Chapter nine is entitled, in some translations, “A Common Destiny for All.” Solomon’s point, as he begins, is that all of us are subject to precisely the same end – death.
This being true, what’s the point of being righteous or productive or anything else that we work to do to set ourselves above our fellows? Isn’t all our effort useless?
Yes . . . and no.
“Yes,” if our goal was simply to be above our fellows, to distinguish ourselves in our community.
But “no” if our effort was simply to enjoy the challenge of achievement, the blessing of life.
As I write this I am at a religious conference dedicated, this year at least, to the study of “ethics.” As with any conference there is the discomfort felt by some that we are not doing enough. The existence of poverty, war, inequitable wealth, increasing suicide and a host of other problems leads some to cry with the passion of prophets and others to simply cry.
We should cry about these things – and cry out. But we should also remember something: we cannot solve these problems. It doesn’t mean we should do nothing. We should do all we can, but at best we are only likely to alleviate the suffering of a few. Let’s do that, and having done our best, “eat [our] food with gladness, and drink [our] wine with a joyful heart, for it is now that God favors what [we] do. The whole idea is that life was given to be enjoyed. Though we all suffer the same fate in the end – death – life until then is superior when we live it as God intended, and enjoy it while we do.