I’ve been feeling a little guilty lately. I think they call it survivor guilt. Why am I doing so well, why is my ‘lockdown’ so comfortable, how have we escaped the impact of this virus? Friends in New York, London, Trento have been confronted by disease and death in their neighbourhoods. From time to time we may feel the problem of injustice acutely. Evildoers escaping judgement. The innocent suffering unfairly. What is God doing? Is he just? Will there be a time for justice?
Arthur Stace, or Mr Eternity as he became known, left his mark all over Sydney in the mid 1900s. He wrote only one word— ‘eternity’—in beautiful copperplate script with chalk on pavements from Martin Place to Parramatta. Why did he do this thousands upon thousands of times over more than 30 years? On the night of 6 August 1930 Stace walked into St Barnabas Church on Broadway and heard the preaching of RBS Hammond. Something impacted Stace that changed his life for… eternity.
A friend and I used to share a joke. I would ask, “What’s the essence of a good joke?” and before I had even said the word ‘joke’, he would reply, “Timing”! Ecclesiastes chapter 3 is arguably the most famous section in the book of Ecclesiastes. It’s been popularised by The Byrds and Bob Dylan. There is something very beautiful about a timely word, a timely gift, or even a timely cup of coffee. Yet the beauty of this poem can veil the futility of life. For every good and timely action has it’s counter. What is done will one day be undone. Nothing seems to last.
Work can be painful and tough. Can it also be stimulating and enjoyable. You might look forward to your work. You might not be able to wait until it’s over. We have seen the frustrations that come from work that is unsatisfying, but is there a way to find enjoyment and happiness in our work?
One third of our lives spent at work. And they say no one looks back from their death bed and wishes they’d spent more time at the office. Why do we work, labour, and toil? And why does Ecclesiastes describe work as meaningless? At this time of crisis, with jobs on the line, massive unemployment, pay cuts, and business collapses, what are we doing it all for?
Of course, it’s better to be wise than foolish. We do well to slow down, take some time out, reflect, and consider what we are on about. But at the end of the day, does it really change anything? I’ve accumulated three degrees, some diplomas, and a few certificates. They’re collecting dust somewhere in the basement. If we invest everything in the accumulation of wisdom, but forget to live live, and forget that life will come to an end, then we prove ourselves to be foolish. The wise person begins with the end in mind.
I read recently that the key to finding happiness is to stop seeking happiness. Is this right? Why is happiness so important to us? And why is it so fleeting and short-lived? Why does it seem like we are just chasing after the wind?