Life: Philosophers ponder it and poets wax about it – while the worldly wise debate it, mystics’ dream of it and theologians seek to unravel it. Words spoken and words sung and words written of it could fill the seas if flung out upon them. But squeezing it and wrapping it small enough to fit in our hands and minds is another thing altogether. What is life in experience? What is life in meaning? Can we know these things? Can we understand them?
The Bible describes King Solomon as the wisest man to ever live. He is the one who has given us a dinner plate size summation of life fit for our consumption. He speaks first of life’s experience at ground level in a fallen world:
To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die;
A time to plant, and a time to pluck what is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal;
A time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to gain, and a time to lose;
A time to keep, and a time to throw away;
A time to tear, and a time to sew;
A time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate;
A time of war, and a time of peace.
Those are beautiful words. Haunting. Melancholy. Profound. Simple. True. They transcend time and culture and the diverse paths taken by men and women of the ages. And most people would agree with the king. But what does he tell us about the meaning of life? We’ll look at that next time.