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Friday, July 21, 2006

Transitory or Futile?

Ecclesiastes 1:2:

"Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity."

Jerome’s Latin Vulgate translated the Hebrew 'hebel' to the Latin 'vanitas' and the King James company used the English 'vanity' and so it sometimes goes with translating.

Hebel (Hebrew): vapor, fog, steam, breeze, or breath.

Of course the transitory nature of 'vapor/fog/steam/breeze/breath' does imply impermanence, the ephemeral, all those things that cannot be grasped and held onto.

But how does all that end up 'vanity' as Webster defines: excessive pride/futility/worthlessness?

How about if not 'all is futility' but 'all is transitory'? I think a big difference between futility and transitory. Our lives on Earth may be transitory, but need not be futile. Yes, if one chases after the vapors and fogs and breezes, as though they were something to grab hold of, as though they were permanent, then true, life will be futile and worthless to you, for what you deem permanent is indeed impermanent, and this misunderstanding of God's purpose will only lead you to disappointment and confusion. But God's way is eternal, and in this light, one can read "Vanity of vanities" or "Fog of fogs" or "Uncertainty of uncertainties" with new found understanding.

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