Vanity Thus Vanity

Bunched prickles of evergreen rustle and shiver on the branches of the cedar trees visible from my bedroom window. Wisps of clouds dance in the sky, shifting and shaping creatures or dreams according to the delights of the wind. Dragonflies whirr and hover across the range of grass before the library – weightless – busied by the same obscure force that blows stormy gales atop the waves in the Pacific; that same agent whistles through hollowed canyons or tosses midterm papers to the left and right like a playful, invisible sprite. A kiss of breeze to the cheek of a girl sipping coffee on her porch in Dallas may contain the essence of subtle curry from the open markets of Calcutta, or perhaps in reverse, as a hint of burnt coffee beans clinging to the tendrils of a child’s hair in Moscow. Wherever it wanders, the wind is restless. It has no residence. Gusts and whispers fly their course and each take turns as the other. Never ceasing, currents circle the earth at dawn and dusk and the minutes between like a ghost never tired of haunting familiar paths. Though appearing to be meaningless, the wind’s course yet holds purpose: it chills the sweat on a planter’s brow; pulls rain to spring; ushers sailors from the gulf of Mexico round the tip of Africa to Japan’s fields of fish mongers near the island’s coast. Its journey to nowhere and to everywhere coyly mimics the life of man for his ambitions are similar in nature – going everywhere and nowhere, meaningless yet not; but, no man can ever physically chase the wind. His legs will expire long before breeze drifts past the shore, or it may not blow at all. How too can a man follow a hidden thing without the feeling of its breath upon his neck to guide him; and, how then can a man even pursue a specter that must push him from behind? To chase the wind is vanity, and if the aspirations of man are nothing but an echo of the wind’s existence so too are his toils: vanity.

Which then of human pursuits are merely reflections of the wind’s aimless wanderings? Wisdom, pleasure, wealth, service and religion: these are they. The wisest of all men found wisdom no better than folly. This lover with seven-hundred wives and hundreds of slaves and expensive playthings and extensive, luscious gardens discovered nothing except vanity for the allure of pleasure eventually fades into boredom. All the power in the world was grasped firmly in the palm of a king whose wealth could buy anything he desired and yet, he could not purchase one glimmer of meaning. What is the point of service when all earthly things to be shared with another soul are vain? A multiplying of vanity to others does not calculate a mysterious alteration in substance for a solution of purpose. Not even God is satisfactory for Solomon; at least, not the God of incomprehensible methods whom he considers to be in control, whom he assumes – through means of reason, of pure observation – simply is as He is. Just as the wind circulates the globe, caressing the skin of both those who are evil and those who are good, so does justice prevail for the unrighteous in equal measures to injustice for the innocent. Observation alone portrays God as indifferent an entity as wind, so to chase after religion is likewise vanity.

God can, however, be known. Like the wind, He has no residence for He is everywhere – omnipresent. His voice is the breath upon our necks, guiding us deeper, drawing us nearer to the reality of a life with meaning. His voice is in the wind; in the shiver of the branches on a cedar tree; in the shifting and shaping of wisps that form turtles and bears dancing on a blue or sunset stage; in the floating flight of four-winged dragonflies to and fro above green blades of grass; in bellows of thunder carried in the turmoil of stormy spirals; in the canyon’s whistle; in the laughter of professor and student playing tag with papers that dodge each failed clutch as a gust of fall settles across the campus; in the kiss to a cheek of a lonesome girl sipping coffee on her porch; in the fragrance of spices swirling overhead the marketplaces of India; in the tender tousle of a Russian child’s curly hair. He is not a specter pushing. He is a tangible, understandable, graspable Father whose gentle whisper is like a quick burst of crisp winter breeze that causes us to pull our sweaters closer for the intimate heat of fabric against skin. Life in pursuit of Him is a chasing after wind that proves meaningful.



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