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In School With Solomon

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Hello; and welcome to the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes.

This book is actually kinda fun because it's chock full of normal thinking instead of religious dogma. Ecclesiastes requires very little interpretation as anybody who's been around the block a time or two can easily relate to its world view.

I decline to spiritualize this book; preferring instead to quick draw and shoot from the hip; so to speak.

Buen Camino
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● Ecc 1:1 . .The words of Koheleth son of David, king in Jerusalem.

Koheleth is apparently a transliteration rather than a translation. The Hebrew word is qoheleth (ko-heh'-leth) which means: an assembly gatherer (i.e. a lecturer). A qoheleth assembler isn't a mechanic on a factory assembly line, but rather, someone who assembles a group together for a speech, a seminar, a sermon, or a classroom lecture.

Christ was a koheleth. Just about everywhere he went, Jesus set up a soap box and drew crowds.

The lecturer obviously isn't female because Koheleth was a son of David and a king in Jerusalem. Sons and kings are eo ipso male.

Tradition accredits Ecclesiastes to David's son Solomon, the brightest intellectual of his day because of the abundance of his God-given wisdom. None of the other descendants of David ever matched Solomon's intellect. He may not have been much of a soldier, but Solomon had no equals in matters of scholarship.

"Yhvh endowed Solomon with wisdom and discernment in great measure, with understanding as vast as the sands on the seashore. Solomon's wisdom was greater than the wisdom of all the Kedemites and than all the wisdom of the Egyptians. He was the wisest of all men: [wiser] than Ethan the Ezrahite, and Heman, Chalkol, and Darda the sons of Mahol. His fame spread among all the surrounding nations.

. . . He composed three thousand proverbs, and his songs numbered one thousand and five. He discoursed about trees, from the cedar in Lebanon to the hyssop that grows out of the wall; and he discoursed about beasts, birds, creeping things, and fishes. Men of all peoples came to hear Solomon's wisdom, [sent] by all the kings of the earth who had heard of his wisdom." (1Kgs 5:9-14)

Solomon's education would most likely be categorized as Liberal Arts in our day; which is a pretty broad field of study consisting of a variety of subjects.

● Ecc 1:2-3 . . Utter futility!-- said Koheleth --Utter futility! All is futile! What real value is there for a man in all the gains he makes beneath the sun?

He has a point. What does it benefit people "beneath the sun" (viz: in this world) to amass a fortune, build an empire, accumulate knowledge, possessions, education, accolades, achievements, and experience when they're only going to die and lose every last bit of it? Here's a humorous epitaph that quite says it all:

Here lies John Racket,
In his wooden jacket.
He kept neither horses
Nor mules.
He lived like a hog,
And died like a dog;
And left his money to fools.
This is probably a good time to make an important public announcement.

The area of Talk Jesus that I selected to begin my talk about Ecclesiastes in located in the Sermon folder.

If you've ever attended a church service or a Billy Graham crusade, you know that a sermon isn't an interactive forum. Sermons are essentially one-way lectures that neither invite nor accommodate outbursts, discussion, response, critique, debate, or remarks.

If someone has something to say to me, please do so via a private message in the conversation area of my profile rather than disrupting the thread with chat.

Thank You.
● Ecc 1:4 . . One generation goes, another comes, but the Earth remains the same forever.

The Earth outlasts everybody; viz: it's permanent while humans are transient.

It's quite humiliating to realize that a mindless lump of granite with an IQ of zero, and whose personal accomplishments amount to absolutely nothing, will easily outlive the finest minds and the most energetic movers and shakers who ever existed. The rock of Gibraltar, for example, was here before Plato, Alexander the Great, Darwin, Beethoven, Einstein, Eli Whitney, Edwin Hubble, Jonas Salk, and Steve Jobs; and the rock of Gibraltar was still here after they all died. It will still be here after you and I are dead too. Shakespeare once said: All the world's a stage. He was so right. Actors come and go, but the stage is always there; ready for a new cast.

It's just not fair. People are much smarter, more sophisticated, and far more valuable than anything on the planet. But the planet itself-- mute, ignorant, and impersonal --endures forever; while its superiors die and drop off all the time. In the grand scheme of things, a human's tenure on the planet is but for a fleeting moment; then they're gone and forgotten; washed away. For the vast majority of people, it will be as though they were never here at all. The planet was doing just fine before they got here, and it will go on doing just fine after they're gone. In point of fact the Earth would do better if everyone were gone so that nature could be given time to rectify all the damages that humans have inflicted upon it.

● Ecc 1:5 . .The sun rises, and the sun sets-- and glides back to where it rises.

Sounds like Orphan Annie-- "The Sun-ull come owwwwt too-maw-row. Betcher bottum doll-ler that too-maw-rohhhhh, thair-ull be Sun." (chuckle) Annie has it pegged. Maybe clouds block the Sun from view now and then, but the clouds can never stop the Sun from coming up; nor stop it from going down either. The Sun always comes up, and it always goes down-- there's always day, and there's always night

● Ecc 1:6 . . Southward blowing, turning northward, ever turning blows the wind; on its rounds the wind returns.

Solomon perceived that winds are cyclonic; and he's right. The Earth's air currents don't move straight ahead like waves roaring in on the beach. No, they circulate. High pressure areas move air into low pressure areas. And the winds never blow just once. They keep coming back to blow all over again.

● Ecc 1:7 . . All streams flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full; to the place [from] which they flow the streams flow back again.

Solomon was pretty doggone savvy about hydrology. It's true. All streams flow towards the sea (duh! gravity makes water flow downhill, and most landmasses are above the level of the sea), but the water doesn't stay there. It returns to the land masses again via evaporation and snow, and rain, and hail, in a perpetual cycle.

● Ecc 1:8 . . All such things are wearisome: no man can ever state them; the eye never has enough of seeing, nor the ear enough of hearing.

Science is fun. But there is just too much for one man to learn in his lifetime. Even those who specialize in only one branch, like astronomy, or biology, or chemistry, never really get it all. They are ever grasping for more knowledge, but it eludes them. Then they die and someone else comes along to pick up where they left off and continue the search.

A new 8.8 billion-dollar space telescope, said to be many times more powerful than the Hubble, dubbed the James Webb Space Telescope (a.k.a. JWSP) is on track for launch in 2020. What for? Only because Man's eyes never have enough seeing, and his ears never have enough hearing. He presses on for more and more knowledge because he just has to know. The quest for knowledge becomes the entire reason and motivation for missions like the JWSP. It's being built and launched simply for the purpose of discovery.

Nobel Prize winner, author of several best-selling books, and recipient of at least a dozen honorary degrees, Physicist Steven Weinberg (who views religion as an enemy of science), in his book, The First Three Minutes, wrote: "The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it seems pointless. But if there is no solace in the fruits of our research, there is at least some consolation in the research itself . . The effort to understand the universe is one of the very few things that lifts human life a little above the level of a farce and gives it some of the grace of tragedy."
● Ecc 1:9 . . Only that shall happen which has happened, only that occur which has occurred; there is nothing new beneath the Sun!

Solomon noticed that nature has yet to reinvent itself; and yet to break it's own habits. The tide always comes in, and it always goes out. The sun always rises and it always sets-- there's always a day followed by a night. The wind blows past us, and eventually returns to do it again. In the Spring, leaves appear on trees, and in Autumn, they die and drop off-- every year. In the Winter it's cold, in the Summer it's hot-- always. It rains one day, it clears; and another day the rains return to do it all over again. Every year in the woods, little frogs lay eggs in vernal pools. Their pollywogs grow into more frogs who in turn will lay their own eggs in the very same vernal pools the following year. Birds fly south for the Winter, and birds fly north for the Summer

Every 27.3217 Earth days the moon completes one of its own sidereal days, and every 29.5307 Earth days it completes one of its own lunar months; the meanwhile always showing us pretty much the very same face; very little of the other side. For twelve months, the Sun appears to travel along the ecliptic through each of the constellations of the Zodiac. When it gets back to the Vernal Equinox, does it then change course and take a new path? No. It will go right back through every one of those very same twelve signs all over again.

