As my friend Peter Mason once said “a breakup always puts me in an existential mood”. These last two months after the breakup, especially over my birthday, have got me thinking: what is my purpose in life and when will I know that I have achieved it?
That’s how Ecclesiastes starts. It’s a pretty reasonable conclusion.
As I’ve said before, I prefer the equivalent conclusion: everything is equally meaningful but it’s really the same conclusion. If you haven’t read Ecclesiastes, I highly recommend it. Even if you are allergic to the word “God”, I think you will gain something. Also remember that the beginning and end bits were most likely written by someone else to “frame” the work. If you’re super lazy, you can listen to it here instead: http://www.biblegateway.com/audio/mclean/niv/Eccl.1
“I refused my heart no pleasure”
Like the writer of Ecclesiastes, I’ve tried wisdom and folly, joy and sorrow, idleness and hard work. I’ve amassed enough money such that I can pretty much do anything I want. But, as I so often explain to my friends: money doesn’t buy you happiness, and even the having of things or doing of things or the doing and having of new things does not make for a happy life.
“There is nothing better for a man than to enjoy his work”.
Long weekends are always difficult for me, because I don’t have the excuse that I need to work. Usually I’m content to work long hours. You see: I like my job. I like to write complicated documents that few people can understand and even fewer people will ever read. I like to do what I do.
“A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil.”
Food is another thing that I love. This morning, I woke up realising it was a long weekend and I had no plans at all! Sarah has gone to Waiheke to visit family so I was alone: left to my devices. What would I do on this day? I could go anywhere do anything. Perhaps should have brunch at the most expensive restaurant in Auckland. That would be living life to the full then, wouldn’t it? Should: such an ugly word.
“Better one hand full with tranquility, than both hands full of toil and striving after the wind”
No, instead, I did what I do every morning now. I made myself a bowl of thick porridge and sliced a banana into it. A simple breakfast, probably costing no more than $2 and something I have done over and over these past few months more than I care to remember. But as I sit here on the balcony, looking out at the world with my porridge in my hand, I understand Ecclesiastes that little bit better. It’s not the having of things or the doing of things or the senseless pursuit of the more that results in life. Life is the doing of things you do every day, and finding joy in that: every day, every moment.