Then I commended mirth, because a man has no better thing under the sun, than to eat, and to drink, and to be merry: for that will abide with him of his work the days of his life, which God giveth him under the sun.
I was lord over my domain,
and I gave my heart to search and seek out wisdom concerning all things done under the sky: these painful labours that God has given to man to occupy him.
I have seen all the works done under the sun; and behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit.
That which is crooked cannot be made straight and that which is wanting is innumerable.
I communed with my heart, saying “See, I have received great estate, I have amassed more wisdom than all they before me in this land: truly my heart had great experience of wisdom and knowledge.”
And I gave my heart to know wisdom, and to know madness and folly: and I perceived that this is also vexation of spirit.
For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increases knowledge increases sorrow.
Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.
What does it profit a man, all his labour under the sun?
One generation passes, another generation comes, but the universe abides forever.
The sun rises, the sun sets, and rushes to the place from whence it came.
The wind blows south, then turns about to the north, whirling continually, returning in it’s circuits.
All rivers run to the sea, yet the sea is not full. Into the place from whence rivers come, so they return again.
All things are full of toil, man cannot utter it. The eye is not satisfied with seeing, the ear not filled by hearing.
The thing that has been is that which shall be, and that which is done is that which shall be done, and there is no new thing under the sun.
Is there anything of which it may be said “see, this is new”? It has already been of old, in the time that came before us.
There is no memory of former things, nor shall there be memory of that which is to come in those who come after.
You are enamoured with the idea of power. You hate it and you love it. It fascinates you the way the soft curves of a woman fascinate her lover. You will never really have power of your own, and you are not sure that you want it, so you instead sublimate your interest into the abstractions of power, politics, war, psychology – even physics.
You always said there was no organisation, no order to the directions your noncommittal fascinations took. Bursts of study followed by repose. But there is an order that is all to clear, whether you are reading about how to build a bomb or about how to coax a child from bed, whether you are fascinated by Lenin or by Charles II, by the PLA or by wikileaks, or even by God and the saints, you are fascinated above all by power. Who has it, who wants it, how do they go about vying for it – how does the struggle play out.
You hate yourself a little bit for this, but it is who you are. There are good reasons to feel so interested in these things, on some evolutionary level, once upon a time it would have helped you survive.
Not now though, when life is already carved out for the likes of you, by the well worn grooves of the masses and the simplicity of taking the path most traveled. There is no need for such incisive interest in such things in this day and age.
Or in anything much at all really…
If they set off all the bombs, and everything we know, human civilisation if not the human race, if not mammalian life itself, was to burn up in a grandiose firework display of self destructive power:
It wouldn’t really matter. Things would die. Things would survive. The sun would rise and the sun would set. The stars would send out photons across the great abyss in the sky and the tiny creatures would continue the task of all life, like a blackhole but less inevitable: to consume and absorb all things into itself.
We recoil at human suffering, but life is suffering. We recoil at death, but now or 80 years from now, it’s but a blink of the eye. None of this has a purpose, we’re cells in a petri-dish in a world without biologists, colonising brilliantly coloured agar and then shrinking back into the void from whence all comes.
If you sat right on the edge, so that you were horrifically burned but still took days to die from the inevitable sickness of radiation, your agonies would blot all that from your mind. All you would know is pain and it would matter a great deal to you. But pain is just a sensation, it is not meaningful, it pierces our soul and we cry out. But for what? Pray for a quick death, better yet, pray there is anyone to hear you.
Anyway, it won’t happen. Sisyphus is not done with his boulder, maybe for the best, or maybe it’s worse. Or worse…
…tomorrow you awake and the city still stands and charred bodies do not yet litter the streets and you are sure it doesn’t matter either way.
You fill your days, reading, learning, working, practicing. It feels good to grow, to improve, to get closer to some self defined goals of knowledge, understanding, or proficiency. You take out your book ready for the day’s studying when you catch yourself for a moment. How much you have changed, how much you have learned, how much more you are now than yesterday – and how pointless it all is. The better you is no better than the worse you, neither of you matter, neither of you will make a mark, and if you somehow escape that fate, any marks you make will quickly be weathered by the eroding force of history. You could in this moment know everything there is to know, have the greatest of skills of anyone on earth, and it would be as irrelevant. Death would come regardless, not just for you the individual, but for your country, your race, your family lineage and eventually even for your species. What do the atoms care for your skill and your knowledge? Why do you strive from moment to moment over these empty things.
You breathe, but you may as well not breathe. You seek solace in the social, in high acclaim, in fame and approval – or in that closer more intimate kind, the affections of a lover, the pride of a parent. They too will die, your value to them nothing but a reflection of their insignificance in you and your insignificance in them.
Huddled together for warmth, running around like a small animal that needs constant motion to maintain it’s metabolism. If only you could accept that you are nothing you could find pleasure in these moments life brings you, but seeking out the impossible – meaning, purpose, objective value – you spend your short life wallowing in misery. You know this too, but cannot let go of your clinging nonetheless.