Ecclesiastes, the small book near the end of the Hebrew Bible, is the work of an sceptical middle-aged man who questions the meaning of worldly success and failure.
“In my own life I have seen that a good man perishes in spite of his goodness and a wicked man endures in spite of his wickedness, so do not exert yourself to be especially good, for you may be dumbfounded.”
The author, possibly King Solomon, recounts the paths he follows in an attempt to make some sense of life — selfishness and self-interest, renouncing all bodily pleasures, avoiding all feelings, and, finally, spiritual surrender to the notion that he may never find the definitive answer in this world.
In the end, his answer to life’s meaning is this: “Go, eat your bread and drink your wine in joy, for your action was long ago approved by God. Let your clothes be freshly washed and your head never lack ointment.
“Enjoy happiness with a woman you love all the fleeting days of your life that have been granted to you under the sun. Whatever it is in your power to do, do with all your might. For there is no doing, no learning, no wisdom in the grave.”