Open Letter #95 to Ricky Gervais on comparison of the Tony of AFTER LIFE to the Solomon of ECCLESIASTES, Wallace Stevens: “But in contentment I still feel the need for an imperishable bliss.”

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After Life #1 Trailer

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After Life 2 Trailer

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On Saturday April 18, 2020 at 6pm in London and noon in Arkansas, I had a chance to ask Ricky Gervais a question on his Twitter Live broadcast which was  “Is Tony a Nihilist?” At the 20:51 mark Ricky answers my question. Below is the video:

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If Death is the end then what is the point Kath asks below:

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Kath: You are an atheist?

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(Above) Tony and Anne on the bench at the graveyard where their spouses are buried.

July 21, 2020 
Ricky Gervais 


Dear Ricky,  

This is the 95th day in a row that I have written another open letter to you to comment on some of your episodes of AFTER LIFE. Over and over again Tony is searching for satisfaction in his life and for the meaning of it all! However, when you wrote the AFTER LIFE script Ricky you excluded spiritual answers!! Check out the answers provided by Kerry Livgren and Dave Hope of KANSAS at the end of this letter!!!

Ricky Gervais plays bereaved husband Tony Johnson in AFTER LIFE

Matt takes it upon himself to help his bereaved brother-in-law Tony out by trying to help find satisfaction in his life by looking in 5 areas of life. I don’t know if Matt took time to read about Solomon’s efforts in Ecclesiastes but he did look in the same 5 areas for satisfaction [learning(1:16-18),laughter, ladies,   and liquor (2:1-3, 8, 10, 11), and labor (2:4-6, 18-20)]. He first suggests that Tony throw himself into his work, and Tony blows off that suggestion. Next Matt sets him up on a blind date and that turns out to not work at all. Matt next turns to inviting Tony to a comedy club and the comedian tells a joke about suicide and Tony ruins the whole evening for everybody.

In season two Matt invites Tony to a meditation class which includes some philosophy that he knows appeals to Tony and he tells Tony he may learn something. Unfortunately Tony has a horrible time. Finally Matt invites Tony to the pub for a drink and to visit some women with the goal of “banging some beaver”and that is a disaster too. 

psychiatrist played by Paul Kaye seen below.

The sandy beach walk

Chapter four of the book by Tim Keller MAKING SENSE OF GOD:  (Tim Keller below)

Making Sense of God, by Timothy Keller
Chapter Four: “A Satisfaction That Is Not Based on Circumstances”

Psychologist Jonathan Haidt’s book The Happiness Hypothesis provides a historical survey of thinking about happiness. 1

(Jonathan Haidt pictured below)

He begins his chapter with a book of the Bible we have just looked at, Ecclesiastes. The author writes: “A person can do nothing better than to . . . find satisfaction in their own toil” (Ecclesiastes 2: 24), but that is exactly what eludes him. He describes a life of accomplishment that very few achieve.
I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards. . . . I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I acquired male and female singers, and a harem as well— the delights of a man’s heart. . . . I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure.” 
(Ecclesiastes 2: 4,8,10)
Nevertheless, he says, “I hated life. . . . My heart began to despair over all my toilsome labor under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 2: 17,20) Haidt summarizes, “The author of Ecclesiastes wasn’t just battling the fear of meaninglessness; he was battling the disappointment of success. . . . Nothing brought satisfaction.” 2 This is an abiding human problem, and there is plenty of modern empirical research that backs it up. Studies find a very weak correlation between wealth and contentment, and the more prosperous a society grows,
the more common is depression. 3 The things that human beings think will bring fulfillment and contentment don’t. What should we do, then, to be happy?
Haidt says that the answer— of the Buddha and Chinese sages like Lao Tzu in the East and the Greek Stoic philosophers in the West— constituted the “early happiness hypothesis” of ancient times. The principle was this: We are unhappy even in success because we seek happiness from success. Wealth, power, achievement, family, material comfort, and security— the external goods of the world— can lead only to a momentary satisfaction, which fades away, leaving you more empty than if you had never tasted the joy. To achieve satisfaction you should not seek to change the world but rather to change your attitude toward the world. Epictetus, a Stoic philosopher, wrote, “Do not seek to have events happen as you want them to, but instead want them to happen as they do happen, and your life will go well.” 4 If we do that, the Buddha taught, “when pleasure or pain comes to them, the wise feel above pleasure and pain.” 5 In short, don’t try to fulfill your desires; rather, control and manage them. To avoid having our inner contentment overthrown by the inevitable loss of things, do not become too emotionally attached to anything.6


