Essay Book Ecclesiastes

Essay Book Ecclesiastes-26
As opposed to the quest of Job, Solomon’s search for wisdom did not arise from a desire to make sense of either personal misfortune or national catastrophe.Indeed, his was a life of unrepentant indulgence: he tempted himself with wine, entertained himself with male and female performers, and amassed untold treasures and hundreds of wives and concubines.They emphasize the immortality of the soul, yet attach little significance to the self-conscious awareness of the reincarnated individual.

As opposed to the quest of Job, Solomon’s search for wisdom did not arise from a desire to make sense of either personal misfortune or national catastrophe.Indeed, his was a life of unrepentant indulgence: he tempted himself with wine, entertained himself with male and female performers, and amassed untold treasures and hundreds of wives and concubines.

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Indeed, detachment from the world is almost the definition of true piety in some religions, many of which wholeheartedly embrace the meaninglessness of mortal existence.

In these cultures, the more one seeks immortality, the more one detaches oneself from the physical world.

In other words, Ecclesiastes is not about what God wants of us, but about what we want for ourselves.

This approach may resonate especially strongly with Western readers of today, since few Westerners appreciate doing things simply because they are told, regardless of who does the telling.

Twelve chapters long, it is one of literature’s earliest encounters between faith and reason: the author struggles to believe that life is meaningful despite his experience of the world.

The book’s inclusion in the Hebrew Bible is therefore remarkable, testifying to Judaism’s interest not only in divine revelation, but also in man’s exploration of the meaning of life and mortality.

Yet one need only look at the elaborate Tibetan Book of the Dead to see that the nature of the afterlife is, once again, considered concrete knowledge, and is described—and illustrated, in numerous mandalas—in lush detail.

The common denominator of all these doctrines is a detachment from life, a dismissal of material existence in favor of a radically different reality.

This practice was prevalent, for example, among the Egyptians, Sumerians, Mayans, and Chinese; indeed, like King Tutankhamun’s numerous shabti and ushebti companions, the Chinese emperor Qin Shi Huang had thousands of life-size clay soldiers buried near his grave in order to ensure victory in his battles in the afterworld.

Thus Kohelet’s bold opening—the assertion that such efforts are futile—constitutes the first step of an intellectual revolution.

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