Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Nothing New Under the Sun

We have advanced greatly in knowledge, but this problem of meaning is no nearer to a solution. The ancient writer of Ecclesiastes, thought to be Solomon circa 970 B.C., highlighted the meaningless of life; that life has no meaning if there is nothing to it besides being born, living and dying, and attempts to find meaning in success are doomed to fail. Success is fickle and fleeting, and as the ancient writer points out, it never satisfies.
“Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher.  “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” (i)
I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my labor, and this was the reward for all my toil. Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun. (ii)
Millennia later existentialist thinkers such as Jean-Paul Sartre echoed the ancient lament of Ecclesiastes that life is without meaning. Sartre pointed out that we then have to make our own meaning in such a world without equality or fairness or direction.
I exist, that is all, and I find it nauseating. (iii)
However, the ancient philosopher pointed out there is a meaning. There will be equality. God will judge all actions. Jesus stated that in His Kingdom “first will be last and last will be first”.  (iv)

Sartre, himself recognized that without belief in the supernatural there can be no meaning to life. He rejected belief in God as “bad faith”, but his solution that everyone make their own truth is hardly any better. If we each labored under the guise of our own truth, society would break down. If no one recognized the truth of standards such as criminal laws or the rights of others, the world would be a horrible place.

There is a choice in front of us. Is life truly meaningless because it is unfair or can we find solace in the fact that God will usher in a world of fairness – the world we want to live in?

(i)  Ecclesiastes 1:2 (New International Version).
(ii) Ecclesiastes 2:10-11 (New International Version).
(iii) Jean-Paul Sartre, Nausea.
(iv) Matthew 19:30 (New International Version).

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