The section of Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) that we explored last week gave us a lot to unpack. The text makes a few big claims: 1. The stuff people earn as doers doesn’t have any value; the only things that are worthwhile are enjoying ourselves and doing good. 2. People have a vague idea of what “forever” means, but can’t actually grasp time on that scale the way that God can. 3. Because God is the only one who comprehends how everything fits into time, God makes everything happen when it’s supposed to. Relatedly, everything people enjoy is a gift from God. Here’s what our learners had to say about each of these big ideas.
When are you a doer?
- All the time.
- When I’m building.
- When I empty the dishwasher. Then I feel accomplished
- When I make my sister’s breakfast.
What’s the value of what we earn as doers? What can we do with it?
- I would use it to buy stuff.
- I would do what I’m doing so that I can keep doing those things.
- Eventually I’ll earn money from doing stuff (like losing my teeth!), and then I can go places and buy things and do other fun things.
What are moments that feel meaningful to you?
- Getting a gift from someone who is about to die.
- Time with my parents and family.
- Proving people wrong when I succeed.
- Spending time with friends.
- Any moment that we give a lot of attention to.
- Sometimes it feels like you worked harder on something when the teacher or an important person notices your work.
Some things like the planets or the universe or the air we breathe might last forever. Some things like stuffies and quarantine and long winters might feel like they’ll last forever, even if they don’t. Forever is a big, difficult idea for us to wrap our brains around!
What does forever mean?
- The rest of the world.
- Time that never ends.
- Like being friends forever – you’re never not going to be friends. Even after you’re dead, you’re still friends; you just can’t walk to each other anymore.
- Past your whole life to every future generation.
What makes forever hard to understand?
- No one can predict the future so we don’t know what it will be.
- How can we know about forever if we won’t be here?
- We can’t know about it first hand, and it’s not even like someone else can tell us about it.
If we’re never going to understand the big picture of the world, Kohelet reasons that we might as well enjoy ourselves and do good things.
What brings you joy?
- Doing a puzzle.
- Coloring with my friend.
- Digging worms.
- Playing baseball on my first team ever.
- Going in person to Makom.
What’s something good that you do?
- Using kind words.
- Doing chores, cleaning the house, and helping with my younger siblings.
Sometimes we feel in control of the good things in our lives:
- Sports happen because of me.
- Cats (because I asked for a cat).
- I choose when I’m eating.
- Crepes happen because of me because I can make them.
But a lot of good things in our lives happen because of something or someone else like:
- My clothes and my house
- Cats (we don’t create cats they already exist).
- My parents because my grandparents made them.
- Tasty treats and food.
- Earth, animals, and insects
- Devices (tech)
- My sister
When we aren’t the ones making a thing happen, it might feel like our parents are in control, or our siblings, or something else entirely. Do you believe that God is ever in control in your life?
- Always. Well, sometimes.
- No – people make their own decisions.
- Well God gave us the stuff we needed to accomplish things, so sort of.
- People do the things, like get and make their own food.
- But God made the earth and plants come from there, so really God is responsible for our food.
I feel in control when…
- It was my idea and I’m in charge.
- I’m hosting something.
- Others’ problems don’t affect me.
- The other player in my video game is at 1 health point.
- The teacher was yelling at everyone else in class but not me.
I don’t feel in control when…
- Someone I don’t know or can’t see is in charge.
- There’s a surprise in a book or a movie.
- People aren’t listening to me.
- Someone in a game or real life won’t give me what I want or need.
- Someone is mean to me.
- My brother pulls on my hair.
It often doesn’t feel great when things seem to be out of our control, but maybe we can find some comfort in Kohelet‘s perspective here. No matter what the world or God provides for us, we can use it to enjoy ourselves and do good. So, what’s something you did today that brought you joy?