Now that we’ve discussed the worst way to waste your life, let’s talk about the best way to do it (check yesterday’s post). If your life is going to amount to nothing, adding the painful and destructive consequences of foolishness to the mix seems like a dumb way to do it. So Solomon points us to a better way. Instead of folly, let’s waste our lives wisely.
Then I saw that there is more gain in wisdom than in folly, as there is more gain in light than in darkness. The wise person has eyes in his head, but the fool walks in darkness.Ecclesiastes 2:13-14a
While foolishness characterizes a thoughtless, reckless person; wisdom has foresight. He has eyes in his head. The lights are on. He’s intentional. The wise person is careful. And, it works well for him. There is more to be gained in the wise one’s approach. He’s more careful with his money, so he has more of it than the fool. He is more careful with his time, so he is more effective with it than the fool. The wise person is more thoughtful about people, so his relationships are more healthy than those of the fool.
Why QB Kirk Cousins Carries Rocks
Kirk Cousins is the quarterback for the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings. Just beside the front door of his home, he has a glass pillar filled with rocks. As of his 30th birthday, there were 720 stones in the pillar. Why 720 stones? Cousins says that in high school he had a Bible teacher who pointed him to Psalm 90:12, “So teach us to number our days so we may gain a heart of wisdom.”
The first day of each new month, Kirk Cousins takes a new stone out of the pillar and puts it in his pocket. Wanting to live until he’s at least 90, the 720 stones represent each month he has left of the final 60 years of his life. He says that the stone reminds him to make his life count. He realizes that when he empties his pocket of a stone at the end of a month that he can’t get it back. Each stone reminds him to make the most of every day.
That’s wise! Kirk Cousins is not walking in darkness. He has eyes in his head. He’s being thoughtful, intentional!
But why? What does it matter? What difference does it make? Solomon comes to a sobering realization.
The wise person has eyes in his head, but the fool walks in darkness. And yet I perceived that the same event happens to all of them. Then I said in my heart, “What happens to the fool will happen to me also. Why then have I been so very wise?” And I said in my heart. This also is vanity. For of the wise as of the fool there is no enduring remembrance, seeing that in the days to come, all will have long been forgotten.Ecclesiastes 2:14-16
Although it lacks much of the self-inflicted pain of the fool, the path of the wise and the path of the fool end up in the same place; the grave. No matter how we do life, we die.
How Long Will People Remember When You’re Gone?
This is the thought that drove Solomon to a dark place. If you read the first couple of paragraphs of Ecclesiastes 2 you realize that Solomon was an accomplished man who was rewarded handsomely for his wise choices. But why? We just die. All that is accumulated is soon forgotten. It comes to nothing. “For of the wise as of the fool, there is no enduring remembrance.”
LeBron James has appeared in every NBA Finals since 2011. He is a 15x NBA All-Star and a 4x league MVP. He will at some point end his career as one of the top five players in NBA history if not the best player in NBA history. Lebron has won 3 NBA championships. But it was that first one that brought him to a “Solomon” type realization.
Lebron said after winning the first ring that the celebration only lasted about 48 hours. After 48 hours, no one really cared. Life moves on. Ring or no ring, we live and we die. Championships change nothing.
In an article entitled “How We Will Forget John Lennon?”, Cesar Hidalgo, Director of the Collective Learning Group at MIT Media Lab explains how quickly we forget songs, movies, and the cultural icons we once thought immortal. He says that the vast majority of popular songs, movies, and icons only remain in our collective, cultural memory for about 5 years. It doesn’t take long before we stop talking about them. It is as Solomon says, “there is no enduring remembrance.”
Off the top of your head. What was the #1 song from this week five years ago? What difference does it make? 5 years ago we couldn’t get enough of it. 5 minutes ago you weren’t even thinking about it. You may not even remember it.
Wisdom for the Sake of Wisdom, Is a Waste
How is it that we can do so much that really doesn’t matter? Why is it that even wise choices are quickly forgotten? Why is it that you can win a ring and in 48 hours no one cares?
It comes down to the nature of things. If “this” (rings, money, popularity, power, relevancy, efficiency, accomplishment, notoriety) is the reason you live, then “this” is all you will ever have. It will live with you. It will be forgotten without you.
What a waste of life!
I think it was Billy Graham who said, “I never saw a U-Haul hitched to a hearse.” No matter what you have, you can’t take it with you. Wisdom is a much better way to do it. There will be much more stuff to put into the trailer. But when you’re gone, it’s gone. At best you are a collector. You spent your entire life wisely accumulating things for the next guy to enjoy after you’re dead.
And if this is all you have – even making the best of it – you waste your life. If this is all you have, the realization that nothing comes of it will make you hate it. Solomon did.
So I hated life, because what is done under the sun was grievous to me, for all is vanity and a striving for the wind.Ecclesiastes 2:17
Is There a Way Not To Waste It?
Wisdom is a better way to live. But wisdom for the sake of wisdom is a waste. Even for Kirk Cousins, if he lives every month in the most amazing way, all he has at the end of it is a pile of 700 rocks! What an encouraging post, right! There must be a bigger reason for living than just being wise.
Is there a way we can not waste our lives? How can we not waste wisdom? Is there a better way we can do life and not hate it? Is there a way to enjoy it? The good news is – yes there is! Solomon figured it out!
Let’s look at it tomorrow!