Vanity of Vanities and the Pursuit of Wind: Let's Take a Deep Breath!

Check it out for yourself: Ecclesiastes 1-2

"For to the one who pleases him God has given wisdom and knowledge and joy, but to the sinner he has given the business of gathering and collecting, only to give to one who pleases God. This also is vanity and a striving after wind." - Ecclesiastes 2:26

As a teenager I dreamed of being a pilot. For years I would stick my hand out the window of my parents moving car and day dream of being in a British Aerospace Sea Harrier with the wings carving through the air as my hand drifted this way and that through the wind. I was no Top Gun but I loved the sense of freedom and adventure it brought. There was nothing I couldn't make that plane do high up in the sky. At least nothing my imagination couldn't do.

Pilot SeatI was thirteen years old when I took my first flight as a copilot in a single prop Cessna 150. It was my thirteenth birthday and my best friend and I were both given the flight at Springbank Airfield as a gift from a family friend. There wasn't really enough room in the plane for the three of us to fit so I just stood in awe of the other planes on the tarmac while my friend went up first. After a couple of hours it was my turn and we circled the plane a few times on foot before climbing in to do the take off check list.

Being that it was my first flight; the pilot did most of the take off procedures. After being in the air a few minutes he looked over at me and said, "OK, well why don't you take over the wheel for a little while." It was then that it struck me. The unrelenting reality of independent responsibility. The rules and gravitational laws which dictated the possibility of human flight. It was an over whelming sense of fear and self doubt. I remember looking over at him and thinking, "Who Me?!"

Cessna 150I gripped the wheel with slow hesitation; scared to push, pull, or turn the wheel the wrong way or too much. I looked at the pilot and said, "Where do I go?" He smiled and answered, "Any where you like!" In that moment my mind and body was paralyzed; transfixed solely on the destination which to me was to land safely back on the ground without crashing. The pilot looked at me again; "Just enjoy the flight."

The memories of my first flight seemed to resonate with me as I looked at the characterizations Solomon struggled with in the first two chapters of Ecclesiastes. Solomon finds this internal struggle where part of him is striving for the complexities of truth, wisdom, and the legal realities or reason for life. He desperately wants to get it right and arrive safely at the destiny or destination to which his creator so desires for him. On the opposite side he finds himself freeing his imagination in the pursuit of creative desire, passion, and the fulfillment of enjoying his life’s ambitions.

Locked between them he is paralyzed with the thought,

"What has a man from all the toil and striving of heart with which he toils beneath the sun?... For to the one who pleases him God has given wisdom and knowledge and joy, but to the sinner he has given the business of gathering and collecting, only to give to one who pleases God. This also is vanity and a striving after wind." (Ecc. 2:22;26)

For Solomon it seems that all things both between the legalities of wisdom and the creative pursuits of pleasure; everything comes to the reality of striving after the wind. But why the wind? What does he mean by wind and where do we find this wind so to speak within our own sails?

In English the word wind commonly means "a natural movement of air of any velocity; especially: the earth’s air or the gas surrounding a planet in natural motion horizontally"; but Solomon wasn't really talking about the earth's wind. The Hebrew word he used was ruah which in a more liberal sense means spirit. So in a sense what Solomon was trying to say was that all things pertaining to an individual's life, whether done for wisdom or for pleasure, become an expressionism to their pursuit of spirituality. A spirituality which for all comes to a head when faced by the presence of God.

Jesus had a common saying throughout the gospels. He would often recite that, "the Kingdom of God is near." (Luke 21:31; Mark 1:15; Luke 17:21) His revelation to the Kingdoms presence though was never meant to place us in a state of fear so as to focus solely on our destination and save as many souls as possible before we go to heaven. The nearness of God's kingdom was meant to free us with the awareness that ruah is not only in the wisdom of the Holy Spirit but also in our own individual strivings for creative passionate dreams and ambitions.

In essence Jesus is our pilot and is now turning to you saying, "Why don't you take the wheel for awhile?" Where will you go? How will you express your spirit? What does your imagination tell you that you can do?" However way you choose to express your spirituality and strive for ruah remember... enjoy the flight!

"All the way to heaven is heaven." - Catherine of Siena