Eccleslastes: Exploring the Essence of Life with Literature

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There are numerous cultural beliefs on how life should be lived by following certain religious or traditional practices. These “meanings of life” could differ based on racial or religious beliefs but in a way, I believe there is an underlying mindset that constructs these individual beliefs to relate to each other or simply just to be similar in a way. Depending on the race, religion, location, and beliefs, some of these “meanings of life” are different and do not have any compatibility whatsoever. However, there are stories based on the “meaning of life” that could help individual people find fulfillment such as the book of Ecclesiastes or the book of Job. There are also stories that help people understand his or her own “meaning in life” by giving people specific rules and instructions to follow so that people will receive and fulfill their own “purpose” in life. For example, the story about “Confucianism”, which is discussed in the book “Classical Chinese Philosophy”. In this discussion, Confucius believes that the purpose in life is how humans should live and he has certain ways of living that he personally thinks humans should act upon. Not only do these books (that are mention so far) help find his or her fulfillment and purpose in life, these stories have also been carried out through generations by the community. For example, the community strongly agrees with these beliefs and passes down the teachings and traditional practices through writing books and building certain schools of thought for these specific beliefs and practices. There is one other source that also has its own belief on the “meaning of life” and provides personal thoughts on the ways of life, how life should be lived. This book is called “The Republic”. It is about a BCE philosopher named Plato during the 5th century who also had wrote a philosophy of life based on how he personally perceives it. I believe there is an underlying mindset between these books and leaders with their ways of beliefs that are structured to relate to each other.

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I believe that the book of Ecclesiastes, was written to maybe help individuals with understanding their fulfillment in life. As a Christian, I sometimes think that there are people in this world that are simply drifting through life because they do not know what their purpose is on earth by not knowing God. Ecclesiastes tells the reader that once he or she seeks God, they will soon find purpose in life. That could simply be your purpose in life just to worship God and help others who are lost to seek Him. “If God exist, then we have a purpose. If no God exist, then the universe does not have a creator, and no final cause, no purpose”, according to the book of Ecclesiastes. Ecclesiastes does discuss how people may know God but still won’t have a purpose in life. “Chasing after the wind” is what Ecclesiastes refers to as basically the urge of materialistic objects, such as money or whatever the newest thing is that everyone is possessing. Doing this could disturb his or her peace of mind and sometimes drive people to get a little crazy with the “I need to have it” attitude. The bible also talks about chasing after the materialistic values and making them your priority will be all that you will ever get out of life. Ecclesiastes makes it clear that “everything under the sun” including human life does not last forever. This is an impermanent world and that is how people could get a false sense of purpose by being blinded by these objects on earth that will not last forever. So therefore, if a person only finds purpose in material things then they really wouldn’t have a purpose worth living both spiritually and for all and eternity in heaven. Ecclesiastes talks about how the non-escaping event of death could simply give humans a purpose. From my point of view, death is time, time is death. I also think that people sometimes trouble themselves with the thought of dying. No one wants to die, including myself. Death is going to happen no matter what, “when God created birth, He created death”, as provided in the book of Ecclesiastes. Some people have a hard time understanding that God created birth and He created death, so they spend their life hiding and living in fear because they don’t want to die. God and fear do not occupy the same atmosphere so if one is living in fear he is lost spiritually or that person is not close to God. This could deflect his or her own fulfilment and purpose of life. Ecclesiastes says that we are all going to die anyways, that is all the more reason why we should live! Death is a matter of time and we cannot waste that time sheltering ourselves and living in fear. Before we die, we need to go out and do the most we can with our lives, achieve the most as we can, and smile as much as we can. Sitting around thinking about death is only going to make death worse both physically and mentally. In a way death gives us a purpose to live and gives us a purpose to smile. It can also give us a purpose to be successful and to be happy. Ecclesiastes really helped me understand the Christian view on what the meaning of life is.

