With this entry, I have reached the end of the journey that I started last year with this blog post: Top Ten Favorite Books.
By far, Ecclesiastes has been the most influential book I have ever read. I have read it more than any other chapter book (and perhaps even more than the Giving Tree – so any book) in my life. It has 12 thought provoking chapters that challenge conventional wisdom.
Though you could probably purchase this as a stand alone book, the most common way is to buy it in a compilation with 65 other books in what is usually called the Holy Bible. You can also type “book of Ecclesiastes” in Google and read it for free.
So why is Ecclesiastes the most influential book in my life… and my favorite “book” ever? Because it seems the most honest to me. “The fastest man does not always win the race”; “with much wisdom comes much sorrow”; “nothing is new”; “there is a season for everything”; and “eat, drink, and be merry.” The themes of the book reflect the changes of life. It helps bring a centering to my life when I see that winners don’t always win nor winners lose. I find comfort that are lives are a constant source of toiling and that there are few things to bring solace.
Many people use binary systems to describe people – you are either an extrovert or an introvert; you are either an optimist or a pessimist; you are either running for progress or you are running for congress (okay, this last one was just for fun). These terms are fabrications that were basically created by companies to label people and make money with those labels. Myers-Briggs is the main reason why people think there are only two kinds of verts. In addition to extroverts and introverts, there are ambiverts – which demographics show make up as much as 30-34% of the population. That means 1/3 of the population is NOT an extrovert or introvert (I’ll be writing a follow-up blog on this subject at a later date). I am an ambivert. Take that, Myers-Briggs! I’m also better classified as a realist with optimist tendencies than the binary optimist/pessimist conundrum.
This is why I like Ecclesiastes. Life isn’t always simple. Life is a deep sea of complexity and simple answers are like dipping toes in the shallow water on the beach. Complexity require more than the stereotypical cat poster that says, “Hang In There.”
Below is one of the many great passages in the book.
7 Go, eat your bread with enjoyment, and drink your wine with a merry heart; for God has long ago approved what you do. 8 Let your garments always be white; do not let oil be lacking on your head. 9 Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that are given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun. 10 Whatever your hand finds to do, do with your might; for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going.
11 Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to the skillful; but time and chance happen to them all. 12 For no one can anticipate the time of disaster. Like fish taken in a cruel net, and like birds caught in a snare, so mortals are snared at a time of calamity, when it suddenly falls upon them.
Overall, I believe everyone should read Ecclesiastes, regardless of your faith or lack thereof.