Lately, when I catch a glimpse of my face it appears to be melting like candle wax or colorful taffy in the hot Florida sun. It evokes the hollow horror of Edvard Munch’s painting, “The Scream.” Since I haven’t taken any LSD, I figure this droop must be part of aging. I spoke with my doctor about the way my origami shaped eyelids are folding in on themselves, and she said that she thinks I could qualify for the medically-necessary surgery to put them back in their proper place so my vision isn’t impaired. I didn’t know whether to feel validated by her comment or virtually hopeless.
Earlier that day I was speaking with a friend who is teaching a class on the Book of Ecclesiastes and he mentioned its humanistic view of vanity which goes beyond society’s obsession with appearances. The only thing I knew offhand about the chapter is the passage that begins “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens,” (Ecclesiastes 3:1).
It reads like beautiful poetry, a cadence of simplicity making sense of a senseless world: “a time to be born and time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build,” (Ecclesiastes 3: 2-3). A time to be young and cute with body parts in their proper spot and a time to have your eyelids tied up with thread so you can see every new crevice of decay. Somehow that line must have been edited out. I suppose for the sake of brevity, not lack of validity.
“Vanity of vanities! All is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 1:2). When this was written it wasn’t just talking about my drooping eyelids but the author’s attempt to alleviate his sense of feeling lost in the world through the pursuit of pleasure, work, and wisdom. The long and short of it is that life is fleeting, meaningless, and futile in all its pursuits without the realization of the constancy and contentment that comes from God. Accepting God’s pervasiveness in all things, his persistence in loving all people, and his passion on the cross that allowed us a pass at salvation is what is going to fill the hollow ache of our hearts. Void of God, life is just vanity.
This is not suggesting we quit our day jobs, or stop pursuing pleasure, knowledge, or making the world a better place. Only that without God, “the time for everything,” is going to feel more like nothing than not.
As far as what time does to my aging body, “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 1:2). (Besides, basset hounds have droopy eyes and they are kind of cute!)
It’s an interesting perspective to think of life as vanity when it is devoid of God but it makes sense. On the flip-side how much more fulfilling could our lives be if we were in constant communion with God? Wouldn’t we be more joyful, generous, and gentle? I’m betting the effort pays off a lot more than trying to fight gravity 🙂
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