2 “Meaningless! Meaningless!”
says the Teacher.
Everything is meaningless.”
Solomon (I'll just assume it was Solomon.) beat the Goths and nihilists to the punch by several millennia. So anybody who throws up his hands and yells, "What's the freaking POINT!?!" is following on well worn footsteps. (I've done so myself.)
3 What do people gain from all their labors
at which they toil under the sun?
4 Generations come and generations go,
but the earth remains forever.
And every generation thinks they're special.
Hey, Phil Collins, screeching, "I won't be coming home tonight / My generation will put it right / We won't be making promises / That we know we'll never keep." Notice that you're an old fart now and you and your generation were no more successful than any generation before you. The world is still a mess. Did you really think that everybody that came before you was a hypocrite and meaningless posturer, and that you and your generation were the first with noble intentions and boundless energy and a determination that you would be able to somehow fix what nobody was able to fix before you?
We all work hard, and it never lasts.
7 All streams flow into the sea,
yet the sea is never full.
To the place the streams come from,
there they return again.
Solomon noticed this long before scientists discovered The Water Cycle.
8 All things are wearisome,
more than one can say.
Anybody who has tried to stay on top of the laundry and the dishes and to keep the yard mowed and the car running knows this.
10 Is there anything of which one can say,
“Look! This is something new”?
It was here already, long ago;
it was here before our time.
Titanic was new. Hubris wasn't. Titanic is now at the bottom of the Atlantic. And the idea that we can build better and more significant things is an old one. We think we can cheat death with modern medicine and congratulate ourselves. Guess what? The pharaohs thought they could cheat death too. They pyramids are pretty groovy, but the pharaohs are still dead.
11 No one remembers the former generations,
and even those yet to come
will not be remembered
by those who follow them.
Lest you start to think, "Ha, Solomon! We've got you on that! Everybody remembers you!" ask yourself, "What were Solomon's favorite foods? Was he a night person or a morning person? Did he whistle to himself?" We don't know Solomon as a person. We just know what God chose from his work to allow to endure. Solomon himself, the living, breathing man, is just as forgotten as any of his concubines. Were he to show up in the middle of a revival meeting, nobody would recognize him -- unless the Holy Spirit granted knowledge.
what is lacking cannot be counted.
Look at all the results of Communism if you doubt this.
16 I said to myself, “Look, I have increased in wisdom more than anyone who has ruled over Jerusalem before me; I have experienced much of wisdom and knowledge.” 17 Then I applied myself to the understanding of wisdom, and also of madness and folly, but I learned that this, too, is a chasing after the wind.
18 For with much wisdom comes much sorrow;
the more knowledge, the more grief.
Amen to that! There's a reason we say happy people wear rose colored glasses. You have to lack the wisdom to see the world as it is to be happy in it -- except for God's grace.