"With much wisdom comes much sorrow, and as knowledge grows, grief increases."
In such discouraging times as these, we find ourselves desperate for wisdom. We find ourselves searching high and low for answers and truths. As people of the twenty-first century, we seem to have, more than ever, strayed further and further away from it all: the truth, reality, and our traditions. The objective ought now, as ever, to be the reclamation of our values such that we may stand to redeem ourselves, right our wrongs and, above all, recover the truth.
The challenge for those of us faithful and courageous enough to take on this task is that wisdom seldom prevails without difficulty. Indeed, any endeavor of this kind is invariably met with doubters and detractors; even the first steps in the search are, among laymen, as unlikely to be taken as the shrouded trail is now to be found. As we seek wisdom in our lives, and as we seek to defend it, we must remember the teachings of Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament: may these lessons encourage us as servants, and as parents, to stay faithful and hopeful in the most hopeless of times. May we remember, in the morass of uncertain times, that it is wisdom that ultimately leads us to salvation.
On the path to salvation, the challenge is to stay the course and to follow closely; wandering from the path risks losing your way. Perhaps the greatest challenge in this journey is how to properly guide our children in keeping with God’s wisdom, to orient them along the trusted trail while keeping them from the forces which might tempt, distract or discourage them. This is our tallest task, and one best undertaken with the Word of God, Polaris guiding us home in the darkness of night.
In raising our children, we must set out in earnest to reconcile reality with the joys we desire for them in their lives. Truth and wisdom come in time and with effort, but they come not without sorrow and grief. Indeed, the more confusing the times, the taller the task; and yet the more invaluable the lessons. The hope is that, as parents, we can balance this sorrow and grief with the gratification of building houses and reservoirs, planting vineyards, making gardens and parks, and planting all kinds of fruit trees; that we will balance the tangible with the intangible treasures of wisdom; and that we will yet not become so wise so as to destroy ourselves, but that we will commend ourselves and our heirs in our merriment and our enjoyment of life, not for drunkenness but for strength. For this joy will reliably accompany those of us in our labor, as we do it with all our might, during the days of our lives that God gives us under the sun. This is all too familiar to us who’ve continued this practice, and it is a practice we ought, with all of our might, to continue for all of posterity. This is our legacy. This is the richest of inheritances.
While it is true that, through our enduring legacy, we may not be remembered precisely by name or personality, it is the wisdom, the teachings and the traditions which will more importantly endure. This is precisely how we overcome what is otherwise the futility of our work; and this is how we imbue our heirs with the qualities which bring meaning, purpose and peace to their lives, and satisfaction in their labor. Even as they seek in futility to comprehend the meaning of their labor, it possesses its meaning all the same as a true gift of God, and one to endure forever.
Regrettably, and yet all too predictably, we, as a people of faith and wisdom, are on such course which suggests that, for these ends, we may first endeavor through a time of war before that time of peace; this is the unavoidable conclusion reached by all who seek to understand the stupidity of wickedness and the folly of madness. It is up to us to prepare ourselves and to equip our heirs, through our legacies, to recognize wickedness and to defend against it.
Of the inheritance our heirs will enjoy, it shall measure more greatly in wisdom than in any other form: better is a poor but wise youth than an old foolish king [or delinquent] who no longer knows how to take a warning. After all, wisdom makes the wise man stronger than ten rulers in a city, and he can save a city by his wisdom alone. As it is written, the calm words of the wise are heeded over the shouts of a ruler among fools; wisdom is better than weapons of war, but one sinner destroys much good.
In our contest on earth, a little folly tends to outweigh wisdom and honor as a wise man’s heart inclines to the right, whereas the heart of a fool to the left. Fortunately for the wise, the fool is eventually exposed as he shows everyone that he is a fool. Wisdom prevails. Whereas folly is appointed to great heights, the rich sit in lowly positions; yet the fool who digs a pit may fall into it.
In the inheritance of wisdom our heirs are sure to be gracious, whereas the fool invariably consumes himself. In the absence of tangible wealth, there is, in wisdom, always something to pass on. It is, as it is written, good and to the benefit of those who see the sun; it is, like money, a shelter which preserves the life of its owner. Whereas our love, hate and envy will assuredly vanish as we are turned to dust, our wisdom will have the further reward of enduring.
In this wisdom we find ourselves spared many curses; we are wise to focus upon God, family and friends, and to refrain from paying attention to every last word that is spoken, as we stand to hear even our servants, as well as our peers, cursing us as we have cursed others. In such a time of rapid and senseless communication, there is all the more wisdom in this warning. All that we can do is to keep His Commandments, because this is the whole duty of man. As parents, it is thus our duty to honor our heirs with this wisdom and to share it among us. That is all that we can do, “as there is nothing new under the sun.”
There is solace to be taken in this particular verse, and in all of His writings. However, in this particular context, the challenge for us mere mortals is to reject the temptations which draw us nearer to apathy, indifference, despair, and self-indulgence.
The verse reminds each of us that we are one in a long line of God's faithful and humble servants throughout time; that God's omniscience, omnipotence and omnipresence stand unmatched among us; that all things new aren't really new at all, that they have been and will be again; that false idols will come and go, as sure as folly is sure to follow; and that many who are so full of words often say and do so little, and try in futility to defy, reframe or misrepresent the Truth as it is, in these writings, so plainly yet abundantly laid before us.
We are called only to reject those temptations and the fleeting distractions, and to perform our duty in accordance with His Commandments. This is just as reassuring as it is a call to action for the benefit of Wisdom and His Word. As it is written, Blessed are you, O land whose king is a son of nobles; and blessed are those who are the sons of wisdom and liberty.
In the modern context, this verse would serve those well who are tempted by the empty promises of politicians, who are drawn into speculative schemes and manias, and who've opted for more liberating, self-seeking, progressive or revolutionary lifestyles. It would serve those well who've lost their way down Easy Street, Wall Street, Broadway or Hollywood Boulevard, or who've paid their tributes to Pennsylvania Avenue when they could have been walking with God all along. When trading's ended and the bell has rung, when the smoke has settled and a new banner's hung, when the show is over and the curtains close, the actors move on as the old story goes.