Summary: Some people think the world is about them and let you know that.
Is it All About Me?
Some would call the generation we live in today the “me” generation as though this was something new under the sun. Yet the “me” generation has long and continuing roots in the past. The Preacher shows this thinking was in his heart well over 2,000 years ago.
The Preacher had just noted in the previous verses what his conclusions about getting wisdom. Instead of making thinks better, it actually made it worse. Here is the Preacher standing in judgment over all rather than God. When God created the heavens and the earth, he pronounced them “good” or in the case of humans “very good”. But the Preacher here knows better than God does. He calls the creation empty and human wisdom the chasing after the wind. So he thinks. And in this, he does not stand alone. It is a shared ego trip.
Starting in chapter 2, the vocabulary the Preacher uses is very telling. In eleven verses, the Preacher uses “I” twenty-four times as subject. The use of “me” and “myself” adds another twenty times that the Preacher refers to himself. Forty-four times the Preacher proclaims “It’s all about me. It’s all about what I have done and thought.” Yet for this ego trip, the Preacher comes up with a very dismal conclusion about trying to find meaning in self-indulgence, just like he did in his search for wisdom.
The Preacher tried every way possible to fine meaning from pleasure. Besides the usual trio of wine women, and song in which many try to find meaning, eh tried to find joy in in materialism. The Preacher amassed alcohol, concubines, singers, slaves, silver, gold, and buildings of various sorts used to indulge his pleasures. And for a while, the Preacher said it was a source of joy. But in the end, when he took the time to evaluate these things, his conclusion was empty and profitless chasing after the wind.
When anyone makes himself/herself the center of the universe, disillusionment will set in. Self-centeredness is a form of idolatry. When God is not the center of the universe, then all pursuit becomes empty. The world would be shocked at such a conclusion as Solomon gives. Here is a man who had it all, as far as the world is concerned, yet like the stars of Hollywood who chase after every hedonistic pleasure they can, ends up with nothing. The preacher would be the envy of the town. He lived the lifestyle of the rich and famous, a lifestyle which lures many to covetousness and ruin.
Commentators are divided over whether Solomon dabbled into these things to excess or just experimented with things like wine. If the former is understood, then the type of philosophy he tried is known as Epicureanism to us today, although it is older than that philosopher. In this case, pleasure and lack of anxiety was a measured affair that had the long term in view. An Epicurean would refrain from pleasures that ultimately caused pain. If as I think that the Preacher did was to indulge his every fantasy. This is called Hedonism, or pleasure for pleasure’s sake. The emphasis on this is lifestyle can be summed up with the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 15. If there is no ultimate long-term reality other than death and being forgotten, then “Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die.”
Solomon’s disrespect for the long term proved fatal to his reign and his legacy. Soon after his death, the kingdom was divided. His live for today philosophy utterly failed him. He had followed the message advocated nearly three centuries later by the rock group The Grass Roots. Don’t worry about tomorrow, live for today.
If one were to look at things, the self-centered view is at the root of a great number of the world’s philosophies. It is at the root of existentialism, a philosophy which has spread like a plague. The now is the only reality we have and we have to make meaning for ourselves of it. Postmodernism is another name for a self-centered view of life. Postmodernism casts its caustic skepticism against any system of truth that in any way is seen as making exclusive claims on the self. Instead of a unifying truth, there is a myriad of truths. Systems of truth and meaning have to be “de-constructed”. The meaning of everything is determined by the hearer. It isn’t what the author says, it is what the listener makes out of the speech act. If a man says “The earth revolves around the sun” the listener can understand the speaker as saying “The green sun is made of pink Toyota’s”. According to Postmodernism, both as speaking something equally true.
When we look at Postmodernism, we can see that it cannot survive as a philosophy. It would lead to total anarchy. It is cultural and personal suicide. One can see from Ecclesiastes that it will lead its followers into a futile grasp for the wind. It is a vacuum that will have to be replaced with something. The question is, replaced with what? Who will win out in imposing the new meaning of things?