The words of the Teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem: “Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” What do people gain from all their labors at which they toil under the sun? Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever. The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises. The wind blows to the south and turns to the north; round and round it goes, ever returning on its course. All streams flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full. To the place the streams come from, there they return again. All things are wearisome, more than one can say. The eye never has enough of seeing, nor the ear its fill of hearing. What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which one can say, “Look! This is something new”? It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time. No one remembers the former generations, and even those yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow them. – Ecclesiastes 1:1-11
What a way to start a dialogue…if I started class this way I think my enrollment might suffer….”everything I will talk about in this class is meaningless… “. I guess this is a fitting entry in ecclesiastes as I anticipate that this book will contain plenty of rapids and deep water.
On one level this feels like a depressing passage…all we do here on earth is meaningless…all streams flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full…but there is another layer here and it is fleshed out by the water metaphor.
What this passage is describing is the hydrologic cycle…” All streams flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full. To the place the streams come from, there they return again.”…water evaporates from the ocean, is carried by the wind across the earth to the mountains, where it falls to earth as rain, and returns to the place it started.
One could look upon this cycle and think…”what a waste of effort”…”all things are wearisome, more than one can say.”…but to view it this way is to miss the beauty that this cycle, and the cycle of life, possesses as a consequence of this circularity.
Some might conclude that passages like this argue for reincarnation, but when I think of circularity I am not thinking of reincarnation per se. Can our souls “precipitate” into a body more than once? I honestly do not know whether our souls get more than one chance at the “river” here on earth. Perhaps from God’s point of view it does not matter…it seems clear that our souls remain distinct despite joining the great sea when we die.
I have reflected previously on the similarity between the hydrologic cycle and the spiritual cycle that seems to exist, at least in my experience. Our souls are like water…we move from “the secret place”, the spiritual realm, into a human body in our mother’s womb….we are “precipitated” if you will. We move from the realm of the clouds (heaven?) as a mere helpless drop of water…a baby. We begin our life journey toward “the sea”…the secret place from which we originated.
Along the way our soul joins many other “drops” to shape the landscape (all human experience here on earth), just as raindrops combine to become rivers that are constantly shaping the landscape. If one were to stop the hydrologic cycle the landscape would quickly become a pretty boring place….it is the journey that defines the raindrop’s purpose. Just as it is the spiritual cycle, and the work of our souls, that defines our journey here on earth, not the body in which our soul is travelling.
Prayer: Thank You God for designing both the hydrologic cycle and the spiritual cycle that governs our souls. Help us to see the journey we are on as a blessing.