However, many people have found this approach to satisfaction not very satisfying. Haidt, for example, believes that Buddha and the Greeks “took things too far.” 7
He argues that modern research shows some external circumstances do correlate with increased satisfaction. In particular, love relationships are important, and therefore the advice of emotional detachment may actually undermine happiness. 8 Philosopher Alain de Botton agrees that loving relationships are fundamental to happiness. Indeed, he thinks our quest for the external goods of status and money
4 is really just another quest for love. 9 Another obvious problem with the ancient happiness hypothesis was that it undermined any motivation for seeking major social change. Rather than change the world as it is, we were to resign ourselves to it.

(Philosopher Alain de Botton pictured below)


Haidt takes a very modern attitude toward our ancestors. He says we can agree with any wisdom from the past that is backed by empirical research. The ancients warn us about the disappointment of overacquisitiveness, and the social science confirms that, he says. But what Haidt describes as modern culture’s operational “happiness hypothesis” is only a slightly chastened version of what the author of Ecclesiastes was trying to do. While warning against overdoing it, modern culture encourages its members to find satisfaction through active efforts to change our lives, not to just accept life as it is. 10


Back Where We Started page 79


If we stand back to ask what we have learned about happiness over the centuries, it is striking to see our lack of progress. Think of how we have surpassed our ancestors in our ability to travel and communicate, in our accomplishments in medicine and science. Think of how much less brutal and unjust to minorities many societies are today compared with even one hundred years ago. In so many ways human life has been transformed, and yet though we are unimaginably wealthier and more comfortable than our ancestors, no one is arguing that we are significantly happier than they were. We are struggling and seeking happiness in essentially the same ways our
forebears did and doing a worse job of it, if we use the rise of depression and suicide as an indicator.
The author of Ecclesiastes deserves the final word here. “Whatever is has already been, and what will be has been before.” (Ecclesiastes 3: 15) Despite all our modern efforts, with regard to happiness we are essentially back where we started.
(Julian Baggini pictured below)


One response is to ask, “So what?” and insist that there is little real problem here. Julian Baggini thinks that there is no genuine problem, that no one is perfectly happy or needs to be. Most people get by fine without it, so we shouldn’t worry about how happy we are but instead should simply do things that matter. 11 Thomas Nagel observes that, according to empirical studies, most people are pretty happy most of the time. 12

(Thomas Nagel pictured below)

(Terry Eagleton pictured below)

Terry Eagleton, however, responds that the problem is masked rather than revealed by the term “happiness.” The very word is a “feeble, holiday-camp sort of word, evocative of manic grins and cavorting about.” 13 For most people— including those who answer researchers’ survey questions— the term does not have much depth to it. It refers to a range of conditions from simply “being okay” to “having fun.” To be okay is not too hard to achieve. When asked by either friends or social psychologists, “How are you today?” we instinctively say, “Fine, thanks.” But conflicts and anger flare up so quickly, and the statistics on depression and suicide always startle, and all this indicates things are not as good as we say they are.
To get at our condition more accurately, we should ask about joy, fulfillment, and satisfaction in life. Are we achieving those things? The thesis of this chapter is that we have much thinner life satisfaction than we want to admit to researchers or even to ourselves. On the whole, we are in
5 denial about the depth and magnitude of our discontent. 
The artists and thinkers who talk about it most poignantly are seen as morbid outliers, but actually they are prophetic voices. It usually takes years to break through and dispel the denial in order to see the magnitude and dimension of our dissatisfaction in life.


The Dimensions of Our Discontent
 page 80 (2:50:00)

(Wallace Stevens pictured below)


Roman poet Horace asked, “How comes it to pass . . . that no one lives content with his condition . . . ?” He concludes that “all . . . think their own condition the hardest.” 14 Why is no one content with his or her life?
One reason can be seen in a line from the poem “Sunday Morning” by Wallace Stevens. “But in contentment I still feel the need for an imperishable bliss.” 15 As we have seen, travel, material goods, sensual gratification, success, and status give quick spikes of pleasure and then fade. Stevens’s line helps us understand why. Even as we taste a moment of contentment, we sense how fleeting it is, that it will soon be wrenched from our grasp. It begins to fade away even as we try to embrace it or even to savor it. The ephemeral nature of all satisfaction makes us long for something we can keep, but we look in vain. However, this is not the whole problem. We do not only want a satisfaction that lasts longer but also one that goes much deeper.




