The prince Siddhartha Gautama’s (the Buddha’s) path to enlightenment began when he left his palace and confronted the sick, the aged, and the suffering. Alongside our rational and emotive faculties, sacred scriptures, discernment of history, and scientific decoding of the cosmos, personal experiences inform the religious journey.
But just as these experiences shade our beliefs, faith fits our experiences into a larger portrait. The Bible’s book of Ecclesiastes claims to have been written by someone who had seen much. But the author is hesitant to give advice. Happiness is illusive. Is there a purpose to life? Many religious travelers would hope, along with John Calvin, that we are called to be useful to God, but this author is not sure. He cautions that most of the things we value are actually only of passing significance. All is vanity.
However, the few conclusions the writer of Ecclesiastes reaches are worth noting. Life walks at its own pace.
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace (Eccles. 3:1-8).
To the young, he urges “Remember your creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come” (Eccles. 12:1). As for what’s ultimately important in life, he writes “Fear God, and keep His commandments, for that is the whole duty of everyone” (Eccles. 12:13).
THE MOST BEAUTIFUL WOMAN IN THE WORLD contrasts superficial appearance with a religious aesthetic. The Apostle Paul often used the phrase “in Christ” to describe the new perception that accompanies the Christian’s life. Attitudes and activities that once governed life, such as envy, greed, and enmity were replaced, he thought, by other values such as love, patience, and kindness. One of my favorite descriptions of Jesus, comes from Peter who said of him simply that “he went about doing good” (Acts 10:38). Do you agree or disagree with the daughter’s assessment of her mother in the Post?