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May 2006 - Article 1

Copyright © 2006

by Jessica Kuzmier

     It goes without saying that those who overdo the "eat, drink, and be merry" lifestyle may not necessarily be really experiencing peace. It may seem obvious to many except the one who is imbibing. The damage inflicted is more than obvious to the outside observer.

    It's probably true that many of these observers may enjoy the same things, to a lesser degree. They may have at their disposal a nice beach vacation, good meals, a beautiful spouse, yet still be unhappy. A person can expose himself or herself to many different "good things" of this world, yet still be unhappy. It's as though by relying on externals, something doesn't match up, doesn't seem quite right. This is living out the adage, "they have everything, yet they are unhappy", the implication seeming to be that financial security should be an automatic protection against unhappiness.

    It's easy to get caught up in the minutiae of life's details, though. With shopping , housework, career, education, and taxes, it is easy to get caught up in the details of life, and their importance looms even larger because of the attention they receive. It's easy to think by taking care of the outside, you take care of the inside. Many self-help gurus espouse external makeovers such as removing clutter, cleaning, and feng shui, convinced that these measures will add to the well-being of people. But if these practices are the only measures a person takes to "improve" himself or herself, dissatisfaction may still exist. This is because in this case, one is really taking care of the externals and not the internals. Maybe he or she is ignoring the inside after all, despite all the "housecleaning" efforts. A person may clean the house, but then still feel despair. Or have an ordered desk, yet still fell let down. What is the meaning of all of this?

    This is what the Preacher experienced when he said: "Then I looked on all of the works that my hands had done, and on the labor in which I had toiled,; and indeed all was vanity and grasping in the wind. There was no profit under the sun" (Eccl 2:11 NKJV). So then, perhaps, turning to wisdom might perhaps cause a person to feel fulfilled. Maybe an extra trip to a psychologist will do it, or an e-mail to Dr. Phil. Maybe if one gets to "know oneself", inner peace will then ensue.

    But for many who undertake this journey, there are just bouts of more depression, despite much hard work. It is almost a stereotype: the person who has been in therapy or Twelve Step meetings for years, yet still unhappy. These people may be stuck in their own misery, almost addicted to it. It is like they remain mired in the problem and not the solution. But for them, what is the solution? They know they need to get out of their own pain, which is why they go for the help in the first place, so they could get to know their real selves and make necessary changes. Except something has gone awry.

    This is what the Preacher experienced: "Then I turned myself to consider wisdom and madness and folly...The wise man's eyes are in his head, but the fool walks in darkness, yet I perceived that the same event happens to them all: This is also vanity...As it happens to the fool also happens to me, and how does the wise man die? As the fool!" (Eccl 2: 12, 14, 15, 16). This feeling of futility may accompany those who have sought therapy, spiritual counseling, or other fountains of wisdom, secular or otherwise. A full circle that has led them nowhere, except for darker shades on the outline. What was the use of going through all of that just to find more misery?

    One only has to see the news for a few minutes that war, disease, and natural disasters don't care who their victims are, though some may argue the rich have some insulation against these things: but no one is truly immune. Even being a person of great self-knowledge is no way foolproof. So what is the point? Wasn't it better when one was drunk and oblivious?

    This is the Preacher's conclusion for this syllogism: "Nothing is better for man than he should eat and drink. And that his soul should enjoy good in his labor. This also was from the hand of God" (Eccl 2: 24). It is the full circle, but yet a solution has been found within it. For now one is to find joy in the things as they had before, but instead as an end to itself, as a gift, if not of God, that of some grace and goodness. What wisdom has brought to the table of these activities the knowledge that they are tools, not the means themselves. It is being in the world, not of it, detaching oneself emotionally from the power of external circumstances. Perhaps, by learning the hand of God exists in all things, however that may be defined, is where the joy really lies, for the spirit will lead where the soul will go.


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