"Don't you understand, everything in this life is meaningless," cautioned the old man.
"Meaningless? Everything? Surely not!" responded the young man in disbelief.
Smiling, the old man continued, "I know, I know, because I've seen it all. You name it, and I have done it. I not only did it, but I did it in a big time, kingly fashion.
"I denied myself nothing, nothing at all. But looking back on it now, I tell you, none of it really amounted to a hill of beans.
"What do think is worthwhile in life, son? The pursuit of happiness? I had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines.
"I had music from men and women singers whenever I wanted it; all the wine I could drink whenever I wanted it; and a palace full of folks falling all over themselves doing everything possible to get in my good graces.
"But when you get everything you want whenever you want it, you quickly realize how meaningless pleasure is. Whenever you seek pleasure, pleasure eludes you. The only way you find pleasure is by seeking something else first.
"Try paying someone a sincere compliment, help someone with a chore, maybe just take a nice walk on a sunny day. The idea is to do something you really enjoy doing for its own sake. Then when you least expect it, happiness bubbles up like a well inside you. You don't find pleasure; pleasure finds you.
"Pursuing pleasure for pleasure's sake, however, is like chasing after the wind.
"If not pleasure, then what? Wealth? Should you dedicate your life pursuing wealth?
"Listen to me. I had houses, vineyards, gardens, parks, fruit trees, reservoirs watering groves of trees, male and female slaves, a harem full of women, men and women singers, more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem, horses and chariots, and more silver and gold than you can imagine.
"I had it all. Believe me, if money and things could buy happiness, then you would be looking at the happiness man in the world!
"But what did I discover? Just this: Whoever loves money never has money enough. They always want more. Rich men don't even sleep well at night. They know someone's out there plotting to get their money.
"Money has its uses, but don't lose your perspective. You're not taking it with you. It will all be left behind to someone who didn't earn it."
The young man frowned, "I can see pleasure and wealth aren't all they're cracked up to be, but what of education? learning? wisdom? You, of all people, cannot deny the value of wisdom."
"Oh yes, I spent a great deal of time in study. I learned everything I could about every subject you can think of. That's how I got my reputation for wisdom. It didn't fall out of a tree, you know.
"What did I find out? The more you learn, the more depressed you get. Too much study just wears you out. Certainly wisdom is better than foolishness, but in a few short years, both the wise man and the fool wind up in the grave. Before long both are forgotten.
"Well then, what of work?" inquired the young man. "Will you now tell me work is also meaningless?"
"Work? Yes, I worked. I built things. I built houses, reservoirs, and even a temple for God. I delighted in my work. That was my reward.
"Of course in the long run, all of our toil is useless. Whatever you make, you can't take it with you. What you labored for will be turned over to another who didn't work for it. And in due course, it will be torn down or destroyed and soon forgotten."
"How depressing! You've thrown a wet blanket on pleasure, money, knowledge, and work. For the life of me, I don't know what's left," cried the young man.
"My son, I'll tell you the truth," replied the old man. "You can do nothing better than eat, drink, and find satisfaction in your work. Enjoy life with the woman you love. Whatever you do, do with all your might because you never know when your life might end.
"While you are young, enjoy life as much as possible. The years slip by quickly from youth to adult to middle age to old age. When death calls, your body returns to the ground and your soul to God who gave it."
Then the old man issued his final warning: "Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil."
The year was 1,000 B.C., the old man, King Solomon. Has advice from 'the wisest man who ever lived' stood the test of time? You be the judge.
About The Author
Jerry Richard Boone is a sailor, author, webmaster, and cartoonist. His works include THE SAFETY LINE - EVIDENCE OF THINGS NOT SEEN, an apologetic study published 1998, and VictoriaStation.us (http://victoriastation.us) a popular joke, quote, cartoon web site. He is also a contributor to "Christian Living in the Mature Years" magazine, and author of the articles "God's Billboards Invade Cyberspace" and "To Quote or Not to Quote."