While my wife and I were gazing at a planetary alignment of Jupiter, Saturn, Venus, Mars, and Mercury some time ago, it occurred to me that I was looking up at a universe virtually the same as the one that the Egyptians looked up at during construction of the Pyramids. They saw the very same stars, and the very same five naked-eye planets more than 4,000 years ago. Political climates, wars, disease, economic ups and downs, death and life-- none of that has influenced the circuits of those five planets. They methodically, silently, and religiously go about their business indifferent to Man's problems; constantly circling the Sun and haven't changed their behavior one single bit since the day their creator hung them out there.

Through our Nikon FieldScope, we saw four of Jupiter's largest moons: Io, Callisto, Europa, and Ganymede. Those very same four moons were circling Jupiter on the night that Galileo discovered them with his crude 20x telescope in 1609 AD. Can you guess what those moons were doing 400 years ago back in Galileo's day? The very same thing they are doing now: orbiting Jupiter. And can you guess what Jupiter was doing in Galileo's day? That’s right; the very same thing it does now: orbiting the Sun. Nature is truly in a rut.

● Ecc 1:10-11 . . Sometimes there is a phenomenon of which they say, "Look, this one is new!"-- it occurred long since, in ages that went by before us. The earlier ones are not remembered; so too those that will occur later will no more be remembered than those that will occur at the very end.

When Man discovers something new in nature, it’s best to keep in mind that the new thing he discovered didn't come into existence the day he found out about it. No, it was there all the time. He just didn't know about it yet. Like coal and uranium. Did Man invent those? No. Did he invent petroleum? Did he invent tectonic plates? Did he invent galaxies? Did he invent quasars? Did he invent genes? Did he invent DNA? Did he invent electromagnetic waves? No. Did he invent electricity? No. Did he invent gravity? Did he invent magnetism? Did he invent molecules? No, No, No, No. All those things are discoveries, not inventions.

It’s true that Man often manipulates nature to invent things like super sweet corn, lasers, penicillin, plastic, cardboard, aluminum foil, gasoline, and nitroglycerine. But left to itself, nature rarely produces anything new because if there’s one thing nature dearly loves, it's routine; and when those routines are disturbed, we get things like E.coli 0157-H7, global warming, Chernobyl, air and water pollution, habitat destruction, and endangered species, etc.
● Ecc 1:12-13a . . I, Koheleth, was king in Jerusalem over Israel. I set my mind to study and to probe with wisdom all that happens under the Sun.

The phrase "all that happens under the Sun" is limited to exactly that. Ecclesiastes is an accumulation of worldly observations; viz: one man's philosophy of life.

Your philosophy of life may not be on a par with Solomon's in eloquence; but then it doesn't have to because one's philosophy of life is their own outlook derived from their own personal impressions, experiences, and observations. What I'm saying is: there is no one correct interpretation of a book like Ecclesiastes. Though I offer mine for your intellectual enjoyment; you could probably write an interpretation of Solomon's composition of your own that's just as useful.

● Ecc 1:13b-15 . . An unhappy business, that, which God gave men to be concerned with! I observed all the happenings beneath the Sun, and I found that all is futile and chasing the wind: a twisted thing that cannot be made straight, a lack that cannot be made good.

From a practical point of view; it's futile to attempt to assign any real meaning to life-- just as there are some things that simply cannot be remedied; such as a tree twisted and gnarled so badly that it's lumber is beyond hope for use in a new home, or a five-foot man trying to meet a six-foot height requirement.

Well; that's Mr. Koheleth's preface to Ecclesiastes; and from here on, he will elucidate his reasons for being so negative about all that goes on in this life.

● Ecc 1:16 . . I said to myself: Here I have grown richer and wiser than any that ruled before me over Jerusalem, and my mind has zealously absorbed wisdom and learning.

Solomon wasn't what might be called a warrior king like Alexander the Great or Genghis Khan. He was more like Jacob (who had far less concern for outdoor adventure than his brother Esau). Solomon enjoyed a peace-time economy and generally good relations with his political neighbors. War was rare during his tenure on the throne, the state-of-the-union was tolerable, he was financially independent, comfortable, and had plenty of opportunity to devote himself to self improvement in the study of liberal arts; which are defined as: the studies (such as language, philosophy, history, literature, abstract science) in a college or university intended to provide chiefly general knowledge and to develop the general intellectual capacities (reason and judgment) as opposed to specific professional or vocational skills.

Webster's defines "wisdom" as: sagacity, insight, sagaciousness, sageness, sapience, shrewdness, sound judgment, and good sense.

"Learning" is defined as: knowledge, information, education, scholarship, erudition, science, and facts.

Obviously, learning does not eo ipso make one wise or we wouldn't have so many educated people doing so many dumb things.

Solomon's desire to improve his mind isn't uncommon among the idle rich; after all, who better can afford higher education than they? They say a mind is a terrible thing to waste. Well, plenty of poor and middle class minds are going to waste simply for lack of funding. Some have managed to break the chains of ignorance through scholarships or great personal sacrifice on the part of themselves and of their families.

But not Solomon. No, he was born with a silver spoon in his mouth and inherited all the money one could ever possibly need, and then some. Finding the money for an education was the least of Solomon's concerns; and so, having nothing better to do with his time, he went to school; but anon discovered there is no guarantee education will bring people things like peace of mind and less stress. Solomon realized that he had expected too much from the pursuit of knowledge; in other words: education made him neither happier nor better off than before.

Many a privileged youngster has thrown away four perfectly good years of their life in college. They typically enroll in a liberal arts program, not really knowing what they want in life, often change their major, and come out of school four years older than when they first enrolled with no marketable skills, and no idea on earth how they will support themselves. All those tuition dollars, and all that time out of their life-- puff! . . up in smoke, frittered away; gone.

Adults seem obsessed with telling young people not to worry too much about things like career, marriage, family, and retirement because they have their whole life ahead of them yet. No. They don't have their whole life ahead of them. By the time a youngster is out of four-year college, more than twenty of the best years of their life are gone forever and they are in a third decade; rapidly approaching an age when they will be old enough to die of natural causes.

Time and tide wait for no man; with time being the one asset men can least afford to liquidate at bargain prices. You can always catch another tide, but no one yet has caught another youth.
● Ecc 1:17-18 . . And so I set my mind to appraise wisdom and to appraise madness and folly. And I learned that this too was to pursue the wind: For as wisdom increases, vexation increases; to increase learning is to increase aggravation.

Knowledge can be likened to the pieces of a very large, very complicated jig saw puzzle. In order to see the big picture, it's necessary first of all to have all the pieces, and then to assemble them in their correct location in respect to the other pieces. Well; it seems that the more someone knows, the harder it is to fit all the information together in a coherent unity, i.e. the more we know, the more burdened we become with the difficulty of fitting it all together; and there's probably little more frustrating than a jig saw puzzle with a number of its pieces missing; which of course we don't find out till we've already assembled large portions of the puzzle.

Sometimes it just doesn't pay to be too smart. People who never ponder the mysteries of life-- existing in obscurity day to day --seem far more content than sages and philosophers who vex themselves trying to justify the human existence. Live and let die is the motto of the simple person. But the philosopher just can't let it go that easily. He agonizes, he ponders the mysteries of life over and over again for the Nth time, and sometimes can't sleep because of it.

There's really nothing intrinsically wrong with searching for a meaning to life. But when people limit their search parameters to the natural world of personal experience and empirical evidence --then they end up perplexed; and life seems futile and makes no sense.

