Vanity and vexation

In the blink of an eye, a mad rush to cram in every last equation transformed into an eerie serenity. Final paper handed in, I had nothing to do, and nowhere to be.

Off the exam treadmill, my legs took a while to acclimatise to walking at a sane pace again. Quickly, I busied myself with tiny distractions. Making my room habitable again for starters, and letting friends know that I had returned from social exile. A carefree summer was staring me in the face, and I dreaded it.

Every year since secondary school, it’s been the same. Summer swallows us up giddy and full of expectations, but come September, it spits us out poorer, fatter, and none the wiser. In my many years of scholarly endeavour, I’ve never figured out what I ought to do with my spare time.

The cultural expectation seems to be to do three internships while simultaneously holidaying in Cyprus. There is a pressure to use our time effectively in order to stay ‘competitive’ on an increasingly bleak job market. Treating time as a mere economic resource, however, strikes me as inexplicably tragic.

Perhaps after the sixteenth borrel, the sheen of merrymaking begins to wear off

This view is closely trailed by the self-help brigade. ‘Seven weeks is ample time to fix your life!’ they goad. ‘You must work on yourself to achieve perfection’, they harp. ‘Anything less is a sure sign of moral weakness!’ Yet, presently, the summit of my ambition is to cook a half-decent meal and watch a film.

Merrymaking seems to be the last option left. There’s a lot to commend it – not much compares to an afternoon spent in good company. Though, perhaps after the sixteenth borrel, the sheen begins to wear off, and your patience begins to wear thin. Soon you’re in such a state, that the company of others is as unbearable as your own.

All the works that are done under the sun, declares The Preacher in Ecclesiastes 1:14, ‘all is vanity and vexation of spirit’. Impermanence chiefly characterises this earthly life, and our great enterprises amount to ‘chasing the wind’ (2:17). A seemingly discouraging maxim at first, it holds in it a beacon of hope.

It is on acknowledging life’s temporalness, that we come to a surprising conclusion. He exposes that pressure to ‘make something of it’ to be completely farcical. Far better to delight in Providence, and rejoice in one’s labour under Heaven. With everything in perspective, we can then enjoy even the little things to our heart’s content.

This summer promises to be one that we’ll never forget. Best not to let trying to making it ‘unforgettable’ get in the way of that. Take care, and cheers!

HRYDAI SAMPALLY