Going nowhere fast
There’s an old saying, life is what you make it. But is it really what we make it? Many people spend their days attempting to live out this adage. Giving all they have. Blood, sweat and tears. The energy expenditure for each life, let alone all of humanity since inception is incalculable. But where does all of this energy go after we’ve passed? What does it gain?
There was a time when I was fascinated by the rotation of the Earth. The seasons that come and go. The cycles our world go through, over and over and over again. Watching the trees shed their leaves only to grow new ones. Admiring the insects and animals that magically disappear during the cold winter months only for them to spring out when the weather’s warmth returns. And while there is so much about creation to be in awe about, if I can be honest, the repetition in life weighs on me. It’s…always the same. And I’m left asking, where does all of this energy go? What does it gain?
Do the birds know of the prehistoric creatures that soared the skies? Are the insects aware of their ancient predecessors? Or are they trapped in a brief moment of time with zero knowledge of the ancient past, only concerned with the day? I even wonder about the trees. Silly, I know. But they are living things right? Are they tired of cycling? They never budge, doing their job day in and day out. And many have been on Earth for hundreds of years. Some, such as the The Great Basin Bristlecone Pine, for thousands of years. If only trees could talk. I’m sure there are many great stories they could tell.
Humans have been on this planet for a very long time too. And to think that life was taking place well before any of us who are alive today is nearly impossible to get our heads around. You and I weren’t even a thought at one point and we’ve missed so much. We can only read about the past and the lives people lived. It is like this for everyone that has had an opportunity to breath air on this Earth. And while we’ve missed so much activity and so many events, what have we really missed? And what has really been gained after you and I leave this planet?
While each generation likes to think of themselves as better, more civilized and more scientific than their predecessors, the truth is, we’re not. The people of today aren’t any more intelligent or better than those from the ancient past. Maybe better off in some regards - such as the availability of certain tools to express our ideas - but certainly not better. I truly believe we like to tell ourselves we are better or more progressive simply because it makes us feel like we’re moving forward. Because deep down, we all know that like the trees we are just cycling energy. If you were to ask anyone for humanity’s destination there isn’t a single soul that could tell you what that is. And so subsequently they won’t be able to tell you when we’ve arrived. So much energy spent. But where are we truly going?
I’ve learned that life is akin to a hamster who never leaves its wheel. The effort spent inside the wheel can give us a false impression of progress. There’s much energy spent in creating, making, producing and building. Eventually the hamster will be replaced by another who will repeat the same tasks, but maybe more efficiently. Perhaps with better tools and knowledge from the previous hamster. It’s totally possible that this new hamster will perceive the previous as a less intelligent cave dweller, all while being trapped in the same wheel as its predecessor. Sure, life becomes what we make it, but only if we choose to ignore what’s really happening in life. If we choose to ignore the wheel. And if so, is life really what we make it, or are we pretending?
I believe we’re all like the hamster. We’re building, chasing, creating and making. We want to leave some sort of legacy for the next person to pick up where we left off. But what is true progress? Where are we going? We are all trapped inside the wheel of life that just keeps on spinning, cycling energy.
If this seems a bit hard to grasp, or even downright depressing, know that there are people that came before you and I who believed the same. People much wiser than you and I. One of them, being King Solomon.
What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun? 4 A generation goes, and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever. - Ecclesiastes 1:3–4 (ESV)
Solomon asked these same questions in the book of Ecclesiastes. This book has easily become one of my favorites. Depending on the day, it is my favorite. Chiefly because Solomon was willing to be vulnerable in his writings. He was willing to call out the duality of our lives. The fictional narrative that helps us feel better that we overlay on top of the non-fictional one. You know, the one that makes us question life. What I also enjoy about this book, is that God knew you and I would wrestle with these types of thoughts. And so He gave us Solomon as a way for us to know these thoughts are completely natural. They are also ok.
What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun. - Ecclesiastes 1:9 (ESV)
There is no remembrance of former things, nor will there be any remembrance of later things yet to be among those who come after. - Ecclesiastes 1:11 (ESV)
We chase, we build, we create, we make. But then we die. Where does all of this energy go? Are we really going anywhere? While this can be a difficult question to deal with, fortunately for us there is an answer that explains our dilemma as well has how to live without despair.
The Fall. The curse God placed on creation did more than commonly thought. Often when we hear about the curse it is in the context of sin and Adam and Eve’s punishment. In our last edition we dug into that idea a bit more and we saw it wasn’t really just about punishment but necessity in order for Adam and Eve to be sustained temporarily while outside of God’s grace.
But there was something else that happened when God cursed the ground and this isn’t commonly talked about. Perhaps because we don’t spend enough time reading the Bible, and instead spend far too much time trying to be theologians. The pharisees of the past had the same problem. But I digress.
When God cursed the ground all of creation was put on pause. Yes, pause. Realize that creation operated in a different manner before the curse. How do we know? Well, for starters death had not entered the scene. While Adam and Eve did not have immortality - as they opted not to eat from the Tree of Eternal Life - they did have an extraordinary expiration date. Along those lines remember the biblical patriarch Methuselah lived to be 969 years old and Adam lived to be 930 years old post curse. We also know God walked with His creation. We know that Satan - a divine creature - worked in the Garden. And this was at a time when man did not have to toil painfully to stay alive. Speaking of pain, who could forget that childbirth was without pain before the Fall. As I’m sure you can see, life and all of creation was different. The curse literally changed everything.
While it’s easy to get ahead of ourselves and think about a world without sin, suffering or death, I believe this type of life begs much deeper questions. What would be the purpose of food if a man could live forever anyway? Were seasons designed into creation? Seasons carry with it death. Death of plant life and insects followed by a new birth each spring. And how could Adam and Eve be physically sustained in freezing temperatures without clothes? Was rain necessary? Because today if there is a complete absence of rain, all of humanity as well as all life would die out. There are so many questions begged by the notion of a perfect world.
What I want you to see is that in order for a world to be perfect, everything prior to the Fall would’ve been assigned a different purpose. Down to the smallest organisms. Today, creation operates in a way to merely sustainlife so we all live in world of repetition. Each generation chasing the idea of human flourishing while trapped in a reality that is merely cycling. The truth is, we all get a chance at the wheel. But the wheel isn’t really going anywhere. Because life today isn’t meant for progress. Life today has been stripped of its true purpose and value. This is what a curse does. It stifles life. All life.
As difficult as this truth may be, I believe - like Solomon - it is a much healthier perspective to have. Why? Because once we see life for what it truly is it can force our hearts to yearn for God, and not this world. Our hope becomes detached from a broken, fallen world that we try to cover up through accomplishments of our dreams. And instead our hope finds itself chasing, pursuing and securing itself in God.
When God cursed creation He wasn’t just punishing Adam for his sin. He was doing much more. In this edition I wanted to lay just a little bit of ground work for what’s coming next. There is so much I want to share with you. There are so many levels to God’s work and His love for us runs much deeper than I believe we can fathom. We’re still in Genesis!! The first few chapters!! My God!