In my opinion; leaving a supreme being out of one's quest for the meaning of life leaves a key piece out of the puzzle. In mathematical formulas, there is usually at least one constant from which a solution can be derived. Well; to me anyway, the existence of a supreme being is just as valid a constant in the meaning of life as the values of pi and the speed of light; and I think it's an oversight to look for a meaning without it; but hey; that's just me-- others may be just as content with a philosophy of life that's minus a supreme being as I am with a world view that includes one. Suum Cuique.
● Ecc 2:1-2 . . I said to myself: Come, I will treat you to merriment. Taste mirth! That too, I found, was futile. Of revelry I said: It's mad! Of merriment: What good is that?

The only problem with a natural high is that it's so transitory. Joy and excitement are emotions, and emotions can't be sustained for very long before they need rest. Sometimes after a very pleasurable experience like a big night on the town, a great victory, an exciting movie, a day at Disneyland, or a wedding; we feel run down because the merriment wore us out. It's not uncommon for people to actually feel very depressed and let down after a round of excitement. They don't have a mental problem; no, their emotions are just fatigued.

There is nothing intrinsically wrong with entertainment and excitement. Solomon's focus isn't upon the morality of fun-- his focus is upon the value of it. Unfortunately, fun has no lasting value. It's value is temporal. Fun is only good for now, not for later. And things that are fun for the moment, often become boring after a while. I mean, picnics are fun, but who wants to do them every single day? And movies? I love movies like Matrix, Lost in Translation, Love Actually, Moonstruck, Inception, Avatar, Margin Call, and School Of Rock. I've watched them at least six times each. But you know what? I can't watch just those same eight movies all the time. I need variety because fun things lose their fun value when you do them too often.

From a practical point of view, entertainment is only profitable for an entertainment vendor. The patron derives no profits from fun. Take a chess game. Chess for some people is very entertaining, and quite relaxing. But there is no profit in a friendly game of chess; only a temporal pleasure. That's Solomon's point. Fun is good if you keep it in perspective. Have fun for fun's sake; but don't expect it to gain you anything of long lasting value-- and for pete's sake, don't let yourself feel guilty about having fun because amusement has a legitimate place in the human existence. Though fun has no eternal value, there's really nothing of eternal value to gain by asceticism either.

● Ecc 2:3a. . I ventured to tempt my flesh with wine, and to grasp folly, while letting my mind direct with wisdom,

The word for "folly" is from cikluwth (sik-looth') and/or sikluwth (sik-looth'); which mean: silliness. Late night comedy like Saturday Night Live, Stephen Colbert, and Jimmy Fallon, would fit into that definition.

Late night comedy doesn't suit everyone. Solomon, for example, was just far too sophisticated to enjoy something crass like that. He did give it an honest try though and thoroughly analyzed comedy's potential just in case there might be something he was missing. But comedy bounced right off Solomon. He could recognize humor, but couldn't enjoy it. He was one of those guys who can sit through episodes of Jerry Seinfeld, the Simpsons, and/or watch a romantic comedy like Made Of Honor and wonder what people see in them.

What Solomon was searching for was something to cheer himself up. He was an incredibly brilliant man, but his intellect only made him melancholy. So, along with comedy, he tried alcohol. But alcohol presents its own problems because your body gets used to it. Pretty soon, you have to imbibe larger and larger doses to get a buzz. And then when it wears off, you might have a headache and a hang-over. Same with narcotics. Users need larger and more frequent doses, and when they come down they often become blue and irritable; and sometimes so ill that they die.

● Ecc 2:3b . . to the end that I might learn which of the two was better for men to practice in their few days of life under heaven.

Well, which is the better of the two-- alcohol or comedy --is a matter of opinion. Some people would prefer not to make a choice between them but to keep both. You could watch Leno with a night-cap or a glass of wine just as easily as not. And actually, those two are a pretty good way to end your day. Leno makes you laugh at the world, and the booze is relaxing so you can sleep better. The key to enjoyment in life is to do all things in moderation. A little wine is okay, but a lot is bad. A little silliness here and there is okay too; but a whole day of it every day all day long would not be a good idea.
● Ecc 2:4a . . I multiplied my possessions.

Even the poor have this opportunity-- to multiply their possessions --and some are pretty good at it in their own way. It's not unusual to see a homeless person with a shopping cart or a bicycle piled high to the sky with things they've accumulated. And many low-income folk here in America have at least two television sets and one car; and sometimes a gun too.

Here in Oregon we have a colloquialism that goes something like this: When the weather gets bad, it's time to go shopping. (chuckle) Who doesn't enjoy buying something new? A new possession can cheer you up; even little doo-dads and trinkets that cost only 49 cents. Whenever we go to the mall, I stop by the LEGO store and check out the key rings and now have Star Wars and Toy Story related rings attached to my backpack and a few more around the house. One is attached to the pull chain of desk lamp in my computer room. A new LEGO key ring always cheers me up. No doubt Solomon would just shrug and wonder why I was buying that stupid stuff.

I'm always thoroughly amazed at how lifted my wife's spirits become whenever she buys herself a trendy new lipstick or nail polish at Sephora's. Multiplying possessions is good for the mood; like Godiva chocolate. True, it's only a temporary high, but it's a good high and I always enjoy buying things, even if it's only second-hand at Good Will or Salvation Army.

● Ecc 2:4b . . I built myself houses

The filthy rich never seem to be satisfied with just one home. No; they have a house in Bel-Air, and another out on The Hamptons. They have Summer cottages, and they have Winter cabins. They build custom homes costing in the millions of dollars and when they tire of those, they sell, move out, and build another custom home.

● Ecc 2:4c-6 . . and I planted vineyards. I laid out gardens and groves, in which I planted every kind of fruit tree. I constructed lakes of water, enough to irrigate a forest sprouting with trees.

It isn't unusual for governments to build parks and initiate beautification programs in their cities. What the heck, why not when you can use someone else's money and don't have to pay for it yourself? Solomon received tribute from all his neighboring kingdoms: from the borders of Egypt clear on over to the Euphrates river. It was actually a time of great peace and prosperity in Israel according to 1Kgs 4:20 and 1Kgs 5:5.

Of course Solomon himself didn't do a lick of the work. He purchased slaves and conscripted his own citizens to accomplish his expensive ambitions. David his father conscripted foreigners, but Solomon went him one better with a national draft board that inducted his fellow Jewish men into government service. There was no danger of war at the time. He just needed manpower in the labor camps.

30,000 were conscripted to work with Hiram's axe men up in Lebanon logging for the new Temple, and he had another 70,000 general laborers, plus 80,000 men working in stone quarries-- and not to forget 12,000 horsemen. All his construction projects were very labor intensive because of the lack of machinery and power tools in those days.

● Ecc 2:7a . . I bought male and female slaves, and I acquired stewards

The Hebrew word for "stewards" is ben, which means sons; viz: children born of slaves he already owned. So the bens cost him nothing all the while that his purchased slaves multiplied among themselves since in that day, the children of slaves were born into slavery.

People like Solomon, born with silver spoons in their mouths, typically don't take into consideration the feelings of others less privileged than themselves. They are often totally self absorbed. Those below them exist only as cannon fodder; lackeys to serve their every wish as if that were somehow the natural order of things.

Well, Solomon was finding out that sometimes the natural order of things works against those who are very intelligent, and against those who are very rich, and against those who are very powerful. Contentment and fulfillment eluded his grasp. No matter how he exercised his advantages in life, Solomon couldn't find peace of mind. He found that for men like himself, life is pointless. The more he sought fulfillment, the more he felt like he was wasting his time trying.

NOTE: An episode in 1Kgs 12:1-14 reveals that Solomon's people sorely resented the labor camps. He delighted himself in the public works that they accomplished with their own backs and the sweat of their own brows while he laid back in his palace and thought up more things for them to do.
● Ecc 2:7b . . I also acquired more cattle, both herds and flocks, than all who were before me in Jerusalem.

