Vanity and Vexation of Spirit


Well this is what it all comes down to, so said The Preacher.

“I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit. That which is crooked cannot be made straight: and that which is wanting cannot be numbered. I communed with mine own heart, saying, Lo, I am come to great estate, and have gotten more wisdom than all they that have been before me in Jerusalem: yea, my heart had great experience of wisdom and knowledge. And I gave my heart to know wisdom, and to know madness and folly: I perceived that this also is vexation of spirit. For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.” Ecclesiastics 1.

This essay will be inconclusive really, and maybe even quite contradictory of itself. Can’t help it because sometimes you just gotta shit in one hand and pray with the other. The definition for vexation is “the state of being annoyed, frustrated, or worried.” We don’t use words like that much anymore, but we otta. We got vexation all over the god damn place. I got vexation, do you? If you don’t then go see a doctor.

I wish I’d of pay attention to this chapter in the Old Testament when I was a kid. I remember I didn’t quite get it. I thought if knowledge was so bad, then why did I have to go to school? But I get it now, for sure. Yeah I’d like to have never known about climate change, over population, war, pollution. greedy bastards, all that. But of course I got into it and I’ve tried to change it. I haven’t changed a damn thing but I will say I have come to at least feel the pain of it all and have also come to understand that that is exactly what I should be doing.

The Preacher also said:

“One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever.”

You got that right preacher. It’s a good thing that the “earth abideth for ever” cuz that’s one consolation to this merry-go-round. Well actually, the earth will not live forever as someday the sun will blow up and take planet earth with it. Nevertheless, the earth has seen these cycles for four and half billion years now and she always gets through it. I suppose I should set my vexation aside and be glad of this.  I should be happy for the earth that can sustain everything we and other entities have thrown at her and realize the  punches will only hurt for a time, then it will pass, and the green of the earth will be appreciated by something other than destroyers.

Negative? Well yeah I guess. Real? You bet. I’m trying to find the way to internalize this reality and yet not have it bring me to vexation. But is that real I wonder? I think maybe not. To embrace the knowledge of our times is a task towards sorrow, just as the preacher said. It brings pain, and as I said earlier if it doesn’t, then go see a doctor.

OK, what I am getting to in this essay is a vexation about vexation. Many of the earth’s 7 billion humans escape this vexation; that isn’t right. Whether it be by having all the money you need to do whatever you want or because you are very spiritual and get high on god or yourself, or the cosmos, or whatever. If you are escaping vexation of spirit then you are not the good human you think you may be. Does it hurt you when your child gets picked on at school? Sure it does. You don’t go to the bank and gloat over you balance and forget about your kid, you don’t go to the closet and commune with the universe, do you? Um, well I guess some of you may do that but the point is if your have any humanity at all you’ll feel the pain about your kid. But for a fair portion of our society that’s as far as it goes. Their pain is limited to their immediate environment.

We accept this. Yeah it’s ok to limit your pain to your surroundings. But somehow I think we have lead ourselves to a state of denial about pain. I see activists for climate change doing this. They put on the happy face and say, “don’t worry, we are positive that all will be well cuz we’re gonna switch to renewables. Happy!” There is something terribly wrong with this. Not only that it’s not real, but it is so schizoid that it literally freaks me out.

The saddest thing about this is that it is primarily centered in those who have found favor with the developed world. People of developing nations are not much different I’m sure, they have tv just like us. But in the developed world if you have any sort of enlightenment on this, then the smiles of these people will make you sick. We not only accept these people as normal but we put them up as those to admire, “She does yoga? Damn, I wish I was that positive”.

No, there is nothing wrong with doing yoga, going to church, book circles, all that. It is only wrong when it conceals the feelings of the deep pain you should be experiencing about the state of our planet and all therein. But there is also nothing wrong with not doing those positive things cuz you are so depressed that you are living in a world that is spiraling out of control and you can hardly get out of bed in the morning. There is nothing wrong with that, do not feel inferior. Of course this only true if it is actually due to the pain in question here and not some other thing you could deal with if you wanted to.

