“How many Havalim-futilities does the first verse of Koheles talk about?” challenged our principal of others who didn’t go to her school. She was quite proud she had taught us well – all of us in her school knew there were seven. Now, if you are quickly leafing through your Koheles to see if she is right, the count goes thus:
“Hevel  Havalim [2 as this is plural form], Amar Koheles, Hevel  Havalim , Hakol Hevel ”
For a quick translation of that first verse, King Solomon, who had it all and experienced quite close to all, said “Nonsense nonsenities, said Koheles, nonsense of nonsenities, all is nonsense.”
Seven times to mention “nonsense”, to what end? Not because he liked the ring of the word and placed it there to strike a chord. For that would be an even bigger nonsense of a wise man. If King Solomon mentioned the nonsense that is in our world seven times, we must note that there is a message in the seven.
Seven is the count of our physical world, as we mentioned in previous posts. In this temporal world there are seven stages to life. The monkey stage, the donkey stage… Each stage of life has its charms and desires. For the little toddler, mushy food and pacifiers is the draw. For the preschooler, the sandbox and swimming pool, as well as its combination in squishy mud, makes the day. For the teen, being cool does it. At each stage in the life, we, who are at a different stages in life, cannot nullify that nonsense for the one enjoying it – for we, too, at that stage progressed that way. Hence, my post two days ago talking about pitching lessons to the level of a kid.
Yet, we must know that at a certain point in time it is normal development to grow past an age and stage. If not, we call the person “delayed” or “retarded” in development. If your child squishes his toes in mud when he is six as his “ah” moment, all is good and fine. Yet, if at fifty, the height of enjoyment for you is squishing toes in mud, well, my friend, you haven’t done your development.
I read an interview of some guy — I don’t make this up — whose nickname is “loser” (not spelled that way, but pronounced that way) who went OTD. He was waxing poetic about food choices and his great bon mot about his dating life was something like, ‘my girlfriend is bleeping awesome.’ His brain didn’t stretch beyond his bacon strip, a curse word and a girlfriend.
Peter Pan is charming on screen and on stage. Yet, when you meet Peter Pans in real life, something akin to disgust usually wells up inside of you (at least inside of me). Someone told me that hell could be that G-d will allow a person the pleasures the person thought they wanted. Let me explain. If at five, you told your mother you would be happiest if she let you stay in the sandbox all day, you would be fine if she went ahead and let you do that. However, what if you had a mother able to stunt you, who could chain you into that sandbox when you were 18, saying, “YOU wanted to be in the sandbox all day, here, you can have it.” At 18, that would be torture for you, for at 18 you wanted to be driving on a freeway in a convertible.
Healthy development means we move from stage to stage, that we graduate from our desires during maturation in a manner that lets us see our past desires as the Hevel-nonsense that it was. If we don’t do that maturation, if we still hang onto our nonsensical whims way past their appropriate age, we surely are quite “retarded”. May G-d grant us the wisdom to all grow up and accomplish, instead of flit into never-never land.