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Vanity of Vanities

It's a foul night. Autumn leaves brush violently against the terrace wall. The curtains catch a flurry that sneaks passed the window seal like an unwelcome guest. You sit silently in your quarters, reading Robert Frost by candlelight. Suddenly, "Pointless!" a bone-chilling shriek comes barreling down the corridor like a thunder roll. "Pointless! Utterly meaningless!" The muffled clangor of wreckage being tossed to the floor wakes the sleepy halls with reveille. It's the old hermit under your care, the master of the house. "It doesn't matter! None of it matters!" You hurry to his bed chamber at the east-wing. The house is dark, cold, and empty apart the memories framed on plastered walls, with eyes that follow as you dash from end to end. The screaming halts abruptly as you fall upon the door. You hesitate for a moment, then carefully twist the knob. The door groans achingly, sweeping aside a mound of papers lining the floor. A fiery glow silhouettes a pair of high-back chairs at the other end of the room. An aroma of Oriental tobaccos lingers in the air. The pops and scratches of the phonograph echo in a haunting refrain. The old hermit sits afore a roaring hearth, breaking long slow draws of his pipe for small deliberate sips of brandi. You approach with caution, only to find a beguiling grin painted on the old mans lips.

"Is everything alright, sir?" you ask in a broken singsongy voice. He gestures towards the chair next to him.

"What does a person gain from all his labor at which he toils under the sun?" he asks as you take your seat. "Everything is wearisome, more than one can express." Then for a moment, the grin falls from his face, and with a fateful hunger in his eyes, he utters, "Vanity of vanities: the whole is vanity."


In this series we will explore the thoughts and themes laid out in the Biblical book of Ecclesiastes: meaning and meaninglessness; life and death; spirituality and nihilism; wisdom and foolishness; a life fulfilled and a life wasted. We will also be drawing inspiration from various philosophies and the arts (both classical and modern) to help to expound upon the wisdom and genius found in this ancient text. 

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