In 1969 the singer Peggy Lee recorded the song “Is That All There Is?” written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller and based on an 1896 Thomas Mann novella called Disillusionment. 16 The woman speaking in the song tells about being taken as a twelve-year-old to the circus that was called “The Greatest Show on Earth,” but as she watched she
“had the feeling that something was missing
. I don’t know what, but when it was over I said to myself, ‘Is that all there is to a circus?’” Later she says that she fell “so very much in love” with the “most wonderful boy in the world.” And then one day he left her, and she thought she’d die. “But I didn’t. And when I didn’t, I said to myself, ‘Is that all there is to love?’” At every turn everything that should have delighted and satisfied her did not— nothing was big enough to fill her expectations or desires. There was always something missing, though she never knew what it was. Everything
left her asking, “Is that it?”
So every stanza of her life, like a song, went back to
the same refrain:
Is that all there is?
Is that all there is?
If that’s all there is my friends,
Then let’s keep dancing.
Let’s break out the booze and have a ball
, if that’s all—
there is.

The lack of any deep or lasting satisfaction drives her to joyless partying. As we gradually discover that everything we thought would be fulfilling is not, we become less able to look forward to life, more numb, jaded, and cynical, or worse. The woman speaking in the song realizes that her listeners might wonder why she doesn’t commit suicide. But she predicts that the experience of dying will be every bit as disappointing as life has been, so there is no reason to hurry it.
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I know what you must be saying to yourselves.
“If that’s the way she feels about it why doesn’t she just end it all?”
Oh, no, not me.
I’m in no hurry for that final disappointment.
’Cause I know just as well as I’m standing here talking to you,

That when that final moment comes and I’m breathing my last breath
I’ll be saying to myself—
Is that all there is?
(The late Cynthia Heimel pictured below)


The Leiber-Stoller song echoes the experience of Village Voice columnist Cynthia Heimel, who saw friends go from anonymity to Hollywood stardom only to find, to their horror, they were no more fulfilled and happy than before, and the experience actually deepened their emptiness, turning them “howling and insufferable.” She surmises that “if God really wants to play a rotten practical joke on us, he grants our deepest wish and then giggles merrily as we begin to realize we want to kill ourselves.” 17

(Henrik Ibsen pictured below)

, Henrik Ibsen the Norwegian playwright, helps us understand what happened to Heimel’s friends. “If you take away the life- illusion from an average man, you take away his happiness as well.” 18 Within Ibsen’s play The Wild Duck, a life illusion is the belief that some object or condition will finally bring you the satisfaction for which you long. But this is an illusion. At some point reality will destroy it, and nothing destroys it like actually achieving your dreams.
If you are younger, it is natural to say to yourself, “I have heard about these disillusioned celebrities and wealthy people who say their life isn’t happy. But if I get anything like what I’m hoping for, I’ll be different.” No you won’t.
Though there is a spectrum of experience, nobody in the end has ever been different. That’s what the wisdom of the ancients and all the anecdotal evidence in the world will tell you. C. S. Lewis put it in perhaps the classic way in his wartime BBC radio talk on hope.


Most people, if they really learn how to look into their own hearts, would know that they do want, and want acutely, something that cannot be had in this world. There are all sorts of things in this world that offer to give it to you, but they never keep their promise. The longings which arise in us when we first fall in love, or first think of some foreign country, or first take up some subject that excites us, are longings which no marriage, no travel, no learning can really satisfy. I am not speaking of what would ordinarily be called unsuccessful marriages or trips and so on; I am speaking of the best possible ones. There is always something we grasped at, in that first moment of longing, that just fades away in the reality. The spouse may be a good spouse, the scenery has been excellent, it has turned out to be a good job, but “It” has evaded us. 19


The Strategies of Our Discontent
 page 83 (2:56:00)


So what do we do when we discover that we lack “it”— the “something missing but we don’t know what”? There are at least seven strategies that people take toward their discontent. There are two broad approaches— you can either live life assuming that satisfaction in life is quite possible, that “it” is still out there, or you can live in the
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conviction that satisfaction is not possible, that there is no “it.” But within these two categories we can discern four strategies in the first and three strategies in the second.


