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Thought for the Day - Mark Rowland

Rev. Mark Rowland presents the latest episode of Thought for the Day



Hello I’m Mark Rowland and welcome to Thought for the Day 

My favourite book in the Bible is the book of Ecclesiastes. It’s a text in which an unnamed thinker ponders the state of the world and why things are as they are. This thinker is called only Qoheleth in the Hebrew which can be translated as the teacher or the preacher. There is a tradition that King Solomon was the author, but few scholars would accept that today. It’s not particularly a cheerful book but I find it’s realistic and critical take on life is curiously hope-inspiring. Perhaps especially in these strange times, when holding on to a sense of purpose can be particularly difficult, we might see it as having something to say to us. 

The teacher’s starting pointing is the apparent futility of work. For those of us in Universities his claim that much study is a weariness of the soul might hit home. It is vanity or meaningless, something like chasing after the wind. What has been will be again, there is nothing new under the sun. He charges himself to examine all facets of life but yet concludes that despite the wisdom and knowledge he has gained, he is no further ahead – this too is a chasing after the wind. So the teacher tries the pursuit of pleasure, and delights in rich food and wine, acquires property and possessions and becomes rich. But this too was futile, and he was no further ahead. 

This might seem an overly pessimistic view on life, but it’s one that gives me curious comfort. Our worth is not in how much knowledge we can gain, how wise we can be or how much we can possess. We are in many ways treading paths that have been trod before and that will be trod again. In some ways, none of this is new. And yet within that, we have the opportunity to do something new and to do something that matters. It need not be big, it may not make the headlines but it will matter. 

As he wrote, 

The quiet words of the wise are more to be heeded that the shouting of a ruler among fools. 

Wisdom is better than weapons of war but one bungler destroys much good. 

Perhaps paradoxically, in pondering the meaninglessness of life I discover meaning. In pondering futility, I find a new sense of purpose. There is knowledge to be found, there is wisdom to be discerned, there is good to be done. And we can do it. Word by word, step by step, person by person. I hope you might find in this too some sense of purpose that leaving behind chasing the wind we can discover a way to a better tomorrow.