A Depressingly “Ecclesiastical” Perspective by Mark Twain

Mark Twain

As I was drawn into the Autobiography of Mark Twain, the following paragraph nearly drove me to despair…then I remembered the Gospel…

A myriad of men are born; they labor and sweat and struggle for bread; they squabble and scold and fight; they scramble for little mean advantages over each other; age creeps upon them; infirmities follow; shames and humiliations bring down their prides and their vanities; those they love are taken from them, and the joy of life is turned to aching grief.  The burden of pain, care, misery, grows heavier year by year; at length, ambition is dead, pride is dead; vanity is dead; longing for release is in their place.  It comes at last–the only unpoisoned gift earth ever had for them–and they vanish from a world where they were a mistake and a failure and a foolishness; there they have left no sign that they have existed–a world which will lament them a day and forget them forever.  Then another myriad takes their place, and copies all they did, and goes along the same profitless road, and vanishes as they vanished–follow the same arid path through the same desert, and accomplish what the first myriad, and all the myriads that came after it, accomplished–nothing!

Autobiography of Mark Twain (US: Seven Treasures, 2010), 25.

If I didn’t know better, I’d claim plagiarism…but perhaps the writer of Ecclesiastes, and Twain himself, would celebrate the irony that these words are nothing new, but a repetition of the Teacher’s words in the OT.  Sadly, Twain does not come to the same conclusion that the writer of Ecclesiastes does:

The end of the matter; all has been heard:

Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.

For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.

Ecclesiastes 12:13-14

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