“IT” IS STILL OUT THERE


The young. The normal way people start adult life is to travel hopefully in anticipation of a joyful arrival. We think, “If I get the right love partner, if I get the right spouse, if I get the right career and make some money— then I will have life satisfaction.”James Wood refers to the pursuit of “jobs, family, sex, and so on— the usual distractions” by which we hide from ourselves the emptiness of our lives. 20 Actually we may be quite discontent, but we don’t recognize it because we are so busy in the process of getting ready to be happy. “Of course I am restless. I haven’t gotten to do all the things I am going to do.” We think we just have to get over this hill or get around that bend and then things will be great. This strategy, of course, is only effective temporarily.


The resentful. However, as time goes on, we begin to realize we are not getting “it.” One of the main reactions is to blame the obstacles that have kept us from achieving the things we think will satisfy us. We may be the victim of prejudice or discrimination, or we may find ourselves in a community that is not open to many of the things we want to be and do. Rather than social structures, we may identify individuals who blocked our progress or who have wronged us. And so we blame them, saying “I would be quite happy if it wasn’t for (fill in the blank).” Now, this might in the short run lead to some good— we might channel our anger constructively into becoming social activists. Even less
constructive anger, such as complaining and venting, can in the short run be a kind of relief— but it is only in the short run. And if our efforts actually break the barriers and get us to the next level of accomplishment, we will find that “it” is still not there to be found. That means we will need the third strategy.


The driven. By definition, a secular culture puts the most emphasis on the here-and-now. We think that accruing possessions and accomplishments will bring satisfaction. What happens if, unlike the young and resentful, we find we actually reach many of our material goals? We will, as
the ancients did, still find something significant missing. What do we do? Many people begin to blame the things we have. We assume that if we got a better spouse, a better job, a better income, or a better home, then we would feel much better too. If we take this path, we may become among society’s most productive members— and also the most driven. We go through houses and spouses and jobs and the constant reinvention of our lives, assuring ourselves that at the next level “it” is going to finally be there. But psychologists call this merely speeding up the “hedonic treadmill.” 21 On an exercise treadmill a change of speed does not translate into a change of location; we only work harder to maintain our position and eventually become too weary to keep on going. So too the enjoyment that attainment initially brings wears off, so that we need more and more of the same kinds of attainment just to maintain the same pleasure. Eventually, as on a physical treadmill, we will find ourselves too exhausted to continue.


The despairing. What if we don’t find “it,” even after removing obstacles and achieving more and more, but we
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(Francis Spufford pictured below)

nonetheless continue to assume it exists? In some cases, rather than blaming other things, we may blame ourselves. That means saying, “There is something wrong with me—
I haven’t done well enough. I haven’t gone far enough up the career ladder. I haven’t attracted the best romantic partners. I’m a failure.” 
If we take an honest look at ourselves, it is never too hard to see some ways we have contributed to our own frustration. British author Francis Spufford writes that for a time we can live in denial of our active tendency to “break stuff—‘ stuff’ here including promises, relationships we care about, our own well-being, and other people’s.” But the day comes when “you’re lying in the bath and you notice you are thirty-nine and that the way you’re living bears scarcely any resemblance to what you thought you always wanted, and yet, you realize you got there by a long series of choices.” 22 So we hate ourselves.


“IT” DOESN’T EXIST page 85 (3:01:00)


All of these strategies are based on the assumption that human beings can and ought to live a life of satisfaction and fulfillment. However, many people question that very premise. They conclude that it is our expectations of life that are out of line. We may start out life naively in pursuit of “it,” but eventually we see that it does not exist, and we
should get used to life as it is. 
This has affinities with the ancient “happiness hypothesis.” There are at least three ways to live based on this outlook, and all three of them seem to be an improvement over the naïveté, resentment, anxiety, and despair we have been looking at. But on closer look, each one of these strategies is extremely problematic as well.