It's interesting Solomon should mention he was a bigger cattle baron than all who were before him. What was he doing? Competing? Can you imagine? He wasn't content with enough. No; he had to have more than enough-- larger herds than all before him so that he became the champion rancher; literally the King Ranch of Israel.

For some people, it isn't enough to win; no, all others must lose. Does being number-one really bring contentment? Well, it might for some, but it didn't for Solomon. And you know: it's only a matter of time before competitors like Solomon run out of people to best; and then what?

● Ecc 2:8a . . I further amassed silver and gold and treasures of kings and provinces;

Solomon's wealth was what's known as tangible assets as opposed to assets on paper. The wealth off many of today's rich men is tied up in investments like derivatives, stocks, bonds, and funds: but much of Solomon's wealth was in precious metals-- actual metals that you could hold in your hand rather represented by an on-paper, Wall Street trading account. Though many of today's rich men can show you on-record that they own a certain number of ounces of gold, silver, palladium, and/or platinum et al; where is it? Not in their own hands that's for sure; no, it's in somebody else's hands. Not so Solomon.

"The Queen of Sheba presented the king with one hundred and twenty talents of gold, and a large quantity of spices, and precious stones." (1Kgs 10:10)

"Moreover, Hiram's fleet, which carried gold from Ophir, brought in from Ophir a huge quantity of almug wood and precious stones." (1Kgs 10:11)

"The weight of the gold which Solomon received every year was 666 talents of gold, besides what came from tradesmen, from the traffic of the merchants, and from all the kings of Arabia and the governors of the regions.

. . . King Solomon made 200 shields of beaten gold-- 600 shekels of gold to each shield --and 300 bucklers of beaten gold --three minas of gold to each buckler. The king placed them in the Lebanon Forest House.

. . .The king also made a large throne of ivory, and he overlaid it with refined gold. Six steps led up to the throne, and the throne had a back with a rounded top, and arms on either side of the seat. Two lions stood beside the arms, and twelve lions stood on the six steps, six on either side. No such throne was ever made for any other kingdom.

. . . All King Solomon's drinking cups were of gold, and all the utensils of the Lebanon Forest House were of pure gold: silver did not count for anything in Solomon’s days. For the king had a Tarshish fleet on the sea, along with Hiram's fleet. Once every three years, the Tarshish fleet came in, bearing gold and silver, ivory, apes, and peacocks. King Solomon excelled all the kings on earth in wealth and in wisdom." (1Kgs 10:14-23)

Solomon's personal fortune, in adjusted dollars, and counting his property, his metals, and his livestock, must have easily exceeded Bill Gates' in that day. But wealth and luxury just didn't satisfy Solomon. I think many of us commoners would be happy not to work another day for the rest of our lives. Or would we? You just never know. Riches don't seem to protect the rich from despondence, boredom, depression, and feelings of failure and futility.

In 1997, Michael Hutchence, the lead singer of a really cool rock group called INXS, had a pleasant dinner with his dad and then went back to his hotel room and hanged himself with a leather belt. He was 37 years old. What the heck was that all about? Hutchence was young, healthy, wealthy, successful, popular, and doing well on the music charts. At dinner with his dad, he had expressed concern about the band's popularity and its future.

What is that saying? Hutchence's happiness was all bound up in music? So his concern over the band's possible decline in popularity made him despondent enough to end his life? It just doesn't make sense.

So what does it really take to make some people happy? Well, for Solomon, it wasn't wealth and success; and, apparently for Hutchence, wealth and success didn't do it for him either: nor did youth, fame, nor popularity because real peace is psychological, and nowhere else. When you've got stuff in your head like bad memories, regrets, inner conflicts, a poor self image, or low self esteem and feelings of failure, inferiority, inadequacy, and futility; nothing on earth can remedy that: not therapy, not pills, not dope, not anything-- nothing short of starting life all over again can get that stuff out of your head.
● Ecc 2:8b . . and I got myself male and female singers,

Makes you wonder what kind of music a brilliant, sophisticated guy like Solomon preferred. Rock? Jazz? Pop? Chorale? Rap? Country? Classical? Folk? Blue Grass? Opera? Broadway? Ballads? Spiritual? Barber Shop? New Age? Techno? Lady Gaga? Since electricity had not yet been harnessed in his day, the music available was somewhat primitive, and it was all live and all natural: nothing recorded, nothing electronic, and nothing amplified.

● Ecc 2:8c . . as well as the luxuries of commoners-- coffers and coffers of them.

"coffers and coffers of them" is apparently a colloquialism similar to "oodles and oodles" or "a ton of 'em" or "a boat load of them" Actually the phrase "as well as the luxuries of commoners" is literally "luxuries of the sons of men." Which could easily be paraphrased "every luxury known to man."

Webster's defines luxury as: 1) a condition of abundance or great ease and comfort; 2) sumptuous environment; 3) something adding to pleasure or comfort but not absolutely necessary; 4) an indulgence in something that provides pleasure, satisfaction, or ease.

No doubt a filthy rich guy like Solomon, seeking the meaning of life, and seeking the best way to pursue life, indulged his every whim in an effort to find out what truly makes life worth living. The man was totally livin' large.

● Ecc 2:9 . .Thus, I gained more wealth than anyone before me in Jerusalem. In addition, my wisdom remained with me:

That was fortunate; the part about retaining his wisdom. Some people go so far overboard in Hedonism that they mess up their minds. Curt Cobain, the driving impetus of the punk rock group Nirvana, at the peak of his success-- wealthy, married, living in a beautiful home, and everything going for him --ended his life with a shotgun at age 27 because of deep emotional problems. That's awful. If only he had kept his mind in all of his success. They say a mind is an awful thing to waste. Well, a mind is an awful thing to lose too.

● Ecc 2:10-11 . . I withheld from my eyes nothing they asked for, and denied myself no enjoyment; rather, I got enjoyment out of all my wealth. And that was all I got out of my wealth. Then my thoughts turned to all the fortune my hands had built up, to the wealth I had acquired and won-- and oh, it was all futile and pursuit of wind; there was no real value under the sun!

Some of us would no doubt be very pleased to obtain all the enjoyments money can buy, but Solomon felt enjoyments aren't adequate; something was missing. It would seem that wealth should obtain for its owner more than just luxury, and entertainment, and property, and homes. It should at least make us feel content with life. But for some people it doesn't. So you've got to wonder: just exactly what works? What's the secret to contentment? What really does make life worth the living? What really does make life more than just a pointless human experiment? If only Hutchence and Cobain had known some satisfactory answers to those questions, maybe they'd still be here.

Curly, the tough 'ol leathered trail boss in the movie City Slickers, said the meaning of life is just one thing. When asked what that one thing was, he replied; "That's what you've gotta find out."

You see; that one thing is not the same one thing for everyone. You have to find out what that one thing is for you because until then, your life-- a life with no purpose --is quite pointless.
● Ecc 2:12a . . What more can the king's successor do than what has already been done?

Many of the kings of the Davidic dynasty did pretty much the same thing Solomon did. They initiated building programs and public works, built themselves nice homes, accumulated wealth, built harems, and lived in luxury. None of them ever equaled Solomon's grandeur, but they all did pretty much the same things he did. Solomon recognized that he wasn't an unusual king; just one more doing the things that kings typically do; and when he was dead and gone, the next king would do pretty much what he did. Because of that, as a monarch, he felt predictable and unremarkable. Even though practically everything the man did was on a grand scale, he was still a foregone conclusion.

