Religion has been secularized and what happens is void of all forms and rituals as the one who has searched and investigated other aspects of life found out.
A play – a collection of fragments and jottings – with a penetrating observation and criticism of human scene. A work of apologetic and ‘eristic’ theology whose apparent worldliness is dictated by its aim- addressed the general public whose views is bounded by the horizons of this world. The play meets them on their own ground, and proceeds to convict them of its inherent vanity.
A critique of secularism and of secularized religion. For secularism need not be irreligious; it dominates the lives of men and religion has gone far to conform, and seeks to commend itself as a means of the amelioration of life Under the Sun.
‘Life passes with the rapidly of a sigh; thought no sooner comes that it is gone.So unsubstantial is life! Mere lengthening of life does not guarantee happiness.Even if life is prolonged, it seems but a short time, and we fly away as in a dream.’ These are words coming from a man standing on the very verge of death and looking back over the days of his pilgrimage. But, who knoweth?
“Not now but in the coming years
It may be in the bitter land,
We’ll read the meaning of our tears
And there, sometime, we’ll understand,”
In this mournful autobiography, Billy, a sage speaks about his old age, after he had fully proved that all the pleasure; he carried out his schemes of commercial enterprise.He was surrounded by the fascinating splendour of court life.All that the carnal heart could desire was at his command; but what came out of his great learning?
His wisdom was foolishness for he did not know how to stand in moral independence, He tells his friends, through result of his research, his painstaking efforts, and his persevering inquiry. He pronounced his wisdom altogether vanity.
All is vanity.He sat a throne of ivory, the steps of which were of solid gold, flamed by six golden lions.His eyes rested upon a highly cultivated and beautiful garden just before him.Those grounds were visions of loveliness, arranged to resemble, as far as possible, the Garden of Eden.Choice trees and shrubs, and flowers of every variety, has been brought from foreign land to beatify them.Birds of every variety of brilliant plumage twittered from tree to tree, making the air vocal with sweet songs.Youthful attendants, gorgeously dressed and decorated, wanted to obey his slightest wish.Scenes of beauty, music, sports, and games were arranged for his division at an extravagant expenditure of money.
But all this did not bring happiness to him.He sat upon his magnificent throne his frowning countenance dark with despair.Dissipation had left its impression upon his once far and intellectual face.He was sadly changed from the days of youth long gone.This brow was furrowed with care and unhappiness, and he bore in every feature the unmistakable market of sensual indulgence.His lips were prepared to break forth the reproaches of the slightest deviation from his wishes.
Its shattered nerves and wasted frame showed the result of violating nature’s law, he confessed of a wasted life, an unsuccessful chase after happiness.His is the mourning wail, “All is vanity and vexation of spirit, Under the Sun!”
***P1-7 Exposition of Vanity.
ACT I SCENE 1
[Early morning. In the drawing room of SOLLO THE WISE. A very extensively embellished room with all manner of decorations, comfortable cushioned Eastern-style low settees, imported curtains, oriental carpets. The presence of large number of servants suggests the wealth of the owner of this proud mansion. SOLLO THE WISE is showing a miniature diorama of all the properties that he owns, which they are taking a tour. NEDZA THE KING, ALEX THE GREAT and PLATO THE PHARAOH all admire the splendour of the properties of SOLLO THE WISE.]
SOLLO THE WISE: I’ve no idiom to articulate my melancholy when the old man made out of bones finally puts his cold hand on my shoulder. All these then will be worthless to me.
PLATO THE PHARAOH: Very sad indeed that all these grand works will one day be forgotten and go to waste. What waste!
SOLLO THE WISE: Let me go directly to the heart of the matter without preliminary skirmishing of the reason why I want you to see first hand that all is vanity.
NEDZA THE KING: All for those you address, but not for yourself; for how can you pronounce all to be vanity, unless you know of some validity, some sure ground to which your spirit cling?
SOLLO THE KING: My object is not to counsel despair, but to refute secularism on its own ground.
ALEX THE GREAT: The sum total is vanity – the world in its totality, including all life, is as it were but a breath, and offers no promise of hope.
SOLLO THE WISE: We are perpetually, toiling, yet for all our toil, there is no abiding result. The business world with its ceaseless activities, whose objective is the attainment of a worthwhile material goal.
NEDZA THE KING: But often a man’s life is spent in building up something his successor tears down. Futility and insecurity characterize all human endeavours. [the youthful servants fill more fruits, drinks and appetizers on the table.]
ALEX THE GREAT: [taking from the bowl a grape] The world assesses life in terms of profits and loss. But what profit can a man win that he must not finally lose? Fool!
