Monday, October 24, 2011

Vanity of Vanities...

Mirror, mirror, who's the handsomest of them all?

King James version of Ecclesiastes literally "Book of the Teacher" 1:2 says:

"Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity"

The first time I heard this phrase was when I was in grade school.  I was wearing a beautiful fancy dress that my mother so patiently had sewn for me to celebrate an event in school and she wanted me to wear the best dress that she could provide for me.   I proudly walked around in my soft blue, organdy dress believing that I had the most beautiful dress that day.  I saw our Mother Superior (I was in a school run by nuns) and I greeted her with a beeming hello.  To my surprise,  the only reply I received was her words:

   "Vanity of vanities, everything is vanity".

For a long time, I thought about that phrase and there was only one meaning that I could think of  then.  "That I should avoid wearing lavish and fancy clothes".

In our everyday English usage, the word vanity conveys an image of excessive pride in oneself or in one's appearance, a picture of conceit and perhaps even arrogance. But what did the author of the book of Ecclesiastes actually have in mind?

I have read since several interpretations but the one that had a more profound meaning to me,  is the following explanation:  "That everything in this physical world is transitory, ephemeral, impermanent and without any enduring substance. We often try to cling to things, and attempt to resist changes, but alas that is wasted effort, like trying to chase the wind",  (Source:  Living from the heart) or follow a rainbow.  And I have to be furtherly enlightened after reading  Ecclesiastes (NIV)  which contains the fundamental truths in life expressed in such a poetic way as I agree with and to quote American 20th-century

novelist Thomas Wolfe  who  wrote: “For of all I have ever seen or learned, this book seems to me the noblest, the wisest, and the most powerful expression of man’s life upon this earth – and also the highest flower of poetry, eloquence, and truth. I am not given to dogmatic judgments in the matter of literary creation, but if I had to make one I could say that Ecclesiastes is the greatest single piece of writing I have ever known, and the wisdom expressed in it the most lasting and profound.”

Everything being transitory, ephemeral and impermanent, we should enjoy every second of our time of co-existence but at the same time not to forget that we should aim at pursuing kindness and goodness towards one another leading to eternal peace.

On the other hand, is there anything wrong with being vain?  No, if it is not an obsession. No, if you want to take care of your appearance and create a good impression.

Everyone has his own characteristics and unless it becomes an obsessive behaviour or Narcissistic, then there is nothing wrong, with being vain. 

Source of image:  Clip Art Guide

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