one of the leading innovators and leaders of the tech world and even a trendsetter in popular culture beyond that. Among his other accomplishments he built Apple into the most valuable company in the world with a market cap exceeding $350 Billion.
I do not know anything about Steve’s spiritual life but he said several things that were interesting, mostly related to his fight against pancreatic cancer and subsequent liver transplant.
“Almost everything–all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure–these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”
“I want to put a ding in the universe.”
“We don’t get a chance to do that many things, and every one should be really excellent. Because this is our life. Life is brief, and then you die, you know? And we’ve all chosen to do this with our lives. So it better be damn good. It better be worth it.”
How do some of these thoughts square up with what we are reading in Ecclesiastes? Did he really put a ding in the universe after all? Would he have any thoughts that might be similar to Qoheleth?
One thing from Chapter 1 before we move to Chapter 2. In 1:4 – 1:7, he notes the unchanging nature of the earth, the circular nature of the sun’s rising and setting, the circular nature of the winds and and sea. Do you see the four classical elements, earth, air, fire and water? I found that interesting (maybe you didn’t, but these are my notes).
In chapter 1 Qoheleth outlines the question he is trying to answer and how he intends to go about answering it. He also introduces the sphere in which he is trying to find the answer: under the sun. He is looking for meaning in this physical life, in things done by man under the son. In 2 he first looks to folly, silliness and dissipation including drunkenness.
Then he looks to work and accomplishment and gaining great wealth, to building buildings, gardens, and to acquiring those things that distinguished great kings in the ancient near east. I find it interesting that he “denied himself nothing”.
Finally he turns to wisdom. When comparing it to folly he found it superior, but realized that “The fate of the fool will overtake” him as well. Ultimately he found no advantage in wisdom over foolishness (under the sun) .
At last he said he hated life and all the things he had done because, despite all the things he had done, everything he had acquired, built, found or known would be the property of another, to do with as he pleased. He says,”For a person may labor with wisdom, knowledge and skill, and then they must leave all they own to another who has not toiled for it. This too is meaningless and a great misfortune.” How might this relate to Steve Jobs, or to us?
He concludes that the best a person can do is find satisfaction in what they are eating and drinking and working on right now, and that the ability to find that satisfaction is a gift from God. If we seek to please God he will give us wisdom and knowledge and happiness, in other words, the ability to labor for ourselves. Not pleasing God is the curse of working for another.