Monday, February 2, 2009

meaningless, meaningless...or maybe not

"Hold out your hand in front of your mouth," said Laura. "Breathe." I did.
"Did you feel something?" Well, yes, I thought.
"Do you feel it now?" No.... And, our conversation on Ecclesiastes continued.

I must confess that when "meaningless, meaningless" is uttered, my thoughts go to Ecclesiastes. These words paint pictures in my mind of a time in my life when getting out of bed, getting groceries, and getting the mail all proved to be enormous tasks. A time when hopelessness seemed to prevail. However, when we look at the actual Hebrew word found in the Old Testament, the word "meaningless" doesn't entirely capture the idea being expressed. Some translations use the word "vanity" though that doesn't really embody the original Hebrew either. Perhaps the best way to understand the word is to look at the end of Ecclesiastes 1:14 where the writer discusses chasing after the wind. Is chasing after the wind meaningless? Well, yes, but there is more. The wind is only here for a second. It is brief. So to chase after it is vanity as we will never catch it. The idea behind the Hebrew word found in this passage is best rendered "a breath." It is quick. It is not lasting. The writer isn't wallowing in a depression pondering the sorrows of life. But instead, he is like us, searching after things that are fleeting.

Okay your turn. Hold out your hand in front of your mouth. Breathe. Did you feel something? Do you feel it now?

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