There can be entertainment and satisfaction in the doing of great projects; but what happens when the task is finished? Oftentimes there's a feeling of let-down; like when finishing a long, complicated, quest-type video game and/or when New York City's sand hogs completed Water Tunnel #3 after thirty-eight years of boring, drilling, and blasting. There's a sudden feeling of emptiness; a feeling of being adrift, and of discombobulation.

Solomon found delight "in" all his efforts, but afterwards, when they were all done, and he leaned back to appreciate his accomplishments, he was disappointed because he felt so empty. So he would begin a new project because it is in the doing of the work where a satisfactory sense of achievement is truly found. Henry Ward Beecher once said: "Success is full of promise; until men get it, and then it becomes last year's nest from which the birds have flown."

During my youth, growing up, I heard a lot about the so-called "work ethic" which Webster's defines as: a belief in work as a moral good. Well, there is nothing wrong in work per se, but what about workaholism? Is that really a moral good? Is that really beneficial to one's mental health?

I have a friend who can't relax. He has to be doing something productive all the time; even during mealtime. Oftentimes he’ll prune his roses while eating a sandwich for lunch because he feels that sitting down to eat is wasteful. He never goes to the movies; nor even watches TV unless it is on while he does the dishes or vacuums the carpet. He has never read any books other than the ones everyone had to read in school. He gets TIME magazine in the mail, but rarely bothers to glance at any of its articles.

He can't take drives in the country because he feels he could better use the time to mow the grass around his rental properties. He arrives at work a full hour early, and volunteers for all the overtime. Some years ago, he bought a computer; but it's still in the box because he was afraid he might spend too much time on it. That was prior to color monitors-- the very first version of Windows wasn't even on the market yet. Now he can't buy software for his computer because it is so obsolete. My friend is a true workaholic.

Work, for work's sake, can't satisfy the human heart no matter how successful the endeavor may be. This helps to understand why so many achievers are basically unhappy people. A single achievement is not enough. Achievers cannot sit back on their laurels. They have to keep finding new things to achieve. When Alexander the Great fought his last battle, it is said that he sat down and wept because he had no more kingdoms to conquer. The poor man was despondent because he had nothing to live for. People like Alexander have a very narrowly defined reason to live. Take it away, and they're adrift.

When workaholics retire, they often feel useless, and sometimes die from lack of meaningful activity. Well; Solomon came to the conclusion that work is okay when it's kept in perspective. But work alone can't provide lasting satisfaction. Looking over his works, Solomon felt very unfulfilled; and contentment continued to evade his grasp
● Ecc 2:12b-13 . . My thoughts also turned to appraising wisdom and madness and folly. I found that wisdom is superior to folly as light is superior to darkness;

Light has always been superior to darkness. Light cannot be dispelled by introducing darkness into a lighted room because darkness is not something that can be produced. It's simply a default condition in the absence of light.

Science and engineering has given us a flashlight, but has yet to invent a flashdark. You simply cannot shine a beam of darkness like you can shine a beam of light. Light is energy. Darkness is totally inert.

Solomon found that wisdom is superior to folly, which Webster's defines as: (1) lack of good sense or normal prudence and foresight (2) criminally or tragically foolish actions or conduct i.e. evil and wickedness; especially lewd behavior.

So in the end, after careful consideration, and personally testing both styles of life, he found that it is far better to behave prudently than to act stupid, which is the default in the absence of good sense. I guess that all goes without saying, but sometimes intellectuals are prone to overstating the obvious.

● Ecc 2:14a . . A wise man has his eyes in his head, whereas a fool walks in darkness.

Silly people just naturally get themselves into trouble all the time because they don't stop and think. We could create a huge list of dumb things that silly people are famous for doing. For example: If you've noticed, many of the advertisements on television target silly people. Why? Because Madison Avenue knows that most viewers of certain kinds of programming don't shop intelligently. They often buy impulsively, guided by their emotions rather than by their better judgment. Silly people are typically sensual rather than sensible; for example:

Studies show that the average voter typically selects a candidate based upon how they feel about the candidate; and then use their intellects to fabricate a defense for their choice. A case in point is America's past US President. Did people vote for Mr. Obama because of his executive ability? No, the man was no more qualified for US President than Hollywood actor Arnold Swarzenegger, the ex governor of Cawleefornyah.

People voted for Mr. Obama on the basis of just two elements of his persona: his charismatic speaking and the color of his skin. (Ironically, voters elected a candidate who campaigned as a Black man; but had a Caucasian mother; i.e. in reality, Mr. Obama is neither black or white; he's mulatto. Mr. Obama's skin is actually coffee rather than black; and he's no more an African American than the pop singer Mariah Carey.)

● Ecc 2:14b . . But I also realized that the same fate awaits them both.

uh-oh! Now we're getting to the heart of the matter: the brevity of life. Solomon is looking ahead to the reality of death; and death is the great equalizer after all isn't it?

● Ecc 2:15-16 . . So I reflected : The fate of the fool is also destined for me; to what advantage, then, have I been wise? And I came to the conclusion that too was futility, because the wise man, just like the fool, is not remembered forever-- for, as the succeeding days roll by, both are forgotten. Alas, the wise man passes on just like the fool!

Who's ever heard of Hannes Alfvén? He won a Nobel prize in 1970 for discoveries in magneto-hydrodynamics. Wow! Yeah, okay; wow. Or how about Georges Lemaître? He proposed that the universe is expanding in all directions before Edwin Hubble figured it out. But how often do Alfvén's or Lemaître's names come up in conversation around the average dinner table? Probably never; in most homes. They might be well known among those who share their interests in astronomy and magneto-hydrodynamics; but Alfvén and Lemaître might just as well have been two nameless, homeless bums sleeping under an overpass for all the fame they have among everyone else.

Most educated people know who Mozart was. But where is the great maestro today? He's gone. He's just as dead as all the people of his day who had no more talent for music than an ostrich. What lasting good did it do him to be a genius if it couldn't give him immortality? Mozart composed something like 600 pieces of music, but the composer of it all was washed away long ago one month short of his 36th birthday.
● Ecc 2:17 . . And so I loathed life. For I was distressed by all that goes on under the sun, because everything is futile and pursuit of wind.

The "loathing" Solomon felt wasn't hatred, but rather, just plain old cynicism born of disillusion. When you're young, life is exciting and promising: you're optimistic and ready to roll into the future full speed ahead. But as the years go by, life loses its luster and becomes a drag, and as we get ever older and more debilitated, life becomes something to just get through and get over with.

Just about the time you really get set in life, and have a few things figured out, and start to enjoy it, the aging process moves in to spoil your fun. One of my biggest gripes about life is that youth is wasted on the young. It's us oldsters who need youth, not the young because youngsters fritter away their youth on air-headed nonsense.

One morning on television, Kelly Rippa, of Live With Regis & Kelly, said her little boy was in a hurry to be older. He was only 5 then and wanted to skip the next two years and go straight to 7. See? That's what I'm saying. Kelly's boy was too young to appreciate how valuable youth is. He wanted to shed youth because in his immature mind, older is better.

It's not until our youth is gone that we can fully appreciate it's worth; but by then it's too late. In all of our young, self absorbed stupidity, we carelessly squander away the treasure of youth on meaningless pursuits and sometimes foolishly tempt fate in extreme sports because when we're young, it's all too easy to perceive ourselves suspended in some sort of time-stasis where we'll be forever 21. To our immature minds; older people appear to be born that way and we fail to comprehend that every time we encounter someone older, we are looking at our own futures.

"Time is the fire in which we burn."
Dr. Soran, Star Trek: Generations

● Ecc 2:18-21 . . So, too, I loathed all the wealth that I was gaining under the sun. For I shall leave it to the man who will succeed me-- and who knows whether he will be wise or foolish?-- and he will control all the wealth that I gained by toil and wisdom under the sun. That too is futile. And so I came to view with despair all the gains I had made under the sun. For sometimes a person whose fortune was made with wisdom, knowledge, and skill must hand it on to be the portion of somebody who did not toil for it. That too is futile, and a grave evil.

