Daniel Boorstin said, "We risk being the first people in history to have been able to make their illusions so vivid, so persuasive, so 'realistic' that they can live in them." All creation wears a veneer of our making. We have "paved paradise," wall-papered nature with our designs and patterns, our wants and wishes. Walter Cronkite closed his news hour with the phrase, "And that's the way it is." But now, all men and women see not what is but what is built. The constructions of our culture hide the permanent things. Even worse, the virtual world (what does that mean anyway?) supplants the real—the only—world with the sad consequence that we reckon reality infinitely malleable in servitude to our desires.
Today more than ever, we need to see the world not as we wish it were, not as our cultural narratives would have it, but as it is, unclad under the sun. We need a perspective that we cannot attain on our own, free from mythmaking, nostalgia, and the lying promises of the goddess Progress. How do we go around, behind, and under the claptrap of culture to see the bones of creation? How can we grasp our human condition apart from illusion and wishing-it-so?
We could go back to a time before the internet, before Facebook, before television, before movies, even before novels and ask for wisdom. Let us go back to the Iron Age in the Middle East. Let us ask King Solomon, "What is this world all about? Hold no punches. Tell us the truth."
His answer would be Ecclesiastes.
Ecclesiastes paints a bleak and barren landscape. On its dusty plain generations come and generations go. They leave not memory, only dust. The sun rises and sets and counts out the days of man's short life. The wind blows on its circuit—and man chases it. He labors his life long but grasps little that endures. Ecclesiastes is a picture of creation under curse, subject to futility, painted with a broad brush. Solomon's book is an assault on our senses. It describes a world we would not choose, a dying world, fallen from paradise, a creation in the clutches of the curse. Were we to write Ecclesiastes, our description of this world would likely be more sanguine with fewer hard edges. But would it be real?
Into this world of curse came the Man of Sorrows. He did not come to impart wisdom, though wisdom he is. He did not come to merely observe, though his knowledge of our state was complete. He came to experience in full the futility and death and dust of Solomon's world, to bear the curse in its fullness, and to do so for us. He came to make all things new.