I happen to find Confucianism very interesting. Confucius’s real full name is Kong Qui. I partially agree with how Confucius looked at life and its sudden events. Confucius had a mission to teach people to understand and accept all things that happen whether good or bad and to look at those things as how life was meant to be. Confucius believed that there are Gods and that the Gods are in control of the world and so he believes that whatever happens to him or her is what was meant to be. He believes that the heavens are entitled to what happens whether its living or dying, being rich or being poor, and being healthy or being sick. To me, in a way, Confucius relates to Ecclesiastes because Confucius understands that everyone may not understand their purpose on life, but he believes that if they don’t understand life then they do not have the slightest clue about dying. Confucius was not really influential in the whole spiritual view of life because he was more focused on the present life and believed that it was complicated to work on things that are really vague and unknown such as life after death. The part that I agreed on with Confucius is the “5 Relationships”. He believes in being righteous to our beloved ones and that each of us has a purpose in life with specific ways on how we should treat and act upon others. Confucius believes that the only way to have a good death is living a moral life with moral behavior and living for righteousness. This reminds me of my Native American culture and our beliefs about dying with honor. In our Native American culture, we were taught that our ancestors lived to die with honor, and they were not afraid to die. This might sound like they had pride in dying but not so much proud to die but proud that they did the best that they could by treating their family and community with the best intent while living their lives. To the Native American, everything has meaning and significance, whether in life or death. This also relates to Ecclesiastes by living life and doing what is right, not worrying about death could make death easier. Also, Confucius refers to having a good death. Confucius believes that life is about having morals. Which means having good proper actions and behavior by creating these principles in a high respectable class. The principles are about being good to yourself and to others. He wrote the “5 Relationships” and this is based on how he believes we should treat others. It is called the “Social Harmony”, these are the ways Confucius believes to have harmony with ourselves and with others. He wrote the “Social Harmony” because he believed that life and human nature is sour. Humans are mean and that they often get into deadly conflicts for chasing after their personal desires. So according to Confucius the meaning of life is to live for righteousness because if we follow these ways Confucius created, we will have harmony and things will flow smoothly and we will have a good life and a good death.

Plato in my opinion and from my understanding relates to Ecclesiasts and Confucianism. Ecclesiastes talks about how people chase after materialistic things and doing that could lead us astray from being focused on what’s right and finding purpose in life. Plato takes no interest in materialistic things such as money and objects. No interest in things that could bring temporary pleasure. Plato relates to Confucius by believing in being righteous and doing what’s right. Plato does not believe in lying, stealing, or bragging about himself, because these behaviors are not righteous and are considered to be immoral. To me this is a partial mindset on how Confucius thinks. Don’t do to others that you don’t want done to you and follow the ways of Confucius and treat people right and this will bring harmony. Plato believes that having a controllable drive for materialistic things is fine to a certain extent. Just like how Ecclesiastes explains that these things can make people a little crazy and sometimes chasing after our personal desires causes conflict with each other and it could be deadly. In book 6 of Plato, it seems to talk about how being good can be a form of having knowledge. Also being good is having harmony. Plato explains more about how being good to people and certain things could simply be the harmony. I feel this relates to Confucians the more and more I read and try to understand this. The difference is Confucian only believes in harmony amongst the people in a social way. Plato seems to believe there is harmony in almost all things including humans, and materialistic things. Plato believes that if a person comes to the understanding and maintaining the characteristics of good then soon that person will be able to pinpoint and understand life and everything on this earth. Once that is achieved then that person will be interconnected with knowledge. If we as humans were to give up our desires for materialistic things such as money for example and focus on striving for what is righteous and seeking truth for the good of society then harmony would follow. If we would do this then we would be considered processing the same attitudes which Plato thought.

In conclusion, what is the meaning of life? In answering this question, I discussed how cultures examine the word meaning through purpose, fulfillment and community and how it all relates together. In my opinion, different cultures and people investigated the meaning of life by living life and conjuring up their own meaning and purpose as they lived life. Because everyone goes through trials and tribulations, it seems like they looked at those trials and tribulations as blessings and lessons. I think this because Confucius had been through a rough life as a young man, for example, his teacher married more than one woman and he didn’t respect that or like it, so he ended up leaving his sanctuary and lived on his own for a while. While he was living out on his own, he began questioning and answering his own questions about life. This made him want to become someone who understood why things happen and how we should act to avoid certain things like war and other destructions of human life. The book of Ecclesiastes is immersed with the idea of death and had so many questions for God simply asking “why?” King Solomon’s trials helped him come to this understanding that he then wrote the book of Ecclesiastes. Plato was a philosopher so therefore he studied life and how individuals would think. Plato’s way as a philosopher was being in love with gaining and retaining wisdom. The meaning of life is life itself bringing significant and moral values. Helping him or her to understand that life is more than just living. Life is more about treating people with kindness and respect and following the natural order of things. Like how men are to women and children are to men and women and vice versa. Having kindness and respect for other people falls under a harmony that can flow like actionless water such as a river. Life is about focusing on the right things and not chasing after this world because this world in not permanent. We are not permanent, so therefore life is meant to be lived by being righteous. Having knowledge that we must receive from going through trials in life. These trials can make us or break us, and I believe that the people who wrote these philosophies about life help us understand furthermore on why things must happen to us whether good or bad. Simply put, it helps us to understand how we must act both as an individual and as being part of a community, how we must live and treat each other. This gives us a purpose in life by understanding death and that there is no refuge from death. So why waste our time worrying and being afraid? In my opinion, we should all do our absolute best to live life and to enjoy it!

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