I’m a long time student of an ancient collection of writings, a collection that includes books named Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and The Song of Solomon. That interest has deepened lately. For example, I’ve often been perplexed by this bit of advice from the book of Ecclesiastes:
So I commended enjoyment, for a person has nothing better to do under the sun than to eat, drink and be merry. (Ecclesiastes 18:4)
Writing in the New Testament, St. Paul quotes that statement and suggests it reflects a lousy attitude and I’d normally go along with him. But today, in my locked-down socially distanced world, those words sound like a reasonable plan. I’ve felt similarly challenged by a line from the Book of Proverbs:
Wealth brings many friends but the poor are left friendless. (Proverbs 19:4)
Watching Black Lives Matter protests on TV, I’m wondering what I’m supposed to make of that saying? Is the situation it describes supposed to be a good thing, a bad thing or is it just the way things are? As I said, I love these writings (I’ve actually written three books about them).They pose practical down-to-earth questions that are made even more relevant by these messed up times.
Together the four titles I mentioned are called “Wisdom Literature” or just plain “Wisdom”. “Wisdom” offers a distinctive vision of the world, a vision native to every culture on earth. First, Wisdom says reality has a definite shape and structure. There are rules that determine how things work. Second, Wisdom shows it’s students how to behave in such a way as to make those rules work in their favor. Third, Wisdom warns that certain behaviors run against reality’s grain and those who do those things will find that reality can rise up and bite them on the ass.
As I’ve noted, we live in challenging times. Some say everything is flying apart and I’ll admit that it can feel that way. But what if there really are truths that are always true and facts that aren’t ever fake? What if some things are right and others are wrong, not provisionally but always and everywhere? Sitting “distanced” in my home office watching violence on TV while climate change bakes my garden to a crispy New Mexico brown I have felt the need for “Wisdom” like never before. In these postings called Covid Cues I’ll be sharing “Cues” for living through these “Covid” times that have been preserved for us in the ancient wisdom of the Book of Proverbs.