Do we still seek wisdom? After all the time we spent in school, after all the lectures and explanations we’ve heard about every possible subject – after the extra time and energy we put into learning about the subjects we actually care about – what’s left? We read all the controversial things about which everyone has an opinion – but is it better to know more or to know less? On the one hand, we can only be happy if we know certain things – specifically, good things. Knowing is an unavoidable part of being human – it is something we start doing before we’re even born. On the other hand, knowing other things can make happiness impossible – at least seemingly. We receive a formal education at school about different subjects: math, science, language, philosophy, art. Life experience also causes us to know more. At a given point, for most people, we accumulate an amount of knowledge in different areas that we deem sufficient. Curiosity wanes in general, though we may still maintain interest in a few select areas, such as wine, sports, technology, history, art, religion, etc.
EVAGRIUS OF PONTUS:
To those who have entered into the church of the mind and marvel in contemplation of what has come into being, the text says, Do not think that this is the ultimate end or that these are the promises that have been stored up for you. For all these things are [only] vanity of vanities before the knowledge of one’s God. For, just as it is futile for medicine [to seek] a final cure, so is it useless [to seek] after knowledge of the Holy Trinity in the ideas of the [present] ages and worlds.
One of the main occupations of our human life has to do with filling up what is empty. We equate happiness with an experience of fullness. Many different areas of our lives need filling: our stomachs, our schedules, the gas tank of our car, our bank accounts, our hearts, our minds, our hopes, etc. The word “vanity” could be a synonym for emptiness. The difference is that what is vain often seems to be worthwhile at one level – we experience some degree of satisfaction – but it leaves us empty. Eating will satisfy a hunger for food, but eating will not fill the other areas of my heart that experience emptiness. That’s the foolishness of the man who has stockpiled food in today’s Gospel. As important as it is to fill your stomach every day, a full stomach is not the same as a full life. Imagining that you don’t have to worry about tomorrow anymore because you have an unlimited supply of resources is an illusion. Tomorrow isn’t just twenty-four hours from now, the real tomorrow is eternity. Any pursuit that tries to manage tomorrow as though it were disconnected from eternity is vain – empty. Any reliance on the situations and things of this world is vain because they will not follow in the next.