“Vanity of vanities, says the Teacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity,” says the author of Ecclesiastes.
Another way to render “vanity” is “meaningless” or “empty”. The authorship of this book has traditionally been attributed to King Solomon, the “wisest man to ever live”. This is a man who had everything. Health, riches, power, peace, good food and drink, and maybe a few too many wives. All this, and he declares that life is meaningless.
What gets you up in the morning? What, if anything gives you reason to say at the end of the day that “this has been a good day”? How can we possibly have meaning when Solomon couldn’t find it?
We Have An Intrinsic Need To Self Actualize
The term “self actualization” was coined by the organismic theorist Kurt Goldstein. “In Goldstein’s view, it is the organism’s master motive, the only real motive: ‘the tendency to actualize itself as fully as possible is the basic drive… the drive of self-actualization.'”
In other words, everyone without exception needs to have a sense of meaning. We need a lasting purpose in life.
Abraham Maslow identified five human needs, starting with our most basic of physiological needs and then continuing on to safety, then love & belonging, then esteem, and at the very top, self actualization. It is very interesting to me that the science of psychology ties together meaning with spirituality. This tells me that there is nothing in the physical realm which in and of itself can provide anyone with real or lasting meaning in life.
Personally, I think that in order for anyone to find any kind of meaning in existence, we need to start to understand the nature of God.
In the 300’s, the Cappadocian fathers were largely responsible for digging into scripture and giving us the non dualistic trinitarian theology that I believe is required for us to understand what God is all about and how we fit into this existence we’ve been thrust into. Though the modern western stream of Christianity largely believes in the basic doctrine of the trinity and gives lip-service to it, we have lost the implications of what this trinitarian God means for us.
In the 400’s Augustine of Hippo infused the dualistic philosophies of Plato and Aristotle into Christianity, and I think we need to go back to the pre-Augustine church in order to see the connection between the trinity and our life’s meaning.