You may ask how can I justify this criticism of what most of us consider something not only normal, but envious.  Well looking at our situation right now I’d say that it becomes harmful when the avoidance of this pain causes you to fall for something as unrealistic as “we just need to switch to renewables”. It is a problem when you see that there is hunger, disease, violence, destruction and deceitful death smacking you right in the face and you can trudge along happily having your morning coffee. My hat is ‘not’ off to you. Because if you do not feel that pain all the way down inside and if it does not affect your everyday life, then you have become a major block to our evolution as a species. No one grows without pain and you gotta feel that pain to deal with it. Yeah sure feeling it may cause you to lose your job, so what. Until the majority of the human population fully embraces the pain of a possible 6th great extinction then actually doing something about will be precarious to say the least. You can sit on the coach while the doctor makes notes but if you don’t cry then eventually that doctor will tell you to just go home.

The Preacher was around what, 3 or 4 thousand years ago? I think maybe he wasn’t writing a poem but more a prophesy for the 21st century when he wrote there is “a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance”. I don’t think our time is a time to laugh and dance, no, we should be crying our eyes out. See, it is needed, desperately needed because without it you will be caught in the great illusions of the 21st century and those illusions will have you falling for anything. It’s like being drunk and you think you are on the right side of the road when you’re actually on the left.

From where we stand right now, pain is our greatest hope. We need some heavy duty crying. Not forever of course, but enough to see reality and then act accordingly. We are far, far away from that. I said in the beginning that this essay might be inconclusive and contradictory. I suppose I said that because I am in this pain right now and it has caused me to want to do nothing to activate solutions, so it’s confusing and contrary. And I also suppose that is because it ain’t gonna be my pain alone that saves the world.

So I believe I am sitting in this pain and waiting for humanity to join me. I suppose I will need to get past this eventually…or will I? You see it is reality I seek, particularly about climate change and that reality is horrible. So to get past this, especially as a climate activist, will I have to join the climate activists with their smiles? This is where it is inconclusive because I don’t have a clue about that. The subject matter in this essay is for the collective of the human race, not necessarily for the individual, though each has to do their part. If we all start crying then it’ll be a mess I’m sure; society as we know it could collapse. Is that what we need, do we need to collapse like alcoholics need to when they hit bottom? I’m telling ya, don’t ask me cuz I don’t know. When I do know I’ll be the first to share it.


About dannyheim

I am a nut. But a good nut. Please note that all my blogs are continually in the process of being edited. You most likely would see changes if you visit back again more than once. Oh, I'm an artist by trade these days, so ahh anyway, um, ah well, my website is on here somewhere, um ah, wella anyway it's ah, It's not a buying type site, don't worry, I don't market from there.
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8 Responses to Vanity and Vexation of Spirit

  1. joellen gilchrist says:

    Thanks for writing this. GW is such a depressing state of affairs that anyone understanding it could not be anything but depressed. And on top of that, we feel alone, when even many others who acknowledge it don’t change any of their actions. Your analogy with AA is a good one–maybe you could start a parallel organization, GWW (Global Warming Weepers).

  2. Louis says:

    I have come to at least feel the pain of it all.

    And subsequently, you have lived your life. Many never experience victory or pain of this magnitude. Your legacy and future efforts to discover and advocate is the very reason we are here. Take pride in your efforts – doing something to change the course of humanity towards a more progressive and positive outcome, no matter the results, is what life is all about. You have fought, and continue to fight, for justice and for the future. We teach by example. From what I gather you have been very successful in this regards.

  3. Beth Martell says:

    I posted a link to your essay on my facebook pages because we’re right with you and here’s the conversation we’re starting in our community. The butterflies just pass through these parts, but in Mexico in their winter sanctuary, their arrival is a cultural event that has been taking place for thousands of years, a harvest festival that has been transplanted from Central America to Europe, Africa, Asia, and South America.

    20 years ago it took 47 acres across 12 mountain ranges to contain all the monarch butterflies. In 2013 all the monarchs fit in a space a little bigger than a single football field. The culprits? Climate change causing extreme weather, deforestation in Mexico, and killing all the milkweed, the monarch caterpillar’s only food source in the U.S. Midwest, with pesticides. GMO crops use more pesticides than ever.


    • Beth Martell says:

      Monarch butterflies migrate each year between North America and their winter sanctuary in south-central Mexico. Their arrival coincides with the beginning of the corn harvest and the important annual celebration of the Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). It’s a time of rebirth, reconnection, and reflection. As winter begins, the butterflies are thought to be the souls of the ancestors returning when the veil between the worlds is thinnest. Last year very few monarchs made the journey. 30 local artists and a classroom of first graders explore what this means to them.

