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Ecclesiastes


MOW
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I would like to discuss the Old Testament book of Ecclesiates and see what people on this board think of it. I know that it is seemingly pessamistic and contains what I consider Cynic points of view. The constant refrain that "all is vanity (meaningless ) " gets depressing after awhile , but there is much practical wisdom in the book.

 

Some of my favorites:

 

"He who loves silver will not be satisfied with silver, nor he who loves

abundance with increase. This also is vanity 5:10

 

Do not be overly righteous, nor overly wise: Why destroy yourself. 7 :16

 

A living dog is better than a dead lion 9 : 4

 

Wisdom is better than weapons of war: but one sinner destroys much good 9:18

 

He who observes the wind will not sow , and he who regards the clouds will not reap. ( i.e. if you wait for perfect conditions you will do nothing ). 11: 4

 

The last has special meaning to me because it is a particular flaw of mine.

 

 

 

Is all than vanity and striving after wind ?

 

 

MOW

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I once heard Ecclesiastes compared to the Tao Te Ching in general and the idea of Wu Wei more specifically.

 

The definition of Wu Wei: "In Taoist thought, "actionless action;" related to the concept of te as efficient power, in which passive stillness is seen as ultimately more productive than energy-depleting friction that pushes too hard for its goal."

 

I interpret all of it to basically mean: moderation in all things. :)

 

 

Aletheia

 

PS - I didn't go into this in the depth I would like to, but I'm tired and it's time for bed.

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That might have been Borg. He talks about how it is incorrect to read the passage re: "to everything there is a season" the same way that it was sung in an old folk/rock song as if one were better than the other ie, "a time of war, a time of peace-- I swear it's not to late" . Borg says it is a type of reading that the Ecc. writer would not have liked (although, gee might have said, "a time to read this one way and then another" :-)). Anyway, Borg says this is not to set up opposites in a dualistic sort of way.

 

Nighty night.

 

--des

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I tend to agree that Ecclesiastes is the OT's attempt to integrate the relativistic, dualistic, eastern viewpoint into the western versions of the world in which we live. I do not know that I would describe it to be pessimistic, but rather more realistic.

 

While the reductionist, power-driven, optomistic slant of western thought and action provides the impetus for the progressive jumps in civilized development that such western thought and action have brought to us all, we must also be ever mindful of the roadblocks that the natural world throws up to slow or reverse such "progress" if nature deems it to be incompatable with the long-term viability of the whole of creation. A sense of "balance" in the process is what is critical to be maintained, and that tends to be rapidly lost in a world whose development actiivities are principally profit-driven.

 

I have mentioned that Stephen Mitchell's translation of the Tao Te Ching is one of my favorite books in describing an understanding of this physical side of reality. It is a good source of materials for productive meditation, and I compare its " doing-not doing " mode of understanding to that which is metaphorically described in Ecclesiastes. The picture of the whole that we live inside of has to be understood in both ways to have real value IMO.

 

flow.... :rolleyes:

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I see your point , Flow, that the book is more realistic than pessimistic . I also think that is why Ecclesiastes is not a very popular book with Christians , particularly American Christians. Besides the passage that des mentioned , its hardly ever read in church.

 

Ecclesiates seems to offer a counterpoint and rebuts much of the popular culture and philosophy of today . The ideas of which "name it and claim it" ," power of positive thinking " "self -help " are examples . In some corners it is believed " the rich are rich because they are good : the poor are poor because they are bad". The current administration's belief that all you have to do is be "optimistic "and every thing will turn out ok . Many churches have absorbed some or all of the above ideas into contemporary Christianity.

 

I hope I'm not being depressing, but I think Ecclesiates reminds us that sometimes solutions and meaning in life are just unknowable in our present state as finite beings .

 

MOW

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That might have been Borg. He talks about how it is incorrect to read the passage re: "to everything there is a season" the same way that it was sung in an old folk/rock song as if one were better than the other ie,  "a time of war, a time of peace-- I swear it's not to late" . Borg says it is a type of reading that the Ecc. writer would not have liked (although, gee might have said, "a time to read this one way and then another" :-)). Anyway, Borg says this is not to set up opposites in a dualistic sort of way.

 

Nighty night.

 

--des

 

Des, doesn't that passage in Ecclesiates sound like Yin and Yang ?

 

A time to be born and a time to die

A time to weep and a time to laugh

A time to keep silence and a time to speak

A time of war and a time of peace

 

etc.

 

It's also interesting to me that one of the generals before the Irag war started , tried to use Ecc. as a biblical justication. He said something like "even the Bible says sometimes there is a time "for" war. In my Bible ( I use the New King James

Version) the phrase is " a time "of" war and a time of peace. I think that is a subtle but important difference.

 

 

MOW

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Anyway, Borg says this is not to set up opposites in a dualistic sort of way.
Des, doesn't that passage in Ecclesiates sound like Yin and Yang ?

 

A time to be born and a time to die

A time to weep and a time to laugh

A time to keep silence and a time to speak

A time of war and a time of peace

 

Tao Te Ching. Yin/Yang. Wu Wei. Borg was right. It's not a dualistic set of opposites, but a unified dipolarity.

 

:)

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  • 2 weeks later...

I agree with Borg. DiSanto & Steele in Guidebook to Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance talk about Yin and Yang as being an "egalitatian dualism". They then add that this is in many ways similar to the Gestalt principle of figure-ground. Both are necessary and, with practice, one should be able to switch from one to the other. The philosopher John Searle makes this concept part of his theory of general consciousness, implying that all dualisms are in a sense an illusion. C. G. Jung reached a similar conclusion, stating that spirit and life are "two sides to the same coin" and, in the end, might turn out to "be one and the same thing." For Jung, all dualisms are complementary.

 

minsocal :D

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