I was grumpy yesterday about the abrupt change in tone from philosophical to practical but it works better read together with this chapter, which continues but deepens this direction of thinking.
A certain calm has come over the writer, having been in a spiral that descended in restless logic down to the despair of chapters 8 and 9, he now comes to terms with what can be known and what can’t.
He talks about trying lots of different ideas because you don’t know what will succeed.
He uses metaphors of randomness such as the unpredictable patterns of rain and wind, of a hedging against uncertainty by investing in many different things in life and trees falling random times and directions.
He reminds us of how deeply we don’t know the way of God by saying we don’t even know how we are made in the womb. Mysteries of even our origin are veiled from us. Science has come a long way since that was written, but we are still yet to create new life forms in a womb of our making.
Jesus linked wind and birth images to the experience of god’s presence:
To me the point is that only the now intersects with eternity. The past is fixed, the future is unknown. In the present moment we have choices and opportunities to affect things which will last. In the present, we have a sense of interacting with destiny, like an eternal being.
He returns to the “under the sun” language but with, I thought, a relatively carefree and optimistic twist:
“Light is sweet,
and it pleases the eyes to see the sun.
However many years anyone may live,
let them enjoy them all.“
To me this is using a single day, even a single moment, walking out doors and seeing the sun, as a metaphor for life. Life is the now, our time in the sun, the interaction with eternity we know and experience. Use it well.
N T Wright, theologian and for a long while bishop of Durham cathedral had an example that comes to mind of stone masons working on Jigsaw pieces of the cathedral. A plant-inspired column top here, or a curved arch section there, but not necessarily having the master plan or visualising how they would sit in the finished cathedral. So, he says, it is with the eternal work we do on earth, that is stored up as treasure in heaven.
The teacher here can come to terms with questions about why and how we came to be, and the insubstantial darkness over god’s future, by clinging to the revealed wisdom of how to live happily and in accordance with god’s wishes while the sun is bright.
He’s gone from finding God’s wisdom annoyingly limited and incomplete to finding it the best we can get, and valuable for what it is.
Starting back at work after a weeks break, feeling quite negative and unprepared to cope with life, worth repeating to myself as I step out this morning into the sun….