The big question most of us chase is also the Teacher’s. How are we to make sense of what goes on here, if our lives mean anything? We wonder where to go for an answer to a question like that. Many have weighed in with their answers.
Peter Kreeft does an excellent job of getting into the Teacher’s mind. He lays out the search very clearly. One way is to try to outrun the question. You fill your life with other pursuits so you don’t have to think about it. Maybe you convince yourself the question doesn’t really matter. Or you decide everyone has their own truth so why worry about THE truth? You vow you are only going to pursue happiness, think happy thoughts, and forget the angst that comes to all of us. It gradually becomes more about you, what you choose to believe, than a search for any universal belief.
Once the Teacher finishes observing the world as it is, he begins his search. Maybe, he thinks, if I gain wisdom and knowledge, I’ll figure it out. But just as he finishes one book, another springs up and there is no keeping up with it, no end to the parade of knowledge. Furthermore, he finds with all this wisdom comes much sorrow.
Next, he goes after power. He speculates if he can control everything with all the money he’s got, he will surely find what he is looking for, but he finds there isn’t much purpose in amassing goods and services. Nothing changes except he gets what he wants when he wants it. That’s a big draw for most of us at some point or another.
Well forget my mind and the need to control everything, he continues. Maybe my body can provide the answers. He pursues wine, women, and song, with no holds barred, but this also fails to give him the answers he is seeking. After a time, the altering of his mind so he doesn’t care, the lack of connection with anyone, and the forced optimism become boring. There is still no meaning on the horizon.
Okay, logically the next step must be trying to be a good person, he thinks. He becomes generous with his time and money and tries to help people out. But this too becomes a dead end when he has nothing of real value to share other than his power and abundance of funds.
Finally, he heads for religion but the God he is familiar with doesn’t seem to really care about him at all. This God seems empty and remote,says Kreeft.
And, after all, it is hard to find meaning when the rules earth runs by are so difficult. Things like the inevitability of death and the factor of time which moves on regardless of how we feel about it. In addition, although we might prefer things another way, the universe runs the way it runs without any regard for us. And what about the presence of climate change? Of evil? Why make a world with that element so pervasively present?
There is a profound change when Jesus arrives on the scene. The rules are different. The perspective becomes hopeful. Maybe the Teacher’s study resonates so profoundly because he describes the life we know before faith, the life that drives us to long for something more. We recognize the struggles and searches we have in common with the Teacher and we also long for answers and relief.
It is as if our bus is struggling to make it safely through thick fog in deep valleys, and periodically speeding along when bright bursts of sunlight appear.
“The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater.”
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
Off the Beaten Path:
The Meaning of Life According to Google: https://youtu.be/R_4qmbnzX_c
The meaning of life according to Simone de Beauvoir: https://youtu.be/Ws2Y2cWme8c
Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life: https://youtu.be/asOFi1W228M
The Meaning of Life according to Warren Buffet: https://youtu.be/cXP-5cmXzvo
Ten Different Views on the Meaning of Life: https://listverse.com/2014/08/16/10-different-views-on-the-meaning-of-life/
The Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl: https://youtu.be/SVhuCpgLCTE
Thomas Flight on the meaning of life in Camus, Groundhog Day and Palm Springs in Palm Springs vs. Groundhog Day: Finding Meaning in the Loop: https://youtu.be/_pk3cSb6QN8
Philosopher Peter Kreeft’s book is called Three Philosophies of Life–Ecclesiastes: Life as Vanity; Job: Life as Suffering; Song of Songs: Life as Love
Piranesi comes to the conclusion the search for Knowledge is taking something from the mysterious House he finds himself in that is not meant to be taken. He comes to believe, “The House is valuable because it is the House. It is enough in and of itself. It is not the means to an end.” From Susanna Clarke’s Piranesi.
Knowing and appreciating the simple joys to be found in home and friends, would anyone set out on a quest to save the earth as the Teacher describes it, as the company did in The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien?