Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Ecclesiastes Revisited -- A Modern Take on an Old Search for Meaning -- Chap 4

I was sitting in the university’s cafeteria.  I wanted to be alone.  I was embarking on a career in science as a responsibility not for meaning. Before me—interrupting my misery—came a smorgasbord of ideas.

The pantheist enticed me with her beautiful culture. I listened, but then Sophia whispered in my ear, “They're the same as the materialists, but decorated with a thousand wonderful narratives.  You can get lost in the narratives, thus forgetting the total lack of meaning. But circular lost-ness is nothing more than vanity. Just as the materialists, they have no differentiation between the points, between good and bad, between you and a stone. There is no meaning here, just the chasing after the next narrative . . . don’t be deceived with “personal” verbiage as camouflage over the impersonal universe.”

I motioned them on with a wave of my hand.

The Islamist came by.  Once again I was enticed by a beautiful culture. Sophia whispered to me, “Don’t be fooled. There are layers upon layers of façade of legalities, behind which, rest a thousand crescent-shaped hot tubs with gold fixtures and little girls and old men.”

I motioned him on with a nod.

Two men were circling my table from afar.  They seemed to have stepped out of the Cold War with their trench coats and beady-surveillance of me.  They circled closer.  I looked back down to my science text and up again. They were sitting next to me.  They pulled fake peanut and butter sandwiches from their black, vinyl attaches.

“Hi.” One of them said with a big smile. “Do you eat here often?”


“Really, everyday.  That reminds me that Jesus promised to walk with us everyday . . . isn’t that a coincidence?”

I looked back at my science text.

“Speaking of Jesus do you know Him?” asked the other man.

“Been there—done that.”

“You haven’t met the real Jesus or you would still be with Him. No one ever leaves the real Jesus.”

I poured onto their ears my story as if it were molten lead.

The taller thin man replied, “We all knew that TV Preacher Joe was a fraud. It was obvious.  We also know that all little country churches are full of hypocrites . . . but we are better.  The secret word is PLASTICS . . . oh, I mean DISCIPLESHIP! (or do I wink, wink).”

“Discipleship?  Hmm. Maybe that is the answer.”  I took the bait. The cellophane sandwiches were returned to their attaches and we sped off.

I chased after the golden ring of being “Godly” for the next . . . decade. I memorized most of the Bible, I shared the Gospel every day just as the two spies had tried to do with me. I aspired to be a good citizen, then a discipleship staff person and then the most inward circle of meaning and commitment . . . a missionary.

I fasted, I prayed for hours each day and I stopped talking to women.  I was as sincere as anyone could be.  I was chasing after the golden ring, which I was sure to bring meaning, with all my might. I felt myself moving closer and closer to the point of perfection. I attended fifty seven men’s conferences . . . the ring was within my grasp . . . I could touch it with the tip of my middle finger. I just need one more time around the discipleship wheel and I would grab it. 

I held up the Godly men, the leaders, as my pinnacle of hope.  They were adorned with golden rings around their arms and necks. I would be there some day. I too would be perfect and sinless. Sophia was rolling her eyes and wouldn't even talk to me anymore.

But one day I took the wrong door, I walked in on Godly Man # 1 . . .  in bed . . . with a woman.  “I felt dazed. What does this mean?”

I confronted him, “You’ve taught me for a decade not to speak to a woman, not to touch a woman to emulate your purity . . . but then I see you in bed with one?”

“Oh,” he says. “I think you have misunderstood the circumstances.  We were praying and we fell asleep.”

“Do you always pray naked?”

“That is a personal offense.  Of course we weren’t naked. Hey, we weren’t actually in the bed . . . now watch my finger as it moves back and forth very slowly . . . we were kneeling beside the bed praying!”

Sophia, pulled on my shirt and whispered in my ear, “He is lying to you.  You saw what you saw.  Believe your senses.”

I went to Godly Man # 2, “I saw Godly Man # 1 in bed with a woman.”

“Don’t dare tell anyone this, for the sake of the Church.  Let me investigate.”

I was pregnant with anticipation.

I was invited to a circle of the elders.  Justice I thought. I'm so glad I rooted out such evil in our midst of holiness.  I entered by the correct door . . . or at least I thought.  There sat Godly Man # 1 (smiling), Godly Man # 2, Godly Man # 3 and Godly Man # 4.  My heroes . . . save the one.

"We have discussed your case.  It seems that you have brought terrible accusations against your dear brother. We have ruled that these are lies.  You've deeply hurt our dear savior, who bled and died for you.  Once again you are the one who hammered the nails . . . blab . . . blab . . . blab.  I couldn't make out the words anymore. I was spinning, going downward towards the drain once more.  In a counter-clockwise direction, as I circled the golden ring moved further and further away until it vanished in a cloud of smoke.

As circle of wind.  Nothing but a decade wasted chasing after a golden ring made from dust, made from dust and wind. Vanity!  Nothing but vanity and chasing after the wind.


Tom said...

Having read your book a couple of times, I know where this is coming from. It will be interesting to see where the Preacher ends up.

jmj said...

We will see . . . I don't know yet.