Altruism. Often people who have devoted the earlier part of their lives to personal advancement turn away from it toward social causes, philanthropy, and improving the lives of others. Sometimes their story goes like this. “I thought I would find satisfaction in acquisition, but now I realize that it is only through giving and serving that I can have a fulfilling life.” Of course, this is to be fully encouraged. One writer in the New York Times, typical of this approach, relates how in earlier years he thought that satisfaction and self-esteem could be found. He sought to fill his “sense of deficit”— his inner emptiness and need for satisfaction— through success and wealth. But then he learned a better way: “We feel best about ourselves when we stop focusing obsessively on filling our own sense of deficit. Making others feel valued makes us feel more valued.” 23 Instead of trying to better ourselves, we get far more satisfaction from trying to better others.
But many have pointed out the problems that result when people turn to benevolence and social activism as a way to find more fulfillment for themselves. This approach is ultimately, and ironically, extremely selfish. Your supposed generosity is really just building yourself up. The most famous of the critics is Nietzsche, who argued that modern people help the needy out of a sense of moral superiority. 24 They feel superior to their former, unenlightened selves, as well as to earlier times and societies which were not committed to equality as they are. In short, they are not serving others as much as serving themselves. They are using the needy and poor to achieve the self-worth they need. This not only can lead to paternalism but can also turn to disdain and contempt if their altruistic efforts are not met with respect and gratitude. Helping others in response to your own discontent will not work in the long run, either for others or for you.

Cynicism. By the time many sophisticated and urbane people in our culture reach middle age, they come to a position that could be expressed something like this: “Yes, when I was younger I thought fulfillment was out there. I thought sex and love and career success would be much more satisfying. But now, of course, I have grown up.
I realize nobody is ever content and satisfied, but there’s no need to obsess about this. I have stopped chasing rainbows; I have stopped crying after the moon. I have lowered my expectations of life and learned to enjoy what I have, and I’m getting by fine.” 
As sensible as this sounds, it is problematic in at least two ways. One is that this stance almost always creates a certain amount of condescension toward anyone who is not as sophisticated and as ironic as you. This can make you as bigoted and self-righteous in your own way as the legalistic religionists you despise. But there is a more serious effect. As we heard from Martin Heidegger, what makes you a human being and not an animal is that you want joy, meaning, and fulfillment. If you decide that fulfillment, joy, and happiness are not there, and you harden your heart against hope, you can dehumanize yourself.

(Martin Heidegger pictured below)

Detachment

. We might ask why we don’t revert to a purer form of the older “happiness hypothesis” of the Buddha and the Greek Stoics. Their counsel was not to love anything or hope for anything too much. Epictetus wrote, “What harm is there while you are kissing your child to murmur softly, ‘Tomorrow you will die’?” 25 But here I must side with the modern research, which supports a deep human intuition, namely, that diminishing your love
for others does not increase satisfaction but only undermines it. Even though ancient stoic detachment has a better philosophical pedigree than the jaded Western cynicism that sneers at everything, it ultimately also hardens your heart and dehumanizes you.


Understanding Our Discontent
 page 87 (3:6:56)


We want something that nothing in this life can give us. If we keep pursuing it in this world, it can make us driven, resentful, or self-hating. If we try to harden our hearts so that it doesn’t bother us, we harm our humanity and those around us. If, however, we don’t harden ourselves, and fully feel the grief of desire’s lost hope, we may find self- destructive ways of drowning it, as did the woman in Peggy Lee’s song. All of these approaches look like dead ends.

(Peggy Lee pictured below)

(Jonathan Haidt pictured below)


What is the cause of this seemingly inescapable condition, of this enduring discontent?
One modern theory is summarized by Haidt as the “Progress Principle.”People find more pleasure in working toward a goal than they experience when they actually attain it. Evolutionary psychologists opine that this is an adaptive mechanism. That is, they conjecture that our forebears who experienced post-attainment disappointment were more likely to work harder to achieve higher goals. These people were then more likely to live longer and so, having more children, they passed down their genes to us. Therefore, the discontent— the feeling that nothing in the world fulfills our deepest longings— is actually a chemical response in the brain that helped our ancestors survive. The sense we have that “something is missing” is therefore an illusion, a trick played on us by our genes to get us to be more industrious.

