As we near the end of 2016 I think of the words of Qoheleth from the Hebrews scriptures. Here’s an info graphic created to bring his ancient wisdom to today’s university students. Feel free to down load this for your personal use. Or if you’d like a 13″x 19″ color poster printed on glossy paper check out Amazon HERE.
Let’s enter 2015 by turning to ancient Hebrew wisdom literature for several bracing reminders.
- Time marches on. The philosopher/poet of Ecclesiastes piles example after example of situations that come our way without our bidding. We have little to no control over the things that move us to laugh, cry, mourn, dance, etc. Circumstances happen in their time, not ours.
- Behaving ethically is tricky. By contrasting fourteen sets of opposite behaviors the poet suggests there are times when a certain action is right and times when it’s wrong. How do we know which is which? It depends on the circumstance.
- Emotional roller coasters are normal. What do you call a person who swings from weeping to laughing to mourning to dancing to hugging to ignoring to fighting to peace making to loving to hating? Human.
- Unpleasant things happen. If in 2015 we face one of those unpleasant actions (dying, mourning, weeping, avoiding) we can console ourselves that it’s a part of life. We need not add to the unpleasantness guilt, shame, or anger.
- Pleasant things happen. If in 2015 we face one of these pleasant actions (childbearing, harvesting, healing, building, laughing, dancing, embracing) we can again console ourselves that it’s also a part of life. We need not spoil the good times with guilt, embarrassment, or shame. My great appreciation for Ecclesiastes stems from its encouragement to find islands of satisfaction in a sea of discontent.
- Give others the benefit of the doubt. This list of 28 activities validates polar opposites. This means that the person you’re arguing with may be justified in their beliefs. Pacifists, there is a time for war. War mongers, there is a time for peace. Hoarders, there is a time to throw away. Guilt ridden consumers, there is a time to keep stuff. The ability to say to your opponent, “You may be right” would do wonders in our world of escalating conflict.
- Question yourself. If you’re a somber, dour Puritan with no sense of humor remember, “there is a time to laugh.” If you’re a naive Pollyanna in denial about the plight of the planet remember, “there is a time to mourn.” If you’re prone to racism, elitism, or the class/caste system remember, “there is a time to embrace.” If you are unable to discriminate between good and evil, right and wrong, just and unjust remember, “there is a time to refrain from embracing.”
- Have faith. The philosopher/poet’s conclusion is, “the particular details of providence are all part of some vast eternal, albeit incomprehensible, plan” (Ecclesiastes 3:10-15). If this isn’t true then the march of time is pointless, crushing, and without ultimate significance. If a person has no trouble with such a universe, who am I to argue? But if, like me, you have an innate yearning to make sense of the ebb and flow of nature and history, faith is a viable option.