“Are you cool?” the obviously cool person I had never met asked from the other end of the phone.
“Uhhh, I don’t know. That’s not really up to me, is it?” I asked sealing my uncoolness.
This phone call started off as a missionary effort by friends of the family to help me connect in the town we were moving to. Now it was a lesson to the poor, cool kid on the other end about why nerds stay nerdy.
“Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly Meaningless! Everything is Meaningless!”
Being a church-raised nerd who was taught that nearly everything was infinitely significant, this verse from the book of Ecclesiastes threw me off for a long time. It didn’t seem to line up with live right, go to heaven and get rewarded for everything. Then on a field trip, I watched one of my orchestra friends have a mental breakdown in our hotel room when he realized he had lost track of the day, eaten meat on the sabbath (or something like that) and was now apparently destined for hell. There was no consoling him until he called his parents who explained that there was some simple ritual to make things right again. Phweew. That was close.
And really, really weird. I would even say, "Meaningless!" I didn’t even know you had to do that stuff to stay out of hell and it seemed easy enough to right the wrong I was still unconvinced I should worry about it quite that much. I mean, our orchestra performance is tomorrow and If you can’t pull it together I’ll be second chair viola and I’m not ready for that!
I know the meaning of life is something a little larger than I have the mind for on my own. I also know the things I don’t understand, like my friend’s meltdown and being cool on purpose, are comparatively meaningless to me, lagging far behind more meaningful things like dinner with my family, staring into the world of my aquariums or the euphoria of passing out in my own bed after a twelve hour night shift. The teacher in Ecclesiastes also says, “A man can do no better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him who can eat or find enjoyment?” Seems good to me.