As young adults, we all want something. We are in the building years, trying to establish careers, homes, families, or reputations. And it seems we are hard to satisfy. We are picky. We keep our options open. We have unrealistic expectations. We are notoriously unhappy and unsatisfied. We always want more. If we just had more, we would be happy.
There is at least one glaring problem with that line of logic, and his name is Solomon.
Better than You
King Solomon wrote Ecclesiastes, which we previously studied at The Porch, along with a book about romance (Song of Solomon) and the majority of a book about wisdom (Proverbs).
He was also better than you, in pretty much every way.
Not just you, but me, A-list movie stars, Fortune 500 CEOs, and every U.S. President. Few people in history have a resume that could match Solomon’s, and most of them have the word “King” (or some variation) in front of their names. Which means that, no matter what you may accomplish with the rest of your life, Solomon will still most assuredly be better than you.
In fact, there is probably not even a single area in life where you could surpass him. Solomon was:
Richer than you. Solomon was the richest person on the face of the earth while he was alive. In today’s dollars, his income in gold alone amounts to almost a billion dollars each year. That’s income, not net worth. If you have a coveted six-figure job, you are still only making about 0.01% of what Solomon did.
Smarter than you. Solomon was the wisest man in the world. Heads of state would travel for weeks and pay great sums just to learn from him.
More powerful than you. Well, he was king, back when kings had almost limitless power. And he was a king whom other kings paid tribute to.
More famous than you. Everyone knew who he was. Everyone still knows who he is.
Way more married than you. Hate weddings because they remind you that you are still single? Imagine being Solomon’s best man: a wedding every weekend, for years and years, and it’s always the same guy getting married. He had 700 wives and 300 live-in girlfriends. This would also suggest he had more sex than you.
Better-looking than you. Well, at least better-dressed, since Jesus used him as an example of someone with nice threads, and that was 1,000 years after the fact. Plus, I hear rumors that money, power, and fame can be attractive.
Better at partying than you. Based just on the amount of food consumed, it is estimated that Solomon had as many as 15,000 people over for dinner. Every night. On one special occasion, he invited pretty much the whole country, and the menu included 22,000 cattle and 120,000 sheep and goats.
More successful than you. See all of the above, and then factor in that he also built fleets of ships, planted forests, and built the temple. He had 30,000 people working for him, and his not-so-humble abode was a palace it took them 13 years to build.
In other words, whatever earthly things you might be chasing after, Solomon had them and had them to the absolute max.
If any of those things had the power to bring happiness, then Solomon should have been the happiest guy on the planet. Ecclesiastes shows us otherwise. Writing the book after he had achieved all of his success, Solomon starts off by getting right to the point:
“Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” Ecclesiastes 1:2
You see, there is one benefit to having absolutely everything: you can know for certain that none of it has any true value. The rest of us may falsely believe that we will finally be happy when we have this job, or that amount of money, or this type of relationship. When we get those things and find that we are still not happy, we somehow think that the solution is to get yet more of what we already have. Solomon knows better—he knows it for a fact—and is desperately trying, through Ecclesiastes, to keep us from making the same mistake.
Don’t repeat the experiment. Don’t waste your life chasing after meaningless things.
So how can you find meaning and happiness and avoid a 1/4 Life Crisis? Come to The Porch to find out.
– JP (with Keven McConaghy)
(Originally published September 23, 2013)