“The Show About Nothing”
As strange as it may seem, The book of Ecclesiastes and the 1990’s sitcom Seinfeld bear close resemblance. The everyday-life, and trivial nature of Jerry Seinfeld’s comedy made it a very funny show. The concept of Seinfeld was unmistakably nihilistic, and emphasized the meaninglessness of life; eventually it became known as “the show about nothing.” Instead of endeavoring for drawn-out comic situations (popular in most sitcoms of the day), the writers focused on the superficial incidents of our day-to-day lives, bringing its audience comic therapy from them rather than the drudgery that is normally associated. This made Seinfeld the highest ranked show by 1994/1995! (http://www.classictvhits.com/tvratings/1994.htm)
Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld gave us “the show about nothing,” while king Solomon gave us “vanity of vanities! All is vanity.” Each exposed the apparent meaninglessness of life—but only one with hope.
A Happy Existentialism
There are many similarities between the existential philosophy of the mid twentieth century and the postmodern ethos of today. Both question ‘outside-yourself’ objective truth, and believe that meaning can be created on a personal level. Probably the most noticeable difference between existentialism and postmodernism is mood; while existential writers often exhibited a sense of gloom in their writings, postmodern man doesn’t even have the time or desire to contemplate the meaningless of their life. It now just makes for good comedy. David Wells writes,
“Postmoderns are remarkably nonchalant about the meaninglessness that they experience in life. Reading the works of an earlier generation of writers, existentialist authors like Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus, one almost develops a sense of vertigo, the kind of apprehension that one gets when standing too near the edge of a terrifying precipice, so bleak, empty, and life-threatening was their vision. That sense, however, has now completely gone. Postmoderns live on the surface, not in the depths, and theirs is a despair to be tossed off lightly and which might even be alleviated by nothing more serious than a sitcom” (David Wells, The Supremacy Of Christ In a Postmodern World, 38).
“The Book About Something”
To be clear, Ecclesiastes is not “the book about nothing.” It’s emphatically the opposite! Though Solomon does paint with a gloomy brush at times—declaring as meaningless every aspect of the American dream!—there is a phrase that is crucial to understanding the book: “under the sun.” Solomon is saying that the meaninglessness of life confined to that which is done “under the sun.” For Christians this is good news for we serve a Saviour who is transcendent—above the sun! Now, through the reconciliation of the Gospel, we can find life’s meaning in the above-the-sun God. By His grace He has revealed this meaning to us in the Scriptures, and assures us that life in Christ is not vanity!
“Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” (I Corinthians 15:58)
“The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13)