It's bad enough that the wealthy have to leave their fortunes behind, but even worse when foolish relatives end up with it and fail to appreciate the toil and conscientious effort put into accumulating that wealth and the vigilance required to keep it. The dumb ones start living it up, not taking into consideration that money spent is money gone forever. What will be left for the next generation if the first wastes the primary inheritance and fails to invest for the future?

Some people try to write their wills and trusts in such a way that their estates can't be wasted; but don't always succeed. In spite of the instruction and good example they may give, fathers and mothers have no way of knowing what their posterity will do with the wealth and property they worked so hard to accumulate during their lives.

● Ecc 2:22-23 . . For what does a man get for all the toiling and worrying he does under the sun? All his days his thoughts are grief and heartache, and even at night his mind has no respite. That too is futile!

One of the disadvantages of striving to gain wealth is the sleep that's sometimes lost over it. Solomon observed that a rich man's abundance won't permit him to sleep (Ecc 5:12) for example: Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley, the most popular youth-oriented male singers ever to record music, shared a common malady: both had trouble sleeping. In contrast, I'm an obscure retired welder whose wife complains falls asleep too easily. Well, the difference is, I have peace of mind; whereas those two guys didn't.

"People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs." (1Tim 6:9-10)

Managing an empire is no picnic. There's long hours, employee disputes, tax problems, investment risks, OSHA, EPA, legal hassles, Federal interference, lawsuits, deadlines, time pressure, accounting errors, loan calls, and all that sort of thing; not to mention debt. Haw! debt is the the Grim Reaper for quite a number of mega businesses like the auto industry. Debt is what ultimately toppled the energy giant ENRON; wiping out 1.2 billion dollars in retirement funds, and 2 billion dollars in pension funds.

You know what else befalls empire-builders? Broken homes. Ray Kroc, the McDonald's mogul, was on his third marriage when he passed away. Jesus once said that you can't serve God and mammon. Well; you can't serve money and family either. Wealth-seekers generally serve the money and leave their families to more or less sink or swim.
● Ecc 2:24-26a . .There is nothing worthwhile for a man but to eat and drink and afford himself enjoyment with his means. And even that, I noted, comes from God. For who eats and who enjoys but myself? To the man, namely, who pleases [God] He has given the wisdom and shrewdness to enjoy himself;

A person's financial means can enhance their peace of mind and feelings of security. But to hoard wealth, to stock-pile it, being miserly and stingy, never doing something worthwhile with your means, never doing even yourself any good with it; is not wise. Some years ago, I heard about an elderly couple who died. When the house in which they had lived for many years was torn down, an amount of cash was found in the walls totaling about $40,000. The coroner's determination of cause of death? Malnutrition.

Money is a medium of exchange. Unless it's spent, it can do little or nothing for you. You can't eat money, but it will buy your food. It can't keep you warm, but it will buy your clothing and heating oil. Money is not a conveyance-- it can't be ridden like a magic carpet to transport you from point A on over to point B; but it will buy you a car, a bicycle, or a bus ticket. It can't chew your food, but it will pay a dentist to fix your teeth. Its possession doesn't make you a rock star, but it will buy you a ticket to an AeroSmith concert. Money has no scenic glaciers, but it will buy you a birth onboard a Princess Line cruise ship to Alaska.

"Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment." (1Tim 6:17)

That verse reveals that all the opportunities this world has to offer are provided by God for Man's enjoyment. Therefore, it is absolutely not a sin to enjoy life. Some people feel guilty about success. But that is an unhealthy attitude. Others take vows of poverty in order to enhance their piety. But it isn't necessary to be poor in order to please God. Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, were all very wealthy men whose circumstances-- which enabled them to live high on the hog --were made possible by God's providence. Wealth isn't intrinsically sinful. It's how people use their wealth that matters.

● Ecc 2:26b . . and to him who displeases, He has given the urge to gather and amass-- only for handing on to one who is pleasing to God. That too is futile and pursuit of wind.

When him who displeases donates to charities, his contributions don't earn him any points with God whatsoever because one of Solomon's proverbs says, in so many words, that a bad person's gifts are detestable. (Pro 15:8)

I seriously doubt that it is God who personally urges a bad person to donate to charity. I just think it's the bad person's own conscience working on them. Well; seeing as how God created the human conscience, then I guess you could say "He has given the urge". Maybe that's how Solomon saw it; I don't really know; but it seems logical.

NOTE: The mention of a supreme being throughout Ecclesiastes reveals that the author, though quite philosophical, wasn't an atheist. He was what might be called a theist; roughly defined as someone believing in the existence of one god viewed as the creative source of the human race and the world, who transcends yet is immanent in the world.

The author's god is never once named, instead, referred to as 'elohiym (el-o-heem') which isn't a personal moniker like Yahweh or Brahma, rather, a nondescript label that pertains to all sorts of deities; both the true and the false, and the real and the imagined, plus the gods of myth, superstition, and tradition.
● Ecc 3:1 . . A season is set for everything, a time for every experience under heaven.

This next section smacks of fatalism and predestination, but actually it only speaks of events that are quite normal and commonplace under the sun.

● Ecc 3:2a . . A time for being born and a time for dying,

Those two events are open ended and their precise moments aren't chipped in stone. Every person experiences a birth, and each will experience a death too. Birth and death are like appointments. As soon as a women senses that she has conceived, she knows it's only a matter of time before she gives birth to a child so she has to begin planning for its arrival. Same with death. We all know we're going to die some day; it's just a matter of time.

But the problem with death is its stealth. We're young only till somewhere in our mid thirties and then to our horror begin to gradually wither. One of the biggest surprises of Billy Graham's life was age. He always believed he would die some day, but Billy wasn't prepared to get old first. His is not an unusual case. Most of us readily anticipate death; but seldom anticipate losing form and function.

● Ecc 3:2b . . a time for planting and a time for uprooting the planted;

Farmers are constantly cultivating, planting, harvesting-- and then tilling what's left after the harvest to prepare for the next crop.

● Ecc 3:3a . . a time for slaying and a time for healing,

A rabid dog has to be put down. But when your pet is hit by a car, you take it to the vet.

● Ecc 3:3b . . a time for tearing down and a time for building up;

My dad worked many hours with his bare hands building us a home when I was a kid. He sold it when I was 11 years old. Twenty-three years later, all of dad's hard work was torn down and hauled off to make way for an RV storage lot; and the property denuded of trees and scraped bare by bulldozers. It's like we were never even there.

● Ecc 3:4a . . a time for weeping and a time for laughing,

Sometimes people laugh and weep all at the same time; like at a wedding.

● Ecc 3:4b . . a time for wailing and a time for dancing;

In a war, the victors celebrate and the vanquished mourn-- like in professional sports. The cameras always show the winners elated, jumping up and down, clapping themselves on the back, emoting for the press, and pouring ice water on the coach; but over on the other side, the losers are all glum and silent and dragging themselves back to the locker room.

● Ecc 3:5a . . a time for throwing stones and a time for gathering stones,

It would be nice if the Palestinians would follow that and pick up after themselves when they're done pelting Israeli soldiers.

● Ecc 3:5b . . a time for embracing and a time for shunning embraces;

Sometimes lovers and friends need to make up and settle their differences before they hug.

● Ecc 3:6a . . a time for seeking and a time for losing,

In other words: A time to search and a time to give it up for lost.

● Ecc 3:6b . . a time for keeping and a time for discarding;

Today's hot couture is tomorrow's Good Will donation.

● Ecc 3:7a . . a time for ripping and a time for sewing,

When doctors need access to an injured patient's body, they often cut clothing off with scissors rather than fussing with buttons and zippers. The very same clothing can be repaired later by needle and thread.

