All is vanity. Ecclesiastes. Vanity. Just back ground noise. White noise. The vanity of ideas, the vanity of our own wisdom, the vanity of what we think we care about. Most things pass away and what we think is so important, we soon learn wasn’t important at all, especially as our lives shift and change.
I take great comfort in this idea, on account of the fact that I tend to be quite passionate about most things as in, this is a life or death matter buddy, so you better crawl out from under that bed and get back over here and fight about it….
I also take comfort in it because I wrestle with acceptance. There are things in the world we must accept, their existence at least, but they are unacceptable things. World hunger and starvation for example, a terrible thing we must do everything in our power to eradicate and yet we can make ourselves quite distressed over things we cannot fix and that distress does absolutely nothing to make things any better.
We do not get extra credit points for our distress. There is no virtue credit being deposited in our moral bank accounts simply because we care, so, so much…
Then there is worry. Worry does absolutely nothing to change things and it doesn’t add any days to our life. The most important thing however, is that 95% of what we think is so important isn’t going to be important five years from now anyway.
We have kids these days totally distressed over how they will perform on a 6th grade standardized test. It matters, it really matters, it’s the most important thing in the world! Sometimes I am not sure if it is kinder to just burst their bubble outright or leave them in their anxiety. The truth as most adults already know, is that it doesn’t even matter. Nobody will even remember those results six months from now. An even harsher truth, nobody really cares anyway. People are busy with their own lives. You will not get a golden ticket that opens the doors to life simply because you performed well.
Success is a funny thing too, in a child’s mind, they will work hard, do well, become rich and popular, and everyone will like them. Au contraire! In fact, you can almost judge your degree of success by how many people actually hate you. If you don’t have haters, either you’ve never stood up for anything in your life, you’re an epic failure at everything, or else you haven’t even bothered to get out of bed that day. The correct response to “everyone likes me,” should be, “oh I’m so sorry! Have you been ill?”
Adulting itself isn’t hard, but our failure as parents, as an entire culture, to speak the truth to our kids, is going to make it so much harder. Has made it so much harder.
There was something valuable once to be had in the idea of being a mid-wit, middle of the road, middle student, middle class, even. As a culture, we were all about striving for the middle. An ordinary life, but an ordinary life that we recognized and valued as quite extraordinary. The miraculous nature of middling America, not really middling at all, but downright exceptional. Little pink houses for you and me.
Often it seems to me as if we’ve flipped a switch, one that has unleashed envy upon the world. Snowflakes are all about class envy, racial envy, gender envy, utopia envy, success envy, always, always, this idea that it is all about the favor of man, our perceived status within society, authority itself being remade into our perceived status in society.
I blame 6th grade standardized tests. Yep, you broke the whole world people, and left behind an entire generation now wrestling with some harsh truths, truths hidden in the bible all along, but truths they no longer know or understand.
Ecclesiastes, rather than being nihilistic, rather then telling us nothing matters, actually enables us to free ourselves of deceptions, to unburden ourselves of the clutter and vanity of life that distracts us from what really matters, what is steadfast and true and unchanging. In a world where everything is always changing, Truth is kind of important to build your foundation upon.