Are we just chasing after the wind?

Earlier this week, I read the lead article from the newest issue of Consp!re Magazine, by David Hilfiker (you can read it on the Conspire website, conspiremagazine.com). The gist of the article is that significant, deadly, climate change is no longer an “if,” or a potentiality, but a nearly unavoidable inevitability. A 2 degrees Celcius increase in global temperature is considered the point of no return–currently we are at .8 degrees increase. Basically, Hilfiker says that the amount of popular, governmental, and corporate radical change of lifestyle and practice needed to avoid such an increase by 2050 is pretty much impossible at this point. The best we can do is prepare to help those most vulnerable to the types of catastrophic effects that this change is likely to have. Droughts, famine, severe weather events–people with wealth will have the ability to distance themselves from some of these effects, but those at the margins, and many developing countries, will suffer enormously.

I’ve met David a handful of times, and I know from his own testimony and from that of others that he has struggled with depression. He may be the sort who is always more likely to see the glass half empty (or in this case, 2/3 empty), but something about his article reminded me of the writer of Ecclesiastes.

18 For with much wisdom comes much sorrow;
the more knowledge, the more grief.

If you’re not careful, you can read an article like David’s and feel completely despairing. That may be a necessary step, to sit in the reality of just how far we’ve gone. For me, it makes me understand Ecclesiastes a little better–how much of our lives are just a chasing after the wind? How much time do we waste on the meaningless–accumulating wealth, the attainment of prestige, buying loads and loads of junk.

Here are some other words from Ecclesiastes that seem particularly apropos:

Chapter 4:
4 Again I looked and saw all the oppression that was taking place under the sun:

I saw the tears of the oppressed—
and they have no comforter;
power was on the side of their oppressors—
and they have no comforter.
2 And I declared that the dead,
who had already died,
are happier than the living,
who are still alive.
3 But better than both
is the one who has never been born,
who has not seen the evil
that is done under the sun.

Chapter 5:
8 If you see the poor oppressed in a district, and justice and rights denied, do not be surprised at such things; for one official is eyed by a higher one, and over them both are others higher still. 9 The increase from the land is taken by all; the king himself profits from the fields.

10 Whoever loves money never has enough;
whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income.
This too is meaningless.
11 As goods increase,
so do those who consume them.
And what benefit are they to the owners
except to feast their eyes on them?
12 The sleep of a laborer is sweet,
whether they eat little or much,
but as for the rich, their abundance
permits them no sleep.
13 I have seen a grievous evil under the sun:
wealth hoarded to the harm of its owners,
14 or wealth lost through some misfortune,
so that when they have children
there is nothing left for them to inherit.
15 Everyone comes naked from their mother’s womb,
and as everyone comes, so they depart.
They take nothing from their toil
that they can carry in their hands.

I know that it’s not helpful to dwell forever in hopelessness. But maybe one of the problems in our current situation is that too few people have wrestled with the consequences of our chasing after the wind. David’s article was a wake-up call for me–not that I wasn’t conscious before, but now I feel a greater sense of urgency. I can only pray that others feel such an urgency.

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One Response

  1. I have found reflecting on the book (and career of jeremiah) is helpful. Just that he tells the truth of disaster, but because he is in solidarity with his people, the truth also crushes him. Sometimes depression is just the right response. And yet after the utter carnage of judgement, there is illogical hope from the God of the resurrection. Not a taking away of disaster, but a hope nevertheless. I think what is most needed now is an account of why to do what is right, even in the face of upcoming disaster

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