But again, this also was vanity. (Ecclesiastes 2:1b)
I think Ecclesiastes is the single most important biblical text for our time. The book is largely about Qoheleth’s (the main character and presumed author) quest to find meaning and purpose in world, to find the good life for himself and his community. He tries pleasure; he tries wine; he tries establishing a kingdom; he tries amassing wealth; he tries building a reputation for himself – all to no avail. None of it works; all of these are vanity: fleeting, empty, absurd. They are like grasping at mist – this is the root meaning of the term we traditionally translate “vanity.” “Vanity of vanities,” says Qoheleth, “vanity of vanities! All is vanity” (Eccl. 1:2; see also 12:8) – it’s how he begins his book; it’s how he ends his book; and for those of us living in a world in which we are trying to find meaning and purpose, where we are trying to find the good life for ourselves and our communities, Qoheleth’s view of the world may resonate with our own experience of the humdrum of everyday life, leaving us frustrated and confused . . .
. . . Which is where I leave us today. But the good news is that Qoheleth has an answer to the question; he understands where to find meaning and purpose; he knows where to find the good life. So tune in tomorrow to find out just where Qoheleth directs us . . . and until then, peace to you all in this mixed up world. – rc