I have a reflection on Ecclesiastes and politics over on Political Theology Today, largely drawing upon some previously posted material:
‘Vanity of vanities’—or, more literally translated, ‘vapor of vapors.’
There are few more potent and fecund metaphors for human life, activity, and thought than that of vapor, breath, or mist.
Life is like groping through a dense fog, which shrouds and veils reality, preventing us from seeing through to the heart of things. It is an experience of inscrutability: we can read neither the comings nor goings of being.
We can neither grasp nor control it. It slips through our fingers, eluding all of our attempts at mastery. It is fleeting and ephemeral. It leaves no trace or mark of its passing, but passes into nothing. It produces no lasting fruit nor gain, and has no permanent effects.
It is insubstantial, formed of nothing, and providing no bedrock for security against decay or change. Humanity’s attempts to fashion and understand the world for itself will all ultimately founder, as the unforgiving wind of time whisks away our kingdoms of dust.
It is this metaphor that lies at the heart of the book of Ecclesiastes: Ecclesiastes declares the ultimate futility of all of our attempts at building and figuring out the world for ourselves, comparing these to attempts at ‘shepherding the wind’. This is the character of life ‘under the sun’. Life lived beneath the veil of heaven is inescapably vaporous.
Read the whole thing here.