Much Ado About Nothing Much

Purposelessness

Has not the LORD Almighty determined that the people’s labor is only fuel for the fire, that the nations exhaust themselves for nothing? (Habakkuk 2:13)

I knew it all along. Work is highly overrated. There you are, busting your buns eight hours a day, 52 weeks a year for 45 years or more, and what do you have to show for it? A lifetime of hassle, headaches, and hemorrhoids. It doesn’t matter how hard you slave; everybody rides into the sunset just like everybody else: poor, naked, and with saddle sores. All the monuments to human achievement, from the pyramids to the moon landing to velcro, are kindling for the big bonfire of the vanities, tentatively scheduled for the first weekend after Armageddon. Every act of national self-preservation, global domination, and market monopoly that doesn’t end up on the proverbial ash heap of history will be put on dusty display at the Museum of Human Futility where, ages and ages hence, the new humanity will stroll with utter disinterest. For variety, here’s a short sentence.

Habakkuk isn’t the only guy who fessed up the futility factor. The writer of Ecclesiastes is a veritable Emo when it comes to the pointlessness of life as we know it. He whines, “When I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.” These guys are definitely not motivational speaker material.

All this, of course, flies in the face of our neurotic preoccupation with productivity and success. We’re told in school, in the business world, and in church that we’re supposed to accomplish something. It may be getting a degree; it may be getting rich; it may be getting to heaven; it may be all three. We’re programmed for achievement and to look down in contempt at all those lazy, good-for-nothing leaches who sit on their assets while the rest of us pay the bills.

And then there are the grand schemes of the nations. America has its manifest destiny as the shining light (and oil glutton) of the world. Russia grumbles like a bear. China is the polite bull in the shop. Iran wants to play hardball. North Korea just wants a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Pick any country and you’ve got yourself a psychosis of sovereign self-interest. It’s a global, full-contact chess match where the stakes are astronomical and the outcome, according to Habakkuk, counts for exactly nothing.

Habakkuk may not give you a reason to get out of bed in the morning, but he does offer an effective noise-cancellation system. Why worry about the economy? Why fret over the Middle East? Why work yourself silly? It’s all going to burn, baby. All of it. All. Of. It. Once you buy into that, things get a little quieter. The nagging voices demanding more of whatever, that scream “duck” at every vibration in the space-time continuum, those voices tend to fade when you see everything as a charcoal briquette.

Here’s my advice: Sleep in once in a while. Skip house cleaning every so often. Regularly don’t catch the news. Turn off the computer for a day. Ignore the clock for once. Drink an extra cup of coffee. Waste an entire afternoon. Spend twenty bucks on something really stupid. Let a dandelion grow unmolested. Leave something undone on purpose. Take a nap.

Repeat.

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