In the book of Ecclesiastes, the preacher begins with the infamous line:
“Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity…”
All is vanity. The above quote is from the KJV, while the NIV uses the word ‘meaningless’ in lieu of vanity. Words simply aren’t interchangeable any more than colors on the Mona Lisa. However, I’ll save my gripes for translations for another blog (or not at all).
At the not-so-tender age of 35, I feel like I’ve had opportunities to open my eyes to parts of the world that few will ever have the opportunity to see in their lifetime. Recently, I was having lunch at a restaurant and overheard a table of students chatting about life experience.
“You can’t really know anything if you’ve never left the country.” one of them said.
“Boy, is that right…” I thought.
Stopping to reflect on my own experiences, I tried to unpack some of the observations and lessons I’ve learned during the years of my life I’ve lived out of the country.
I used to stop and think about the level of poverty I witnessed in other countries, thinking it was somehow a foreign concept from the ‘united’ states. Yet, even as I write this, I’m looking up from my lap screen to see a young woman crouching in the bushes, smoking cigarettes she scrounged for in the dirt.
Four corners of the street are home to a Starbucks, CVS, Bank of America, Volvo Dealership…and a woman in the bushes, smoking cigarette butts while cars whiz by here on Lemmon Avenue in Dallas, TX.
There’s a part of me that wants to buy her a pack of cigarettes. Hell, there’s a part of me that wants to buy her an entire carton of them. She’d probably find far more joy in those cigarettes than the presents the 10 year-old girl, glued to her cellphone, that just walked into SBUX will receive this Sunday…
The girl is waiting for her venti that Daddy just paid for, while the cigarette smoker now combs the parking lot for more butts.
Sometimes it’s hard for me to find the silver lining in each day, particularly when I fail to see the joy and purpose in the moments that seem meaningless. Outside of time with the people I love – in particular, Atlas and my family, I sometimes have a hard time gritting my teeth through the times in each day that feel like little more than the grind they are.
Life isn’t always sunshine and rainbows. However, it’s my job as a human being to navigate life as it comes to me instead of trying to dictate and change the outcome of events and circumstances that haven’t come to full fruition yet. There is one thing I know about life, and it is this:
“In the endless universe there has been nothing new, nothing different. What has appeared exceptional to the minute mind of man has been inevitable to the infinite Eye of God. This strange second in a life, that unusual event, those remarkable coincidence of environment, opportunity and encounter…all of them have been reproduced over and over on the planet of a sun whose galaxy revolves once in two hundred million years and has revolved nine time already. There has been joy. There will be joy again.”