PLATO THE PHARAOH: What shall we be profited, if we should gain the whole world and should lose our soul? The night our soul is required of us; and the things we have prepared, whose will they be?
NEDZA THE KING: The pursuit of wealth stands confuted by our mortality, as the world itself knows well; for our own poets and philosophers have told it often enough.
SOLLO THE WISE: But we still endeavour to screen ourselves from the icy wind of mortality by the thoughts of our posterity and the continuing rate. The cycle of human life is repeated over and over again with each new generation.
ALEX THE GREAT: The inward thought is that our houses shall continue forever, and our dwelling place to all generations; we call our lands after our own names. We seek a pseudo-immortality in the fancied perpetuity of our works, or in ‘minds made better by our presence’ or in ‘leaving footprints on the sands of time’ or in the idea of ‘progress’. But there is nothing to support this in the course of nature, which is circular, or in the course of history, which endlessly repeats itself.
SOLLO THE WISE: Progress is ever accompanied by regress. It is only the actors and scenery that change; the pattern of history remains the same, ‘little more than the register of the crimes, follies and misfortunes of mankind.’
ALEX THE GREAT: [admires a golden statue of a full length horse standing on the two hind legs. Shakes his head] This golden horse surfing up the air, his eagerness to burst into speed in a race is like the seeming permanence of the mountains, the ceaseless flowing of the rivers, and the uninterrupted succession of day and night, but thereof transitory in every sense.
PLATO THE PHARAOH: Is man’s life, from generation to generation, a mere matter of repetition; with no more sublime object in view? Will there not be a climax to the life of the human race? Doesn’t God have an eternal purpose that will eventually supersede this seemingly endless repetition of human activity from generation to generation?
NEDZA THE KING: Don’t complain of the ceaseless cycles of nature, but see in them a parallel to the cycles of human life. There is no variation. Having witnessed one cycle, man has seen all of them, and each blends imperceptibly into another that is different in no way. The cycles seem not to lead onto any greater objective than self- perpetuation.
SOLLO THE WISE: What may seem to be new appears so only because men have forgotten the past. The celebrity of this generation is forgotten by the coming generation. What profit has man?
NEDZA THE KING: No attempt can give meaning to existence. I cannot rest content with a meaningless existence. There is within me an irresistible urge to find rhyme or reason in it, for I am a ‘thinking reed.’ God has implanted within me this unquenchable longing for order and system. Yet it only adds to my torment; for the jigsaw puzzle of life cannot be completed; some of the parts are missing.
ALEX THE GREAT: [he takes a look at a very huge voluminous book, and reads from it] The attempts to frame a complete philosophic system can be achieved only by doing violence to reality, by making straight ‘what is crooked! The last word of human wisdom, as some of the wisest have realized, is to confess that we know nothing, that the key to the find mystery eludes our grasp. Such is the wisdom of the Tao Te Ching:
Thirty spokes together make one wheel;
And they fit into ‘nothing’ at the centre
Herein lies the usefulness of a carriage.
The clay is mounded to make a pot;
And the clay fits round ‘nothing’:
Herein when the usefulness of the pot…
Thus it is that, while it must be taken to be
Advantageous to have something there,
It must also be taken as useful to have ‘nothing’ there.
SOLLO THE WISE: The wisdom which ends in this, ‘hole at the centre’ must needs be a vexation of spirit. By speculative side of mental effort, it has not always guided me in the matter of the topics, investigated. Overstudy, brought me sleeplessness, frayed nerves, and sometimes ill-health. If I desired wisdom, I dug deeply, and constant digging and research, took toll on my health and strength.
NEDZA THE KING: Are you endorsing the idea of ‘ignorance is bliss’?
PLATO THE PHARAOH: Why bother your head trying to puzzle out the meaning of existence? Have a ‘good time’, enjoy the pleasures life affords. Quaff the pleasures the world has to offer to the point of satiety, in the endeavour to find lasting satisfaction in them. Listen to Mephistopheles:
Grau, teurer Freund, ist alle Theorie
Und grun des Lebens goldner Baum.
[Pleasures are live poppies spread,
You seize the flowers, its bloom is shed.]
NEDZA THE KING: [they serve themselves the choicest drinks, and start sipping] The choice of sensual pleasure and amusement as a means of ultimate happiness in life represent a long step on the downward path, the pleasure addict cannot escape the ‘morning after’ and the revulsion of satiety.
ALEX THE GREAT: What use is it? [he studies the winepress diorama, admiring its magnificence]What does this do? What effect does it have? What result doest it bring?
SOLLO THE WISE : I have stimulated my body with intoxicating drinks, as if my body were a vehicle drawn by a horse under the figure of wine. I intended that my better judgment held the lives of appetite and passion in control and in the path of moderation. As I entered upon the experiment, I purposed not to abandon good sense completely and go to excess. This, of course is the intention of most people who yield to sensory pleasure.