● Ecc 3:7b . . a time for silence and a time for speaking;

They say silence in golden, but sometimes it's yellow; know what I mean?

● Ecc 3:8a . . a time for loving and a time for hating;

A time for love might be when your friends come over for dinner-- through the front door. However, if they sneak in the back way while you're out, and steal your 50" plasma TV so they can sell it for meth; that might be reason enough to dump your friends for new ones.

● Ecc 3:8b . . a time for war and a time for peace.

Peace is much to be preferred to war. But sometimes war is necessary to procure and to preserve peace. We live in a big bad world where there are people more than happy to oppress you, abuse your human rights, control your movements, restrict your speech, clamp down on dissent, take away your wealth and possessions, destroy your home, separate you from your family, and put you to work in a gulag where you'll be underpaid, malnourished, constantly hungry, politically indoctrinated, and poorly clothed for the rest of your life.
● Ecc 3:9 . .What value, then, can the man of affairs get from what he earns?

In other words: What does the worker gain from his toil? Well . . one thing he does not gain is control over the "times" listed in the previous eight verses because many circumstances in life are unpredictable and out of our hands no matter how much money a person might be prepared to spend.

● Ecc 3:10 . . I have observed the business that God gave man to be concerned with:

The "business" of course just being the daily round of life beneath the sun.

● Ecc 3:11 . . He brings everything to pass precisely at its time; He also puts eternity in their mind, but without man ever guessing, from first to last, all the things that God brings to pass.

Man is fraught with anxieties; and some of those anxieties are aggravated by uncertainty about the future. Within no sphere is that more evident among Americans than in their thoughts about retirement. Oftentimes people are so concerned about their futures that they fail to enjoy the present; so life slips past them until one day they realize they should have lived life when they had the chance instead of waiting till they retired.

● Ecc 3:12-13 . .Thus I realized that the only worthwhile thing there is for them is to enjoy themselves and do what is good in their lifetime; also, that whenever a man does eat and drink and get enjoyment out of all his wealth, it is a gift of God.

There's nothing intrinsically wrong with preparing for the future, but surely not to the expense of missing out on life in the present. It's far better to enjoy life as you live it, and thank whatever god it is that you recognize for the pleasures you have at hand right now, not for the ones that may or may not come your way later. I've actually known men in my line of work who stayed on the job as long as age allowed just to get that very last penny of retirement benefit only to die within two years after leaving.

● Ecc 3:14a . . I realized, too, that whatever God has brought to pass will recur evermore: nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it--

That frustrates and irritates some people because they would like to make some changes in the universe and change the world to suit their feelings. But the gods aren't budging. They're the ones in control. Man is not the one controlling the scheme of things. Man is a prisoner of the gods' sovereign control and there is not one single thing he can do about it.

● Ecc 3:14b . . and God has brought to pass that men revere Him.

Unfortunately Man hates God for being the one in control. They neither fear Him, nor respect Him, nor yield to His sovereign authority. On the contrary, they very much resent God, and want Him deposed.

● Ecc 3:15 . .Whatever exists today and whatever will exist in the future has already existed in the past. For God calls each event back in its turn.

What's that saying? History repeats itself? Who would have thought that people 3,000 years ago shared today's evaluation of world events? Modern man isn't really so modern after all; is he?
● Ecc 3:16 . . And, indeed, I have observed under the sun: Alongside justice there is wickedness, alongside righteousness there is wickedness.

Back in the early days of movie-making, good and evil were well defined. The bad guys were totally bad and the good guys were totally good. Today, the difference between the good guys and the bad guys is blurred. The people we consider to be on the side of right, are often very immoral. They're dishonest, they sleep around, they steal, they break into people's homes, they don't respect private property, they bicker and quarrel, and they are exceedingly insubordinate with their superiors. The difference between the good and the bad is no longer black and white; but relative. The bad guys are badder than the good ones, but the good guys themselves are bad too.

The current on-going pedophilia scandal in the Catholic community is a glaring example of wickedness in the same place as righteousness. With alarming regularity we see more and more criminal cops in the news-- cops who should be upholding the law, not breaking it-- and should be protecting people, not intimidating them, breaking their arms, electrocuting them with stun guns, and shooting them full of bullet holes. To every bad cop I would like to say: Wearing that badge doesn't make you right; it just makes you a bully with a gun and a canister of pepper spray.

Imagine the chagrin of a San Diego municipal judge back in the 1980's when one day, to his utter shock and dismay, a hooker he frequented appeared in court as a witness to testify in a case he was hearing. Upon taking the stand, the hooker greeted the guardian of jurisprudence and expressed amazement that one of her Johns was on the bench.

● Ecc 3:17-18 . . I mused: God will doom both righteous and wicked, for there is a time for every experience and for every happening.” So I decided, as regards men, to dissociate them [from] the divine beings and to face the fact that they are beasts.

When you get right down to it: when you strip away people's accouterments; what's left is really little more than human wildlife. In point of fact, to call a human being a beast is an insult to the animal kingdom because people are capable of doing things that are lower than an animal. I've yet to hear of an animal getting drunk and beating his wife; nor have I yet to hear of an animal betting the family's entire week's food budget on one pony at Belmont; nor have I yet to hear of an animal rolling a car into a lake with their kids inside in order to keep a boyfriend.

● Ecc 3:19-20 . . For in respect of the fate of man and the fate of beast, they have one and the same fate: as the one dies so dies the other, and both have the same life-breath; man has no superiority over beast, since both amount to nothing. Both go to the same place; both came from dust and both return to dust.

Some people are inclined to think it is arrogant of Man to suppose he's the only form of intelligent life in the universe. But what is Man anyway but an unsanitary primate with a 3-pound lump of flabby organic tissue sufficing for a mind? We should want more of his ilk in the universe? I don't think so. Man is hardly more intelligent than an orangutan; and ten times more immoral. And besides; he's made of clay. And you know what happens when clay is all wet? It gets stuck on itself. But death is the great equalizer.

Beasts die and people die too; so people really have no advantage over a cow in that respect. True: a cow won't die rich, but then the rich take nothing out with them when they die; same as the cow: so who's really better off in the ground? the bovine or the rich man? Neither: they're equals in that respect.

● Ecc 3:21 . .Who knows if a man's life-breath does rise upward and if a beast's breath does sink down into the earth?

Solomon has a point. Who today has a red-phone line connected to the afterlife? Nobody. People pride themselves on their faith in holy books like the Bible and the Koran; but really don't know for certain whether or not all of the writings in either book are actually true; do they?

Solomon never met anyone who came back from the dead with a tale to tell about the afterlife. How about you? Who have you known personally who died, was buried, and then later came back?

As brilliant and as intellectual as Solomon was, he was just as much in the dark about life after death as everybody else. Can you prove beyond a shadow of all reasonable doubt that there exists another life for human beings after death? No, you can't; and you won't know for sure until the day comes when you actually make the trip yourself.

● Ecc 3:22 . . I saw that there is nothing better for man than to enjoy his possessions, since that is his portion. For who can enable him to see what will happen afterward?

Is that really such bad advice seeing as no one really knows for sure what happens after we die? What if all those super pious ascetics practicing a life of strict self denial discover later after death that it was all for nothing? Wouldn't that be tragic? It is stupid to suffer self denial when no one really knows for rock-solid sure whether or not it counts for anything.

NOTE: Seeing as how Ecclesiastes is one man's world view, rather than a specific religious dogma, then it's no surprise when we encounter things in here from the point of view of common sense quite often.
● Ecc 4:1-3 . . I further observed all the oppression that goes on under the sun: the tears of the oppressed, with none to comfort them; and the power of their oppressors-- with none to comfort them. Then I accounted those who died long since more fortunate than those who are still living; and happier than either are those who have not yet come into being and have never witnessed the miseries that go on under the sun.

