All is Vanity

all is vanity“Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.” - Ecclesiastes 1:2 In a short story titled “Araby” by James Joyce,  (from The Dubliners), a young boy embarks on a quest to attend the local bazaar and buy a gift for a girl he yearns to impress. When he finally arrives, the booths were closing, the money was being counted, and the hired help was ready to go home. Cold, dark indifference shoved aside the romantic images his mind had conjured up of what the bazaar was supposed to be. Where was the fun?  The romance? In the end, he suffers a shocking revelation: “Gazing up into the darkness I saw myself as a creature driven and derided by vanity; and my eyes burned with anguish and anger.”1

That’s the sad solution a lot of people reach when their life seems to stop in its tracks, and all the fun they thought they were having seems foolish and empty. The bazaar-like life people create threatens to end like all bazaars do--with the lights out, the workers tired of putting on a happy face, and nothing left but coins to count and dirt to sweep away. The rest--the glitter, the promise of romance and fast fun00it’s all manufactured for a brief moment, until the vanity of it all is revealed and we are sickened by our self-deception.

We are a society driven by pleasure and the need to escape.

The same man who cried out “All is vanity!” also wrote of his life, “Whatever my eyes desired, I did not keep from them. I did not withhold my heart from any pleasure”  (King Solomon, Ecclesiastes 2:10).

Are we so different today?

Our pleasure/entertainment driven society provides endless means of escape. Movies, theater, restaurants unlimited, television with 100 channels, the Internet--everything imaginable is available, and there appears to be no reason at all to withhold any pleasure desired by our eyes.

We could spend twenty-four hours a day living in a fantasy world. 

Modern technology has only served to turn the same old sins into more convenient ones. 

Nothing much has changed about human nature. 

God wants us to enjoy life. To appreciate beauty and talent, and art. But He gave a context for pleasure that has depth, meaning, and purpose for our lives. His pleasure is not empty. It is rich with love, joy, peace and the fruits of His Spirit. We have a choice. We can drink the crystal clear waters of heavenly love--or we can settle for the murky waters of temporary joy, and lose our source of beauty, goodness, and truth--treasures the human soul longs to possess.

  1. Joyce, James, “Dubliners” (New York, NY: The Modern Library, 1993), p. 35.

[Photo: Samuel Kaylor, CreationSwap]