NEDZA THE KING: The failure of the quest for wisdom and the quest for pleasure suggests a compromise, a middle way which avoids one-sided extremes and aims at a rich, varied balanced life. This is culture.
SOLLO THE WISE: Who knows? I am distressed because I do not know whether those who inherit my works will appreciate them and be worthy of them. They may carry my labours or may discard them. The maddening thing is that I have little control over the matter.
NEDZA THE KING: That’s the most distressing thought that the fruits of the labours of a lifetime may be squandered by a successor.
SOLLO THE WISE: Should there be a man who has shown every aptitude and has been eminently successful, he must still leave the fruits of his labour to one who has had no part in building them up and will therefore be unable to appreciate them.
PLATO THE PHARAOH: [pondering deeply] What permanent result or fruit is to be enjoyed?
SOLLO THE WISE: [sadly] The answer expected is, nothing! The gain does not seem commensurate with the labour involved.
NEDZA THE KING: The working hours are filled with activity, and the nights with a wakeful pondering of the cares of the day. In your study, you seem not to have fairly realized the blessings of the discipline of toil, sorrow, and disappointment.
SOLLO THE WISE: On the country, my studies are based upon my experience with life. The end gain, I feel, is nil; therefore why not eat and drink enjoy the things life has to offer. [the musician nudges the dancers who fill the carpet and start to dance vigorously.]
—] exit [---
ACT I SCENE II
[At the patio overlooking the beautifully decorated hanging back garden. They’ve just had the midday meal, which by the look of their faces, sumptuous in all sense. They stretch lazily on the comfortable swinging chairs provided by their host. The young servants are fanning them with giant Oriental fan made out of ostrich feathers. The dancers have a rendition of what the musician is playing- a popular tune. Famous books are lying about in the Turkish carpets.]
‘Why boasteth thyself, O evil man?
Playing smart, and not being clever.
You work in iniquity to achieve vanity
So if you are the big tree, we are the small axe…’
ALEX THE GREAT: [shaking his head to the background music] Is there any way out of the dilemma in which we find ourselves placed as between wisdom and folly?
SOLLO THE WISE: There’s a way- only a new wisdom, a wisdom which has a different standpoint aid orientation; not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, nor of the proletariat of this world.
PLATO THE PHARAOH: Why should we toil to improve our status in life when we are thwarted at every turn? Why are there tests along life’s pathway?
NEDZA THE KING: Yet man is free to choose his own way, to develop his own character and decide his own destiny. Can these practical difficulties of life be met successfully?
SOLLO THE WISE: Here we are and the world is so full of a number of things to be enjoyed. But it’s not an easy wisdom; for it must forswear system. A systematic world – view, a Weltanschauung, would be possible only if we occupied the centre from which we could survey the whole and see it in its true perspectives.
ALEX THE GREAT: But that’s the position of the Creator, not of the creatures.
SOLLO THE WISE: From our creaturely position under the sun we see, as it were, the reverse of the tapestry with many confused lines and loose threads. To seek for unravel it from our standpoint is to become involved in an endless labyrinth.
PLATO THE PHARAOH: [laughing] And that too, is vanity and vexation of spirit, as you put it. [Birds twitter nonchalantly when a falcon perches in one of the trees in the middle of the garden. Suddenly all seems to be quiet, as if they have forgotten all about the falcon]
SOLLO THE WISE: Deeply implanted in me is a concern for the future. This awareness of the infinite in the time and space stirred dissatisfaction with the transitory nature of the things of this life.
NEDZA THE KING: So have I. But I had no control over the time of my entrance into the world, and under ordinary circumstance, little over the time of my exit over it.
SOLLO THE WISE: All times are equal, but this is true only when they are emptied of their contents. We have no experience of empty time. Every time comes to us uncharged with its own particular challenge and opportunity; and the wisdom of life is to interpret the time, the decisive moment, the moment on which ‘the eternity falls.’
PLATO THE PHARAOH: There is a tide in the affairs of men.
ALEX THE GREAT: And we must realize that the present material world doesn’t constitute the sum of our existence. We are linked to two worlds – physically to this one, but mentally, emotionally and psychologically to the next.
PLATO THE PHARAOH: Even with my consciousness beclouded by sin, I seem dimly aware that I ought to continue living beyond the narrow confines of this unsatisfying life. Yet my intellect cannot enter into the intricacies of the marvels and mysteries of eternity.
SOLLO THE WISE: This incalculable unrationalizable feature of history and experience is sore perplexity to me. For I am not merely a creature of time; there is within me that which transcends time. I have forever. I seek to stand back from the time- process and to discern the plan and pattern of the whole.
