It is the season, apparently, for coming up with twelve rules for life, in the manner of Jordan Peterson, whose own book of twelve rules is subtitled "An Antidote to Chaos." Smitty put out his own list, the seventh of which turns out to be: "Read Ecclesiastes 7."

And why not? There is always a good reason to read Ecclesiastes. And this passage, at this moment — your mileage may vary — strikes me as especially pertinent:

[16]Be not righteous over much; neither make thyself over wise: why shouldest thou destroy thyself? [17] Be not over much wicked, neither be thou foolish: why shouldest thou die before thy time? [18] It is good that thou shouldest take hold of this; yea, also from this withdraw not thine hand: for he that feareth God shall come forth of them all. [19] Wisdom strengtheneth the wise more than ten mighty men which are in the city. [20] For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not. [21] Also take no heed unto all words that are spoken; lest thou hear thy servant curse thee: [22] For oftentimes also thine own heart knoweth that thou thyself likewise hast cursed others.

I don't think there's any danger of my being over much righteous; I am too easily distracted by the pleasures of the flesh. Usually it's not even my own flesh. Last night, I was poking around some of my favorite photo sites, and temporarily forgot that George Foreman was grilling me a steak two rooms away. I have long since learned how long it takes George's machine to yield up a proper medium; this dallying went on for two, three minutes too long, and the result was no more pink on the inside than Vin Diesel's garage. I duly cursed myself, as I too often have cursed others, and contemplated the next step. I could pitch it out in the yard, where one of the wandering neighborhood critters would quickly find it; this solution was rejected after two words: "Nine dollars."

Eventually I hit on an answer: I would follow the lead of the President of the United States. I duly fetched a bottle of ketchup and created on my plate a symphony in red and black. I must confess that not all the notes were melodious, and in terms of tenderness, I've had better catcher's mitts. I did, however, resist the temptation to treat myself to two scoops of ice cream. In fact, I didn't have even one scoop. Says the wise king in Ecclesiastes 8:15:

Then I commended mirth, because a man hath no better thing under the sun, than to eat, and to drink, and to be merry: for that shall abide with him of his labour the days of his life, which God giveth him under the sun.

This incident was not exactly mirthful, but what the heck. Perhaps there are people who present the appearance of a complete and utter bundle of joy, but I suspect they're concealing a small black cloudlet, the personification of melancholy, the ever-present companion of Joe Btfsplk. And this, it would appear, is for a reason; the time, as it will, has come.

Ecclesiastes 3, as you already know.

(Thanks to Kari Rueslåtten, Pete Seeger, and James Roger McGuinn.)

The Vent

  9 February 2018

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