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Monday, November 10, 2014

Vanity, meaning, and the search for contentment. Part 1?

Lately, I seem to have journeyed on a mental endeavor. It's led to some feelings I wish I could shake off, and some realizations about the world that have made life feel more substantial yet overwhelming. Before trying to write this post I remembered a quote, but couldn't place it. The only words that came to mind were "all is meaningless." I typed in those words and it led me to Solomon's passage from the Bible, which varies on wording from translation to translation.

“Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher,
“Vanity of vanities! All is vanity." (Ecclesiastes 1:2, NASB)


Other translations replace the word vanity with meaningless. Vanity though does also mean pointless, which makes it perhaps interchangeable with meaningless. Anyways, this might sound depressing and emo, but I can't shake this feeling of late. It's ruffled my balance of being content, and to be honest I have no idea why, but it's gotten worse over time. I will even be enjoying something nowadays, and then think to myself "why am I enjoying this?" It's like I'm trying to suffocate the last of what I enjoy to the point of where it becomes something more so I'm analyzing for value than to enjoy. This feeling in me has been growing in more since my freshmen year of college though, and the root of why it continues to grow seems to stem a lot from the birth of insecurity I didn't experience till later.



"Because in much wisdom there is much grief, and increasing knowledge results in increasing pain." (Ecclesiastes 1:18, NASB)

In high school I remember being who you hope to become, but it seemed everything happened in reverse. The person I was in high school I don't remember feeling much insecurity, or lack of confidence in her views or self. I was solid in how I felt about who I was in high school, and then I got into college, and who I am now is definitely no one I would have acquainted myself with then. To be honest, I've changed so much in the past year. If I met Holly from this time last year we would probably have a huge argument on a lot.

Last week I pinpointed a possible root of when this change began sweeping under me. It wasn't as drastic, but it felt quite similar to how I do now. I was a young, excited, and naive college beginner. I know many of people who went to Christian colleges, and it seems quite a few had an experience much like mine.

At 18, I thought my views and beliefs were concrete. Nothing was going to rock my world, and considering I was moving on from something as vicious as high school, well I thought all there was to be conquered in regards to shame, teasing, and the feeling of being stuck were gone. Oh my gosh, I was so wrong. It had only just begun. It was only a few weeks into college, and like anyone I was sitting in Freshmen Composition I. I drove 40 minutes everyday to class, and one morning I showed up with my rough draft to review with my peers. This doesn't sound like the beginning of a faith crisis does it? I didn't think so either.

I organized myself into a group to help review other people's papers, and somehow it came to the instructor's attention that the group was short on one paper, mine. I know it's college, and you have to be an adult and face up to your mistake, but I much prefer to be privately reprimanded than publicly excommunicated. I assume almost anyone does. I was naive, and in a way I thought there would be more mercy at a Christian college. Why? I don't know. The next thing I know though is that she told me my grade was 0 for that assignment in front of the whole class, and then to make matters worse she told me to leave her class for that day. I was humiliated.

I never went back to her class, and the only time I could muster being around this instructor again was when I needed for her to sign a paper so I could withdraw from the class. I have no idea why, but this moment in my life really shook my faith. I can feel the emptiness still of that day. I never fully recovered from being shamed like that in an environment I least expected to feel it. I also felt like the first inklings of awareness of people and the world began seeping into me as well. I began truly questioning the world, faith, and myself. With the grief I felt losing being wise in who I was, became an onset of seeking for knowledge that only led me to more pain about what I sense about other humans.
Hopefully, this is the last point in this blog, but I've noticed lately that people in general feed the depression I struggle with a lot more than they used to. I understand that I can be a jerk, inconsiderate, rude, and arrogant. Everyone can be. Not everyone seems to find a problem with being this way though, and that is when it begins to burn on me. That moment in my college life seemed to be the first time I dealt with a lasting burn that has yet to really fade regarding humanity. It's led somehow to seeking contentment even when I know I can only contribute so much to putting out vibes that I hope reflect Christ.  I still believe in Christ and follow him, but I'm jealous of that kid I was in high school who lacked the knowledge to know the layers of what Christ came to redeem, and how to have the forgiveness to find some contentment.

Back to Solomon though, I think Solomon tried to find the ignorant happiness he witnessed in others. Maybe if he accepted materialism and what the human mind seeks to comprehend he would find himself living the ultimate life that others aspire to. I think certain people exist though, and Solomon was one, who was always aware it might not be enough, but I'm going to try to make it enough. At the end of the day maybe me and him discovered the same, all of it seems meaningless. While of course many make the point that leads to the point well that should be the point of why your faith in God is so important because it gives meaning, but without making that point I think Solomon was just experiencing a real human moment about living. It sounds depressing, but it's just honest. Life goes on.  It doesn't end with Solomon indicating the meaning, but more so just him venting and acknowledging the vanity of the toils of earth.

One last note, this whole blog reminds me of an episode I saw of Louie in the second season last night. His friend, a struggling comedian, visits Louie and thinks in comparison is living the life in comparison to the one he has living in his car and travelling from comedy show to show without any other friends or family that will acknowledge him except Louie. He told Louie that he was gong to kill himself, and then Louie in his own way tries to change his mind about going through with it. The speech Louie gave reminds me a bit of Solomon's observation in Ecclesiastes. Ultimately the point was that everyone at the end of the day was just living. This is life, and while seeming like vanity, you keep living.

I want to add a disclaimer. Discovering this doesn't make you not experience happiness. You can experience still many feelings, but every feeling becomes a choice because you're choosing to feel even when it feels minuet. 

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