ALEX THE GREAT: But you’re too deeply immersed in it to succeed; the end and the beginning elude you. The tension between today and forever in your life cannot be completely resolved. You can never find Forever in Today and Today in Forever.
SOLLO THE WISE: The hankering after a moral order was deeply rooted in my heart, but it made me to delusions that order is secured by organization.
NEDZA THE KING: Even so shrewd an observer as Lenin succumbed to this belief. Give a chance for man to be chaotic and he’ll take it. [resumes looking at the book he’s been reading—‘The Art of War’]
SOLLO THE WISE: But the wickedness, which makes organization necessary, does not stop short at the portals of organization.
PLATO THE PHARAOH: Does moralistic interpretation of life breaks down on the hard fact of human wickedness then? Do we need to break eggs to make omelettes? [perusing the pages to kill time from a small hard cover book called ‘The Prince by Machiavelli.’]
SOLLO THE WISE: Absolutely not! The egoism, which taints individuals, taints government not less, but rather more; for organization magnifies power and power is amoral. But then, quis custodiet ipsos custodes?
NEDZA THE KING: Yes, who will take care of the caretakers?
SOLLO THE WISE: I also tried the theory of a moral government of history. ‘The mills of God grind slowly…’ which I found to be a more respectable notion, yet, in spite of its immense popularity, it yielded no real satisfaction to the moral demand. That democrat and the dictator is a vehicle chosen by God to rule the world, and that beat all the remaining logic in my wisdom.
PLATO THE PHARAOH: So did you resign yourself in despair?
SOLLO THE WISE: No. I studied if further and realized that even if it were true, it required for its display a canvas so much larger than the brief span between the cradle and the grave. What comfort is the thought that ‘the mills of God grind slowly,’ to those whose life is altogether ground between the upper and the nether millstones?
O dreadful thought if all our sires and we
Are but foundations of a race to be.
NEDZA THE KING: I never thought it that way, that who’ll give care to caregivers… [their attention distracted by a shrill voice from the trees as the falcon dives at a flock of scurrying mockingbirds. The falcon moves swiftly, making a sweep at the wing of one of the mockingbirds, thereby paralysing them. The mockingbird desperately manoeuvres among the leaves but the falcon plunges ahead of it and makes a clean kill and finally the mockingbird flutters and cackles helplessly in the sharp talons of the predator] In the matter of being subject to death, man is in no way superior to beasts. A moral view of life, resolutely pursued, leads to the conclusion that men are beasts. Man cannot abide in his pomp; he is like the beasts that perish.
PLATO THE PHARAOH: When the breath of life departs, the living creature dies, whether it is man, beast, or animal.
SOLLO THE WISE: All living creatures are identical in that, with the cessation of breath, the creature dies. The physical consequence of death are identical, outward appearance suggest no apparent superiority for man.
NEDZA THE KING: But what about immortality? Who knows whether the spirit of man goes upward? What is there in man by himself to suggest that his destiny is so very different from that of the beast?
SOLLO THE WISE: Without the divine wisdom on one ‘knows’. The destiny of the body is ‘known’—it returns to dust – through process of disintegration – but human wisdom cannot ascertain what happens to the spirit or breath. That life principle does not belong to the physical realm, the realm of flesh.
NEDZA THE KING: That the soul of man is in its own nature eternal, and a living creature independent of the body; or that any mere man is immortal.
SOLLO THE WISE: If you don’t understand this then you have no choice but to esteem death better that life. The spirit of man becomes a disembodied conscious entity at death, so do spirits of beasts. [puts down Nietzsche’s ‘Thus Spoke Zarathustra.’]
PLATO THE PHARAOH: Who knows – who can prove – that the spirit of man ascends while that of the beasts descend. Are you making the majesty and immortality of my pyramids vain?
SOLLO THE WISE: I know nothing of such a proceeding and doubts that anyone else does. But if you do, why not prove it?
NEDZA THE KING: Whoever finds contentment and satisfaction in what this life has to offer is deluded. This is the normal outlook of the man who does not have faith firmly based on the hereafter. Plato the Pharaoh has faith in the preservation of his pyramids though.
SOLLO THE WISE: What lies beyond the grave is outside the scope of my human knowledge and it’s beyond my power to bring a dead person back from the grave. [The dancers take on the stage once more and gyrate to the music in the background.]
Why boasteth thyself, O evil man?
Playing smart, and not being clever.
You work in iniquity to achieve vanity
So if you are the big tree, we are the small axe
Ready to cut you down, ready to cut you down
Whosoever diggeth a pit, shall fall in it
Whosoever diggeth a pit, shall burry in it
—] exit [—