On Loss and Life’s Meaning

The world is too much with us: late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers …

These are the first two lines of a sonnet by William Wordsworth, English poet of the nineteenth century. As a poet of the romantic era, he believed the clank and roar of the Industrial Revolution with its belching smoke stacks had smothered the beauty of the natural world.  

Sprawling factories, and the obsession of making profit from man’s labor, had so captured the attention of the masses, he seems to proclaim, that they had obscured Nature from human wonderment, a bitter loss

In a much more ancient era, the wise man who wrote the Book of Ecclesiastes goes further than Wordsworth, with a penetrating summary not merely of Man and Nature but of the whole drama of life in both its temporal and eternal dimensions. 

And speaking even more directly to eternal matters, our Lord Jesus asks, “What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world yet forfeit their soul, or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” (Matthew 16:26). 

There is more in Ecclesiastes and our Lord’s words than in Wordsworth: not only the loss of Nature’s beauty but also the loss of the soul. The aged writer of this book summarizes his findings about life’s meaning with these words: 

“Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14)

Image info: Thales (via flickr.com)

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