 Haidt even briefly uses this evolutionary theory to explain the Peggy Lee song “Is That All There Is?”26
(Peggy Lee pictured below)


But the woman’s life depicted in Peggy Lee’s song undermines the theory. She finds the repeated disappointments of life not a motivation to work harder but rather a disincentive for doing anything but getting high at parties. And surely this is realistic. Though disappointment may, in the short term, drive some people to more attainment, it can just as likely undermine initiative and drive. And over time it usually will. Therefore, the feeling does not necessarily or even normally lead to survival behavior. The evolutionary explanation of our
constant discontent doesn’t seem to hold up.

A more time-tested explanation comes from the great
Christian philosopher Augustine.
As a nineteen-year-old, Augustine read Cicero’s
dialogue Hortensius. 
This work considered the paradox that every person “sets out to be happy [but] the majority are thoroughly wretched.” 27 Cicero concluded that the extreme scarcity of human contentment might be a judgment of divine providence for our sins. He counseled his readers not to seek happiness in the pursuit of material comfort, sex, or prosperity but rather to find it in philosophical contemplation. The book was electrifying to the young Augustine. 28 One of his lifelong projects became to discover why most people are so discontent and bereft of joy. He concluded that our discontent has both a functional cause and an ultimate source.
The functional cause of our discontent is that our loves are “out of order.”

Augustine taught that we are most fundamentally shaped not as much by what we believe, or think, or even do,
but by what we love. “For when we ask whether somebody is a good person, we are not asking what he believes or hopes for, but what he loves.” 29 For Augustine, what we call human virtues are nothing more than forms of love. Courage is loving your neighbor’s well-being more than your own safety. Honestyis loving your neighbor’s interests more than your own, even when the truth will put you at a disadvantage. And because Jesus himself said that all God’s law comes down to loving God and your neighbor (Matthew 22: 36– 40), Augustine believed all sin was ultimately a lack of love. 30 Look at injustice. You may say that you believe in social equality and justice and think that you do, but if you make business decisions that exploit others, it is because at the heart level you love your own prosperity more than your neighbor’s. In short, what you love most at the moment is what controls your action at that moment. “A body by its weight tends to move toward its proper place. . . . My weight is my love: wherever I am carried, my love is carrying me.” 31 You are what you love.


Augustine did not see our problems as stemming only from a lack of love. He also observed that the heart’s loves have an order to them, and that we often love less important things more and the more important things less. Therefore, the unhappiness and disorder of our lives are caused by the disorder of our loves. A just and good person “is also a person who has [rightly] ordered his love, so that he does not love what it is wrong to love, or fail to love what should be loved, or love too much what should be loved less (or love too little what should be loved more).” 32 

How does this work? There is nothing wrong with loving your work, but if you love it more than your family, then your loves are out of order and you may ruin your familyOr if you love making money more than you love justice, then you will (11exploit your employees, again, because your loves are disordered

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(Francis Schaeffer pictured below)

Francis Schaeffer comments on ECCLESIASTES below: 

Ecclesiastes 1:11

11 There is no remembrance of earlier things; And also of the later things which will occur, There will be for them no remembrance among those who will come later still.

The Visit the Queen Sheba to King Solomon by English painter Sir Edward John Poynter 1st Baronet (20 March 1836 – 26 July 1919)

Ecclesiastes 2:16

16 For there is no lasting remembrance of the wise man as with the fool, inasmuch as in the coming days all will be forgotten. And how the wise man and the fool alike die!

You bring together here the factor of the beginning and you can’t know what immediately follows after your death and of course you can’t know the final ends. What do you do and the answer is to get drunk and this was not thought of in the RUBAIYAT OF OMAR KAHAYYAM:

Ecclesiastes 2:1-3

I said to myself, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure. So enjoy yourself.” And behold, it too was futility. I said of laughter, “It is madness,” and of pleasure, “What does it accomplish?” I explored with my mind how to stimulate my body with winewhile my mind was guiding me wisely, and how to take hold of folly, until I could see what good there is for the sons of men to do under heaven the few years of their lives.

The Daughter of the Vine:

You know, my Friends, with what a brave Carouse
I made a Second Marriage in my house;
Divorced old barren Reason from my Bed,
And took the Daughter of the Vine to Spouse.

from the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam (Translation by Edward Fitzgerald)

(Hemingway in Paris)

A perfectly good philosophy coming out of Islam, but Solomon is not the first man that thought of it nor the last. In light of what has been presented by Solomon is the solution just to get intoxicated and black the think out? So many people have taken to alcohol and the dope which so often follows in our day. This approach is incomplete, temporary and immature. Papa Hemingway can find the champagne of Paris sufficient for a time, but one he left his youth he never found it sufficient again. He had a lifetime spent looking back to Paris and that champagne and never finding it enough. It is no solution and Solomon says so too.

