We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Our mens' study and prayer group is doing Ecclesiastes right now. As we are all more or less middle-aged, we can all relate to this poetic "wisdom book."
1 The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem. 2 “ Vanityof vanities,” says the Preacher; “ Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.” 3 What profit has a man from all his labor In which he toils under the sun? 4One generation passes away, and another generation comes; But the earth abides forever. 5 The sun also rises, and the sun goes down, And hastens to the place where it arose. 6 The wind goes toward the south, And turns around to the north; The wind whirls about continually, And comes again on its circuit. 7 All the rivers run into the sea, Yet the sea is not full; To the place from which the rivers come, There they return again. 8 All things are full of labor; Man cannot express it. The eye is not satisfied with seeing, Nor the ear filled with hearing. 9 That which has been is what will be, That which is done is what will be done, And there is nothing new under the sun. 10 Is there anything of which it may be said,
“See, this is new”? It has already been in ancient times before us. 11There is no remembrance of former things, Nor will there be any remembrance of things that are to come By those who will come after.
The "Preacher" is literally "the gatherer" - using a word related to "assembly/congregation". Traditional Jewish interpretation is that the author "gathered wisdom" from many sources - tradition also says this is King Solomon.
Alas, the famous "vanity of vanities" is a mistranslation. There is no hint of pride in the original word - which in its simplest meaning is "mist" or "breath", implying lack of substance, not pride. Sometimes this is translated clumsily - but more accurately - as "futility of futilities, all is futile".
Also the phrase "what profit" does not use the Hebrew word for gain/prosper, but a word meaning "advantage". The meaning is then "what's the point to a man of all his work under the sun".
And that's the key phrase for this book: "under the sun" signifies a life lived in the confines of material reality.
A life lived "above the sun" - by connecting to transcendent truth through justice and lovingkindness - does have meaning.
The rest is pretty well translated, although the Hebrew is more direct and compact, and therefore (in this case) more Spartan in its dismissal.