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Shepherding the Wind

Ecclesiastes is, even on faithful and sympathetic reading, a brutal book. It looks at life with a shocking candor that most of us are simply either unwilling or unable psychologically to tolerate. But the author does not allow us to avert our gaze. He relentlessly grabs us by the scruff of the neck and shoves our noses back into the intractable evil, the incalculable woe and misery that is life under the sun, saying: "No, you cannot, you must not turn away: look at this again, look harder and longer. I know it hurts, but, trust me, it will be good for you." I have become convinced that it is not in spite of this ruthless, almost violent honesty, but because of it, that Ecclesiastes is such a relevant, even indispensible book, for our time. We live in a secular age where meaning itself is often called into question, where truth has stumbled in the streets, where, in spite of a thousand amusements, boredom and depression and malaise afflict the masses with deadly poison, where you can feel, pulsating just under the glittering, jocular surface of life, the quiet desperation which Thoreau said characterizes the lives of most men. Ecclesiastes probes this open wound and refuses to heal it lightly. But, and this is crucial, it does, enigmatically, heal it. But you simply cannot get to the cure without a full and painful diagnosis of the disease.
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