(Hemingway “quite deliberately” shot himself with his favorite shotgun in the early morning hours of July 2, 1961.)

EH 4907P Ernest Hemingway in his home in Cuba, not dated, circa 1952. Photograph in the Ernest Hemingway Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.

Ecclesiastes 2:4-11

I enlarged my works: I built houses for myself, I planted vineyards for myself; I made gardens and parks for myself and I planted in them all kinds of fruit trees; I made ponds of water for myself from which to irrigate a forest of growing treesI bought male and female slaves and I had homeborn slaves. Also I possessed flocks and herds larger than all who preceded me in Jerusalem. Also, I collected for myself silver and gold and the treasure of kings and provinces. I provided for myself MALE AND  FEMALE SINGERS AND THE PLEASURES OF MEN–MANY CONCUBINES.

Then I became great and increased more than all who preceded me in Jerusalem. My wisdom also stood by me. 10 All that my eyes desired I did not refuse them. I did not withhold my heart from any pleasure, for my heart was pleased because of all my labor and this was my reward for all my labor.11 Thus I considered all my activities which my hands had done and the labor which I had exerted, and behold all was vanity and striving after wind and there was no profit under the sun.

He doesn’t mean there is no temporary profit but there is no real profit. Nothing that lasts. The walls crumble if they are as old as the Pyramids. You only see a shell of the Pyramids and not the glory that they were. This is what Solomon is saying. Look upon Solomon’s wonder and consider the Cedars of Lebanon which were not in his domain but at his disposal.

(Rock band KANSAS below)

In 1978 I heard the song “Dust in the Wind” by Kansas when it rose to #6 on the charts. That song told me that Kerry Livgren the writer of that song and a member of Kansas had come to the same conclusion that Solomon had. I remember mentioning to my friends at church that we may soon see some members of Kansas become Christians because their search for the meaning of life had obviously come up empty even though they had risen from being an unknown band to the top of the music business and had all the wealth and fame that came with that. Furthermore, like Solomon and Coldplay, they realized death comes to everyone and “there must be something more.”

(Kerry Livgren below)

Livgren wrote:

“All we do, crumbles to the ground though we refuse to see, Dust in the Wind, All we are is dust in the wind, Don’t hang on, Nothing lasts forever but the Earth and Sky, It slips away, And all your money won’t another minute buy.”

Both Kerry Livgren and Dave Hope of Kansas became Christians eventually. Kerry Livgren first tried Eastern Religions and Dave Hope had to come out of a heavy drug addiction. I was shocked and elated to see their personal testimony on The 700 Club in 1981 and that same  interview can be seen on youtube today. Livgren lives in Topeka, Kansas today where he teaches “Diggers,” a Sunday school class at Topeka Bible Church. Hope is the head of Worship, Evangelism and Outreach at Immanuel Anglican Church in Destin, Florida.

The movie maker Woody Allen has embraced the nihilistic message of the song “Dust in the Wind” by Kansas. David Segal in his article, “Things are Looking Up for the Director Woody Allen. No?” (Washington Post, July 26, 2006), wrote, “Allen is evangelically passionate about a few subjects. None more so than the chilling emptiness of life…The 70-year-old writer and director has been musing about life, sex, work, death and his generally futile search for hope…the world according to Woody is so bereft of meaning, so godless and absurd, that the only proper response is to curl up on a sofa and howl for your mommy.”

The song “Dust in the Wind” recommends, “Don’t hang on.” Allen himself says, “It’s just an awful thing and in that context you’ve got to find an answer to the question: ‘Why go on?’ ”  It is ironic that Chris Martin the leader of Coldplay regards Woody Allen as his favorite director.

Lets sum up the final conclusions of these gentlemen:  Coldplay is still searching for that “something more.” Woody Allen has concluded the search is futile. Livgren and Hope of Kansas have become Christians and are involved in fulltime ministry. Solomon’s experiment was a search for meaning to life “under the sun.” Then in last few words in the Book of Ecclesiastes he looks above the sun and brings God back into the picture: “The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: Fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.”

