Meaningful or Meaningless?

(if you are viewing this via email, the website has a recording of this poem and commentary; click the title above)
One of my favorite photos: the Wetmore Valley in Colorado, taken on a family trip to Horn Creek Ranch

“Meaningful! Meaningful! Everything is meaningful.” That’s what was running through my head early yesterday morning. I couldn’t go back to sleep. As I lay in bed, I planned a web page exploring BEAUTY: WHAT IT IS, AND WHAT IT POINTS TO. I listened to an interview of Sara Groves. Her song “Why it Matters” also explores this subject. I noticed that as she spoke to the interviewer, much of her thought was carried in metaphors. Since I keep trying to improve as a poet, I pay attention to metaphor—how to use it, and how to recognize it being used. And so, I went through the day thinking about how so many things point to something else, and ultimately to qualities of the Creator. “This flower is meaningful. That kindness is meaningful.”

Then, I went for a walk. The Bible listening plan I do on walks had me go through Ecclesiastes this time. In Ecclesiastes, the preacher exclaims “Meaningless! Meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” This was the opposite of what I had been thinking all day!

How could I resolve the contradiction?

The preacher in Ecclesiastes seems to be talking mainly about the meaninglessness of a life lived AS THOUGH there is no eternity. Two or three places in his sermon, he touches briefly on the judgment. Most prominently, he does so in the conclusion:

“Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.”

Ecclesiastes 12:13‭-‬14 NIV

The judgment implies an afterlife. Otherwise, judgment itself would be meaningless.

So live meaningfully—with Eternity in your heart. Otherwise—as the preacher took pains to demonstrate—it will all have been meaningless.

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