When I was a young man, I began searching for the meaning of life, because that’s what you do when you’re young and foolish (as opposed to old and foolish). I’d abandoned my former atheism and started reading the words of Jesus. But uncertainty and pride had caused me to stop mid-leap-of-faith and review my options: “How should I live?” I asked myself, the one person who clearly didn’t have the answer. So I went to Europe—because that’s what young men do—and scribbled my thoughts along the way.
I eventually returned home with a satchel-full of thoughts. Seeking a way to organize them, I turned to the Book of Ecclesiastes, the journey of the Wise Man, the king in Jerusalem. Like him, I’d searched for a reason to live, a purpose. Like him, I’d tried “isms” along the way: Materialism, Sensualism, Idealism. And like him, I’d experienced the emptiness (“vanity”) of each. In the end, the Wise Man and I both arrived at the same cistern, still thirsty, realizing we knew nothing.
Which is the beginning of knowing something.
Then I read Psalm 14:1, “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God,'” and I knew I’d found my role in this parallel journey. So I called it Fool’s Odyssey. I later did readings of this piece in the U.S. and U.K., and am now revisiting and serializing it here.
The words of the Wise Man,
the son of David,
the king in Jerusalem.
The words of the Fool;
the sun had set,
the time had come.
“Vanity of vanities,” said the Wise Man;
“all is vanity and chasing after wind.”
And one generation passes away
and another one comes in its stead.
“And the earth abideth forever,” they say,
but you never can quite get ahead.
“And all of the rivers run into the sea,
yet the sea is never quite full.
Then unto the place from whence they came,
the rivers flow again.
And that which is done
is that which shall be done.”
‘Cause there’s nothing that’s new.
No, nothing new under the sun.
Hell. Well, this is hell, said the Fool. You know for the life of me, I couldn’t tell if I was that proverbial puppy chasing his tail, or that mischievous kitten after an ever-unraveling ball of yarn. I mean, either one was the same to me, perceivable only as a wisp of something or other.
But here’s the reason why I had to know: If only the tip of mine own tenacious tail, then the end was bound to be disappointing. O, but if the tip of a bit of a ball of yarn, then even though itself unraveled to nothingness, itself, in time, I thought, might lead me back to where it all began, and to the One who raveled it up.
And so my journey began.
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