A time comes when life is no longer about what we will achieve but what have done with our achievements.
Harold Kushner wrote a series of reflections on the experience of the Gatherer. He compares them to a point in our life when we move from asking: ‘what is the meaning of my life’ to ‘what will my life have meant’?
We might call this mid-life or the Second Journey but it comes with a haunting question:
Was there something else I was meant to do with my life whilst I was living it?
If you have read this series I hope you will feel that I am a fan of Ecclesiastes. I discovered the book when I was training to be a minister. It was a companion through the first of a number of faith-crises. I am glad it is in the Bible. I am drawn by its pragmatic wisdom and hard-won faith in God.
But it leaves me with a longing and an ache. I follow where the Gatherer takes me but then have to say: this is all well and good. But I’m left wondering is there anymore to say?
It is claimed by some people of faith that our reasoning powers need the gift of faith to meet head on life’s perplexities.
The Gatherer speaking from before scientific enquiry became the norm nevertheless respects and uses logic and the powers of a reasoning mind to explore life’s puzzling muddle. Yet, he is a person of faith. He does not deny the existence of God. He just finds the divine’s participation in the muddle of life confusing.
There is a book in the bible that should be read within sight and sound of falling leaves. It is Ecclesiastes. It is a good book to read as gardeners try to tidy up the year – but never with complete success.
I think of it as a spiritual journal rather like Markings by Dag Hammarskjold. It is serious about God and the search for meaning in our life. It has been left behind by a seriously honest person. His thoughts are not very well organised. He can be repetitive, alarmingly truthful and mournful. He chose to live on the distant edges of belief.
We do not know the name of the author but he was a collector of experiences. He inhabits the times he is living through and gathers them into his rather cheerless search for purpose and meaning. He is the Gatherer …