“‘Meaningless! Meaningless!’ says the Teacher. ‘Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.’” – Ecclesiastes 1:2
Renowned psychiatrist Carl Jung once reported that a third of his cases suffered from no definable neurosis other than “the senselessness and emptiness of their lives,” according to author Philip Yancy in his reflections on the book of Ecclesiastes. Jung went on to name meaninglessness the general neurosis of the modern era.
It was sometime back in the mid 1990’s when I happened to pick up a copy of Bob Buford’s newly published book Halftime. Until then I thought I was living, by cultural standards at least, a reasonably meaningful life – good job, promising career, decent income, nice home, and a loving family. But Buford’s book called all that into question. His message contrasting significance from success stirred my soul, causing me to rethink the meaning of “meaningful”. And the timing could not have been more perfect; for there I was in my mid-forties, just beyond the midway point of my own life – “halftime”. (Interesting how the book of Ecclesiastes is so brilliantly placed in the canon of scripture just beyond the midway point, about “halftime” within the Bible.)
Solomon, if not the author of Ecclesiastes certainly the influencer of it, was a man who had it all to the extremes – wealth, power, wisdom, knowledge – which allowed him access to any and every opportunity, experience, and sensual pleasure any human could ever imagine, and he tried them all. Yet after having it all he too suffered what Carl Jung named as the neurosis of the modern era. “Utterly meaningless!” Solomon declared.
My life can hardly be compared to Solomon’s, nor can yours. But even under modest middle class circumstances we too are subject to experiencing meaninglessness. . . unless we find a greater purpose for which to live. “It’s not about you,” Rick Warren states in the opening sentence of his popular book The Purpose Driven Life. And therein lies the antidote to meaninglessness – the beginning of a fulfilling journey toward meaning and significance. Serving God and serving mankind, there is no greater purpose.