      There will be an opening on November 2 from 2-5 p.m. Roberto Barrios, an Anthropology professor from SIU and Asuncion Garcia, his graduate student who is visiting from an area near the butterfly sanctuary in Central America, will hold a discussion about social and environmental issues.


      We look at iconic species to determine the health of the ecosystem. A mere two decades ago, billions of monarch butterflies filled 45 acres of forests on 12 mountain ranges in south-central Mexico. Last year, 1/300th of that number filled a little more than one football field.


      The monarch suffers from loss of habitat, from extreme weather due to climate change, and from the indiscriminate use of pesticides that are accelerating ecosystem corruption. We’re raising awareness about their plight. Pollinators are in trouble in a landscape that is being sterilized for industrial farming. We think it will take a lot of different voices telling the story so that everyone can get it. That’s why we’re bringing together many layers of understanding.


      First graders from Century Grade School in Ullin, Illinois are following their teacher, Ruth Hoak, in showing us the importance of planting milkweed, the monarch caterpillar’s only food source.


      30 local artists are helping us see all the ways we are connected. Their statements and images are a powerful part of the larger conversation we’re starting.

      Participating artists include Anne Silver, Beth Martell, Cade Bursell, Cathy Daesch, David Bond, Elana Floyd-Kennett, Fran Jaffe, Jordan Bennett, Judy Bush, Julie Carman, Julie Murphy, Kevin Bishop, Laurie Blakely, Lisa Barnes, Lisa Lennox, Lorie Allen, MaryAnn Wildwood, Michele Mekel, Kathy Livingston, Randy Ekstrom, Retha Daugherty, Sabra Baker, Sarah Lewison, Sharon Wittke, Sue Spurlock, Tabitha Tripp, Teresa Harris, and Theresa Smith.


      There will be an reception on The Day of the Dead, November 2 from 2-5 p.m. featuring Roberto Barrios, an Anthropology professor from SIU and Asuncion Garcia, his graduate student who is visiting from an area near the butterfly sanctuary in Central America. We are lucky to have such gifted teachers. They are both so well spoken, they enable listeners make quantum leaps in cultural and social understanding.

      What’s more, getting so many artists to talk about this from the heart enables more audience members to open up about this. Different people connect different ways. It makes us strong when we realize we can transform despair into empowerment.

      John Seed and Joanna Macy describe this process in their book, “Thinking Like a Mountain: Towards a Council of All Beings.” As part of the Deep Ecology movement, they say:

      “… Many activists who rouse us to the fact that our survival is at stake decry public apathy. They often assume, mistakenly, that people do not change because they lack information and that the main job of activists is to provide the missing information. The experience of despair work suggests that such numbness and apathy does not stem from ignorance or indifference, on the contrary, most of us are aware of the destruction of our planet at the deepest level. But we do not face it, do not integrate it for fear of experiencing the despair that such information provokes. We fear it may overwhelm us. Moreover, our society has constructed taboos against the communication and expression of such anguish.

      The refusal of feeling takes a heavy toll on us, impoverishing both our emotional and sensory lives. It also impedes our capacity to process and respond to information as we screen out or filter anxiety-provoking data. But such feedback is precisely what we need to adapt and survive.

      Experience with group work has shown that this despair, grief and anger can be confronted, experienced and creatively channeled. Far from being crushed by it, new energy, creativity and empowerment can be released. Unblocking these feelings also opens us to experiencing our fundamental interconnectedness with all life. Often after such experiences, people come together to form ongoing support groups or join existing groups to take action on peace and/or environmental issues.”

      Join us as we get the conversation started. The earliest known butterfly fossils date to 40–50 million years ago. This disappearing butterfly has a lot to teach us about our own well being.

  4. Beth Martell says:

    “She brought in people from around the world… who are sounding the alarm about GMOs and Roundup. Don Huber was there, and Mae-Wan Ho… Jeffrey Smith… and from Australia, there was Judy Carman, who studied the pigs…China will really have an impact if they simply refuse to import GMO soy. They’re finding, by the way, that in step with the increased imports of GMO Roundup-Ready soy… they’re finding tremendous increases in autism, Parkinson’s disease, infertility, and all the same things we’re seeing here.”

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