Smoke, nothing but smoke. There’s nothing to anything – it’s all smoke. What’s there to show for a lifetime of work, a lifetime of working your fingers to the bone?
One generation goes its way, the next one arrives, but nothing changes – it’s business as usual for old planet earth. The sun comes up and the sun goes down, then does it again, and again – the same old round.
The wind blows south, the wind blows north. Around and around and around it blows, blowing this way, then that – the whirling, erratic wind. All the rivers flow into the sea, but the sea never fills up. The rivers keep flowing to the same old place, and then start all over and do it again.
Everything’s boring, utterly boring – no one can find meaning in it. Boring to the eye, boring to the ear. What was will be again, what happened will happen again. There’s nothing new on this earth. Year after year it’s the same old thing.
Does someone call out, “Hey, this is new?” Don’t get excited – it’s the same old story. Nobody remembers what happened yesterday. And the things that will happen tomorrow? Nobody’ll remember them either. Don’t count on being remembered.
Ecclesiastes 1:2-11, The Message
“Meaningless, meaningless, everything is meaningless,” one translation says.
I absolutely agree.
Just this past week, on a bright and early morning, I happened to read a brilliant book of short stories written by local author Leonora Liow and the very last one got me into quite a funk.
In Majulah Singapura, she narrates a story of a young ambitious couple upgrading from a two room flat, to a bigger one, to a condo and hopefully, eventually to a bungalow. They have two kids that they’ve groomed from a young age, enrolling them to Chinese enrichment classes, drama classes, basketball and swimming lessons to give them just that extra edge over their peers. When they did not get into their desired stream in the primary school sorting, they were sullen and appealed. When they were of age and did not make it to the junior college of their choice, they had a chat with the principal and got them in. All that the parents did were an effort at oneupmanship.
I felt it kinda represented the “Singaporean dream”. Climbing up the socio-economic ladder, pursuing the very best for one’s kids.
But what is the point of it all really?
And that was the start of my downward spiralling mood.
Because really, for all that one does, we eventually die and are brought back to the dust that we were made of. What of our achievements? What of our friendships? What of our assets?
As I ponder upon the meaning of life this past week, I suddenly realised why I cared so little about so many things.
I don’t really aspire to climb the socio-economic ladder.
I don’t care to be a stunning beauty. (Just maintaining a generally neat appearance and avoiding a slovenly look will do.)
I don’t care to have children.
I don’t seem to care much about anything at all.
So what is the point of living?
Friendships? Ought one live for one’s friends? That doesn’t seem like a very good reason to me. After all, what will you do if your friends leave you?
Food? For all the delicacies on earth, do I live to eat or eat to live?
Fun? After all’s played and done, will the temporal joy and pleasure sustain one’s will to live?
I don’t know.
Anyway, as I have a tendency to, I posted the following on Facebook one afternoon,
“Life is so meaningless sometimes.”
I got a grand total of two replies from acquaintances I’ve only met once before. I realise rather belatedly that that’s not a really good platform to share one’s sorrows, because it seems as though most people would rather celebrate with you on joyous matters (weddings, new-borns, excellent food, cat videos etc.) than partake of your cake of depression. Which is not surprising really. What was surprising was the kindness of two strangers asking after me.
Anyway, I decided that night that I ought to text my bunch of close friends to just share my epiphany because a burden shared is a burden halved isn’t it?
But before I did, I decided to retreat into my room that night to just pray about it.
Interestingly enough, I found that my meaning was found in God.
Sounds rather trite and unoriginal, but as I sat there in silence, I just had the overwhelming sense of a whisper telling me, “I am enough for you.”
And somehow, that was sufficient to take me out of my existential crisis.
It’s rather inexplicable.
I mean, I’d still rather be in heaven than on earth, but at least now I have some sort of meaning to my life. God is the meaning of my life. I think it might be a little incomprehensible to some, but hey, whatever works for me.
I’m curious, what gives meaning to YOUR life? What sustains you day by passing day? Drop me a note in the comments below cos I’d love to know.