It always has
Last week I was talking on the phone with a friend and as the conversation wound down he asked, “So, how are you doing? I’ve detected a certain lack of sunshine in some of your more recent columns.”
That same morning I woke up at 4:30 with the first paragraph of a column in my head that started, “Are our political leaders cynical or just stupid?"
I had to admit, he had me.
It’s not all my fault. Winter in my part of the world is cold and dark and hard. When you combine ice dams and snow shoveling with the news from Iraq, Afghanistan and Washington, I think a regular guy could be forgiven for a certain lack of sunshine.
“It’s been a long winter,” I said, a bit defensively.
He laughed. “Whenever I used to ask my father if spring was ever going to come he’d say, ‘It always has’.”
That made me smile. I could just hear it. A low key paternal voice, answering an impatient query with one of the basic truths of the universe. It’s even sort of Biblical. Ecclesiastes says, “The sun also rises and also goes down,” which seems the same sort of helpful message. Of course, about ten verses further on in the same chapter you get something that supports my point. “I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit.”
There is plenty of vanity and vexation of spirit going around. Actually, you can’t seem to get away from it.
If I were a better person, I wouldn’t even charge money to write this column. I’m always finding out interesting stuff that I never would have known if I weren’t facing a deadline. I was pretty sure the quote about the sun also rising came from Ecclesiastes, but I thought I better check to be sure.
The first place I went to was a web site called Biblenotes. It said, “Ecclesiastes is considered a pessimistic book, with statements that history merely repeats itself and nothing is new, and there is no reason to think of what might have been.”
Man, that made me tired. History repeats itself? Well, yeah. Spring comes, the rains fall, the grass grows, babies are born. I guess it takes someone with a lot more education than I have to see the downside in that. And as for “there is no reason to think of what might have been” have you ever noticed how small a car’s rearview mirror is compared to the windshield? Sure, it’s okay to glance back every now and then, but the only way to safely make progress is to keep your eyes pretty firmly fixed on the future.
And what is the future? Well, along with the vanity and vexation there is this. “…every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labor; it is the gift of God.”
Will spring come? It always has.
Will it rain? It always has.
After the rains, will the sun come out? It always has.
There may well be nothing new under the sun and why is that necessarily a bad thing? Because part of what is old and reliable is the fact that we can eat and drink, and enjoy the good of our labor, because it is a gift of God.