Wisdom Literature

untitled, copyright V.Wells 2010

I love wisdom literature, particularly Biblical stuff.
I also like the pseudo-secular, too; I've reviewed Cormack MacCarthy's The Road here, and am going to see the film version today. Love those post-apocalyptic parables!
But lately, I have been focusing on Ecclesiastes, especially Chapter 7. Just about every line jumps out at me and smacks me in the face. And, going through an unwanted breakup at the moment, I am being forced to read these lines carefully and consider my circumstances. Towit:

Verse 3 Sorrow is better than laughter; For by a sad countenance the heart is made better.
What doesn't kill you will make you stronger?? Yuck. Hate those lessons. But I know from experience that it's true, and ultimately good for my growth as a person.

Verse 8 The end of a thing is better than its beginning....
Certainly not what you believe at the end of a relationship! The beginning is the gasoline that lights a ripping path of joy. At the end, it phtzzes out and you look back with a combination of melancholy and cringing. But certainly not a sense of 'better'. That comes much later, if at all.

Verse 13 Consider the work of God; for who can make straight what he has made crooked?
It's easy to say the other person is wrong/doesn't understand/has hurt you. That you're dealing with crooked goods and you're the straight one. Who wants to believe it's oneself who is the crooked??

Verse 20 For there is not a just man on earth who does good And does not sin.
Yeah. Get off your pedestal and realize the other person is just and good. Nobody's perfect and you're not more perfect than the other guy.

Fast forward to Ch 12 Verse 8 Vanity of vainites, says the Preacher, All is vanity.
It's all grasping at thin air, anyway. Why do we sit there, waiting for the text message or call? In other words, we need to get over ourselves. Learn and grow in ways useful to this life since much of what we understand to be important is in fact that vanity.

I am listening to one of my favourite pieces, Bach's sublime St. Matthew Passion, which I have sung off and on over the last 30 years. It's sort of a balm for my soul at the moment, but not much. Later I'll flip through my Phaidon Photo Book, select some of my pictures to submit to two upcoming exhibits, and re-read more of The Picture of Dorian Gray, which I'm teaching in two weeks. I am totally grasping at straws here. Although I can't bring myself to call any of the arts vanities.

I recently watched a wacky film called Running with Scissors, which, frighteningly, is based on a true story. I loved it. One of the most interesting treatments of religion by the film was when one of the characters talks about 'Bible dipping'. The family believes in taking spiritual direction by posing a problem, randomly opening the Bible and, with eyes closed, plunking down one's finger and whatever word it lands on is the answer. In the film, this was illustrated with mocking results. I loved it: proof-texting in the extreme! (A practice I love to revile). And yet what am I doing right now? Not much better: looking for answers to my sadness, my hurt and my sense of seemingly neverending loss. Wisdom that is not.

If I have gleaned any wisdom in my ridiculous years on this planet, it is that Solomon--or whoever--was right and that there is a time for everything (Ch 3: v 1-8), but that doesn't mean it doesn't suck any less right now. And I have to admit I have learned that with the passage of time I see my growth and learning and openness increase. Unfortunately, patience is sorely lacking in me, and so this process is extremely painful and laborious for me. But I will try to trust in the Lord with all my heart and lean not on my own understanding (Ps 3:5). *sigh* as we say on facebook.


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