Stars, Whales, and Ecclesiastes
Blue true dream of sky. Trees in italics. Water like a bed sheet rippling in the wind. Clouds like wispy baby hair. Lazy adolescent sun dragging its feet across the kitchen floor.
I felt as though I was in a Group of Seven painting as I observed Georgian Bay from my canoe. Wholly distracted by the beauty around me I was a perfectly useless canoeing partner – forgetting to paddle most of the time, and when I did remember, paddling on the wrong side of the boat. Yet it was the kind of morning that distracts canoers, inspires poets, and makes awaking at ungodly hours worthwhile.
It’s easy to pray in a place like this, I thought. It’s easy to be good.
On the other hand, the bedlam of the city teems with temptations and promotes shameless self-centeredness. Along with the perpetual clamor of construction and bustling traffic is the echoes of the thousands of voices shouting about how important they are. They are terrified of being nothing, and so they shout until their voices grow hoarse, or they run out of business cards.
Become something. Get more followers. Put out an EP. Don’t forget me. Start a business. Only work a job you love. Brand yourself. Don’t forget me. Be happy.
We do our best to convince ourselves again and again that this hiccup of a life is important, and that our existence matters greatly. Prideful to the very core, we are ever so reluctant to believe that we are less consequential than we think we are.
But as I floated on the still waters of Georgian Bay I had a slightly bleak but perfectly relieving thought: the city did not miss me, and was not lacking anything by my absence. I am small.
I adore both whales and starry night skies because they remind me of this fact. I was told as a child that the blue whale is larger than three school buses placed end to end, and I remember feeling short for breath and acutely aware of my tiny frame.
Beneath the dome of the night sky I dare you to utter a whisper about your importance, let alone shout about it.
I wonder if the writer of Ecclesiastes scribed the book under a starry sky. For when I stand beneath a canopy of black velvet marked with a million pinholes letting out heavenly light, I understand the author’s pronouncement of this world being “meaningless”, or better translated “a vapour”.
We pour our heart and soul into this short blip of an existence on earth, not realizing that like the mist that comes with the dawn, it also will soon be gone and not remembered. Perhaps humanity’s greatest fault is a disorganization of priorities; attributing greatness to that which should not be great, and deeming insignificance to that which is anything but.
In the end, God is great and we are small. Life is short, and eternity is long. Indeed, we may draw the same conclusion drawn at the end of the Ecclesiastes:
“The end of the matter, all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” –Ecclesiastes 12:13