I'd be curious to know just exactly when, where, and how Mr. Born-with-a-silver-spoon-in-his mouth king Solomon was exposed to the "tears" of the oppressed. Maybe he was talking about all the hapless Jewish men he conscripted to work like slaves in his stone quarries and logging camps.

Some people really are better off dead, and also better had they not been born. I mean, for some people, what's the point of living at all.

It's difficult for the average American to appreciate the misery of people in other countries living in poverty, want, squalor, tyranny, despotism, and oppression. When I was a little boy living in San Diego back in the early 1950's I went on a trip with my parents to Tijuana. As we walked across a bridge over the Tijuana River, I looked down below at a pitiful community just like the community filmed in the movie Slum Dog Millionaire. The jam-packed homes (rudimentary shelters actually) were constructed of cardboard, sheets of plywood, corrugated tin, and sign boards. The children were all barefoot and there were no streets and sidewalks; just riverbed soil. I have no clue what they did for sanitation. It's my guess all their offal went into what there was of the Tijuana River as raw sewage.

Those people down in that riverbed weren't living; they were existing, and that with no more dignity than a hog in a wallow. (In later years, the community was washed away by unusually high water and subsequently the site permanently closed to squatters by the government.)

Hafez al Assad, deceased father of the current dictator of Syria, Bashar al Assad, was ruthless towards his political opponents. In the early 1980's, he dispatched his air force to bomb the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood's densely populated neighborhoods in the area of Hama. (I'm talking about Syrian citizens in a Syrian city; not foreigners in a foreign country). Afterwards, Hafez had his army bulldoze the smoking remains. Between 10,000 and 40,000 people were killed, and thousands more were jailed, tortured, and left to languish in prison. Protests from human rights organizations bounced off Hafez like a BB off of depleted uranium plating.

Ryan Crocker, a US ambassador who served in Damascus during the transition from Hafez to Bashar, said of the son: "Any suggestion that Bashar is a push-over is an illusion. He's so personable that it's easy to underestimate him. But rest assured, he is his father's son." Mr. Ryan is so right. It isn't unusual this very day to be dining out in Damascus while at the same time having to listen to dreadful screams coming from a second-floor window of the Bab Touma police station. In the street, people cast each other knowing glances but nobody says a word because someone might be listening.

There's little to no justice in China. Fully 99 percent of all trials result in a guilty verdict. If you're executed with a gun, the state sends your family a bill for the bullet.

In North Korea, three generations of a family can be punished for one member's alleged crime. As of 2008, an estimated 200,000 North Korean citizens were detained in labor camps: and don't get me started on Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe.

● Ecc 4:4 . . I have also noted that all labor and skillful enterprise come from men's envy of each other-- another futility and pursuit of wind!

Most of us are pretty satisfied with what we have until we see someone with something better. Just because the Devil wears Prada, is it really essential that everyone else does? Gordon Gekko, of Wall Street/Money Never Sleeps, said : "While I was away, it seemed greed got greedier; with a little bit of envy mixed in. Hedge funders were walking home with 50, 100 million bucks a year". They say money is the root of all evil. Well, I would have to say that envy is money's kissing cousin. Bring those two together and the markets can become very volatile and just as vulnerable.

● Ecc 4:5 . .The fool folds his hands together and has to eat his own flesh.

Just the opposite of those who strive to get ahead, is the lazy good-for-nothing, who can't be motivated to go out and find work or start a business. The others have it all, while he has nothing at all. At least the greedy and the envious have food on the table and a place to live. The fool is homeless and probably lives out of dumpsters, or worse, panhandles and mooches off friends. (One of my all-time favorite panhandler's makeshift cardboard signs said: Dreaming of a cheeseburger.)

● Ecc 4:6 . . Better one handful with tranquility than two handfuls with toil and chasing after the wind.

In between the go-getters, and the homeless bums, are the moderate people. They don't have to have the best that life has to offer, nor the most money, and they don't want it. Their motto is: Better isn't necessary when adequate will do. These are happy with what they have and make do with what they can afford.

Moderate people aren't lazy, but then again, neither are they achievers nor overly industrious. They don't need a lot, they're easy to please, and are usually very content; e.g. when they shop for diamond jewelry, the stones don't have to be flawless; just sparkly and pretty. They might splurge on a consumer-priced Bulova or a Seiko, but won't shell out the extra dough for a Breitling or an IWC even though they're the better timepieces. They prefer cars that are economical rather than cars that are cool, fast, and fitted out with the latest electronics. They eat at ordinary buffets and restaurants rather than fancy, black-tie supper clubs; and their back yards are likely to have just as many weeds as ornamental shrubs. While others chase status, moderates prefer to chase sales and clip coupons.

But the sad part is; those greedy, leveraged-to-the-hilt hedge-funders are the very ones ravaging the moderates' retirement plans. And if the fund goes belly-up-- as many did in the last sub-prime blood bath --what do they care? It wasn't their money that was lost; it was yours while they escaped with a bail-out and/or a golden parachute. And the bail-outs? Who pays for those? Duh . . . the moderates; via federal taxes, of course.
● Ecc 4:7-8 . . And I have noted this further futility under the sun: the case of the man who is alone, with no companion, who has neither son nor brother; yet he amasses wealth without limit, and his eye is never sated with riches. For whom, now, is he amassing it while denying himself enjoyment? That too is a futility and an unhappy business.

That surely describes people like Ebenezer Scrooge-- Charles Dickens' friendless loner in A Christmas Carol --the prince of misers. The man has great wealth, and sees the amassing of wealth as the only justifiable reason to be alive. He despises family life, shuns circles of close friends, and regards charitable causes as theft. The man won't even spend his money on decent food to nourish himself; let alone wood or coal to heat his dismal home. His fortune does neither him nor anyone else any real good at all except provide him with questionable old-age security.

● Ecc 4:9-10 . .Two are better off than one, in that they have greater benefit from their earnings. For should they fall, one can raise the other; but woe betide him who is alone and falls with no companion to raise him!

Webster's defines "synergism" as: interaction of discrete agencies, agents, or conditions such that the total effect is greater than the sum of the individual effects.

John Nash put that principle into his Nobel Prize-winning economic theory. He felt that it is possible to not only do yourself the better good, but at the same time to do it in such a way that your efforts mesh with the efforts of others so that all benefit.

Marriage is a synergic arrangement. Partners are more secure, and usually accomplish much more together than an individual on their own; and they look out for each other too. When a wife gets a muscle spasm in her back, and can't walk, then the husband can put her on a blanket and drag her down the hallway to the bathroom. When the husband's car blows a heater hose on the way home from work, the wife can use her own car to come and get him at the repair shop and bring him home for dinner. Plus, if both work, their combined income makes it possible to carry a mortgage instead of throwing money away on rent.

● Ecc 4:11 . . Further, when two lie together they are warm; but how can he who is alone get warm?

To be warm, as in Ecc 4:11, implies more than merely warding off a chill. It means to be comforted. There is very little solace to be found in solitude. Loner type of people often end up plagued with feelings of isolation, depression, and dark thoughts.

● Ecc 4:12 . . Also, if one attacks, two can stand up to him. A threefold cord is not readily broken!

All he's saying there is that a single strand of hemp by itself is weak; but when woven together in multiple strands, becomes very strong; viz: the combined strands become force multipliers.

In the darkening days in which we live in America, jogging, hiking, and bicycling alone can be very dangerous in a City, State, or National park; especially after sundown. It's far more sensible to mingle with others; even if they're strangers. People alone are easy marks for muggers and wilding attacks. Nobody's invincible. Even tough guys like Chuck Norris and Jason Stathan can be taken down. As Arnold Schwarzeneggar said in the Hollywood movie Predator, "If it bleeds, we can kill it".