You can hear Kerry Livgren’s story from this youtube link:

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The answer to find meaning in life is found in putting your faith and trust in Jesus Christ. The Bible is true from cover to cover and can be trusted.

Thank you again for your time and I know how busy you are.

Sincerely,

Everette Hatcher, everettehatcher@gmail.comhttp://www.thedailyhatch.org, cell ph 501-920-5733, 13900 Cottontail Lane, Alexander, AR 72002

PS: What is the meaning of life? Find it in the end of the open letter I wrote to you on April 23, 2020. 

Below is the workforce of THE TAMBURY GAZETTE 

Seen below is the third episode of AFTERLIFE (season 1) when Matt takes Tony to a comedy club with front row seats to cheer him up but it turns into disaster!!!

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Part 1 “Why have integrity in Godless Darwinian Universe where Might makes Right?”

Part 2 “My April 14, 2016 Letter to Ricky mentioned Book of Ecclesiastes and the Meaninglessness of Life”

Part 3 Letter about Brandon Burlsworth concerning suffering and pain and evil in the world.  “Why didn’t Jesus save her [from cancer]?” (Tony’s 10 year old nephew George in episode 2)

Part 4 Letter on Solomon on Death Tony in episode one, “It should be everyone’s moral duty to kill themselves.”

Part 5 Letter on subject of Learning in Ecclesiastes “I don’t read books of fiction but mainly science and philosophy”

Part 6 Letter on Luxuries in Ecclesiastes Part 6, The Music of AFTERLIFE (Part A)

Part 7 Letter on Labor in Ecclesiastes My Letter to Ricky on Easter in 2017 concerning Book of Ecclesiastes and the legacy of a person’s life work

Part 8 Letter on Liquor in Ecclesiastes Tony’s late wife Lisa told him, “Don’t get drunk all the time alright? It will only make you feel worse in the log run!”

Part 9 Letter on Laughter in Ecclesiastes , I said of laughter, “It is foolishness;” and of mirth, “What does it accomplish?” Ecclesiastes 2:2

Part 10 Final letter to Ricky on Ladies in Ecclesiastes “I gathered a chorus of singers to entertain me with song, and—most exquisite of all pleasures— voluptuous maidens for my bed…behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun” Ecclesiastes 2:8-11.

Part 11 Letter about Daniel Stanhope and optimistic humanism  “If man has been kicked up out of that which is only impersonal by chance , then those things that make him man-hope of purpose and significance, love, motions of morality and rationality, beauty and verbal communication-are ultimately unfulfillable and thus meaningless.” (Francis Schaeffer)

Part 12 Letter on how pursuit of God is only way to get Satisfaction Dan Jarrell “[In Ecclesiastes] if one seeks satisfaction they will never find it. In fact, every pleasure will be fleeting and can not be sustained, BUT IF ONE SEEKS GOD THEN ONE FINDS SATISFACTION”

Part 13 Letter to Stephen Hawking on Solomon realizing he will die just as a dog will die “For men and animals both breathe the same air, and both die. So mankind has no real advantage over the beasts; what an absurdity!” Ecclesiastes

Part 14 Letter to Stephen Hawking on 3 conclusions of humanism and Bertrand Russell destruction of optimistic humanism. “That Man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms—no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand. Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul’s habitation henceforth be safely built.”(Bertrand Russell, Free Man’s Worship)

Part 15 Letter to Stephen Hawking on Leonardo da Vinci and Solomon and Meaningless of life “I hate life. As far as I can see, what happens on earth is a bad business. It’s smoke—and spitting into the wind” Ecclesiastes Book of Ecclesiastes Part 15 “I hate life. As far as I can see, what happens on earth is a bad business. It’s smoke—and spitting into the wind” Ecclesiastes 2:17

Part 16 Letter to Stephen Hawking on Solomon’s longing for death but still fear of death and 5 conclusions of humanism on life UNDER THE SUN. Francis Schaeffer “Life is just a series of continual and unending cycles and man is stuck in the middle of the cycle. Youth, old age, Death. Does Solomon at this point embrace nihilism? Yes!!! He exclaims that the hates life (Ecclesiastes 2:17), he longs for death (4:2-3) Yet he stills has a fear of death (2:14-16)”

Francis Schaeffer THE AGE of FRAGMENTATION

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