Driven by the Need to Escape
“Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.” Ecclesiastes 1:2 In a short story by James Joyce, a young boy embarks on a quest to the local bazaar to buy a gift for a girl he yearns to impress. When he finally arrives, the booths were closed and the hired help, in a hurry to count money and go home, ignored him.
Cold, dark indifference shoved aside the romantic images his mind had conjured up of the bazaar. 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
When all the fun we thought we were having becomes foolish and empty, the bazaar-like life we create threatens to end as all bazaars do. Lights out, tired workers, and nothing left but small coins to count and dirt to sweep. The rest—the glitter, the promise of romance and fast fun—it’s all manufactured for a brief moment, until the vanity of it is revealed and we are sickened by our self-deception.
We are a society driven by pleasure and the need to escape.
The same King Solomon who cried “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” (Ecclesiastes 2:10).
Are we so different?
Our pleasure/entertainment driven society provides endless means of escape. Movies, theater, restaurants unlimited, television with over 100 channels, the Internet; everything imaginable is available, with no reason to withhold any pleasure desired by our eyes. We could spend twenty-four hours a day living in a fantasy world.
Modern technology has turned the same old sins into more convenient ones. Nothing much has changed about human nature.
God gives us an abundant life. He desires us to appreciate beauty, talent, and art.
But He gives us 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.
- Joyce, James, “Araby, Dubliners” (New York, NY: The Modern Library, 1993), p. 35.