Saturday, September 17, 2011

Everything is Meaningless

We were at a funeral last weekend. Funerals bring out lots of absurd thoughts. There we all were, looking at a dead man in a coffin. And we knew for sure that one day we will meet the same fate. One day, blood will no longer run through our veins and our touch will grow cold.

People have different reactions to this line of thinking. They worry about dying or fear death. But for us, it reminded us of the absurdity of life, the futility of it, and the thought always makes us feel light and airy and humbled and carefree.

We wonder, if that man in the coffin could stand here with us for a few moments, what would he think and say? What advice might he offer? Would he see with some special clarity the absurdity of it all?

Most appropriately, given our thoughts, the minister read from the Book of Ecclesiastes, which we reproduce below. We think it is a poetic statement of the absurd and so we share it here. Enjoy and reflect on the meaninglessness of it all!

Ecclesiastes 1

1 The words of the Teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem:

2 “Meaningless! Meaningless!”
says the Teacher.
“Utterly meaningless!
Everything is meaningless.”

3 What do people gain from all their labors
at which they toil under the sun?
4 Generations come and generations go,
but the earth remains forever.
5 The sun rises and the sun sets,
and hurries back to where it rises.
6 The wind blows to the south
and turns to the north;
round and round it goes,
ever returning on its course.
7 All streams flow into the sea,
yet the sea is never full.
To the place the streams come from,
there they return again.
8 All things are wearisome,
more than one can say.
The eye never has enough of seeing,
nor the ear its fill of hearing.
9 What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.
10 Is there anything of which one can say,
“Look! This is something new”?
It was here already, long ago;
it was here before our time.
11 No one remembers the former generations,
and even those yet to come
will not be remembered
by those who follow them.


  1. Here you go spoutin' Scripture again . . .

  2. it seems as though the absurd is everywhere and in everything. camus would be proud of your (meaningless) observations :)

  3. The absurdity of it all is, as you suggest, liberating. Like you, the less meaning there is, the more free, lighthearted, and easy going I feel. When there is nothing to lose, you can only gain, or remain the same. And it's okay either way.

    -Nathan of

  4. General comment to the editors:

    First of all, I truly appreciate your blog - its mere existence relieves me, regardless of how much I like the particular things you write.

    That said, I think it misses out on one crucial component of absurdism: struggle. "The absurd" does not merely refer to meaninglessness. It refers to the struggle that meaninglessness brings upon humans. Your writing is clever and perceptive, but the writers bear no sign of a deeper existential struggle, even though that's what the entire myth of Sisyphus rests upon. Therefore, I fear that true absurdism is not quite represented here.

    I'm aware that this is not a group therapy board for absurdists. The very concept would be oxymoronic. So while I don't suggest anybody pour their heart out here, a little meditation on angst couldn't hurt to bring out the true face of the absurd.