The wise man's eyes are in his head; but the fool walks in darkness: and I myself perceived also that one event happens to them all.
Looking simply at knowledge as such, and looking merely at the brief span of our existence "under the sun," we must confess that the wise man is sometimes as powerless as the fool. Two men take their seats in a railway train. The one man is an accomplished scholar, or mathematician, or philosopher. He has disciplined his mental powers, and has amassed large stores of knowledge. He has even acquired, it may be a certain reputation as a man of learning, or as a leader of the thoughts of others. The man who is sitting beside him cares nothing for intellectual culture. Animal enjoyment is his ideal. Give him a good dinner, and you may keep your books to yourself! He could never see any good in racking his brains over hard problems. There sit these two men in the railway carriage, side by side: the one, perhaps, reading the latest book of science; the other, perhaps, glancing through some "Sporting Gazette." Suddenly, in a moment, there comes the collision which it was utterly impossible for either of them to foresee: the train is a wreck; and these two lie together, crushed, mangled, and dead! "One event, one chance, has happened to them both!" Now, shut out the thought of God, and the thought of immortality, and what "advantage" has the one man over the other? The student has had his intellectual enjoyments: the votary of pleasure has had his enjoyments also. The scholar, along with his enjoyment, has had much fatiguing toil, and, it may be, painful thought; the pleasure-seeker also has doubtless, on his part experienced some of the penalties of self-indulgence. The lover of knowledge has, indeed, had this advantage, that his "eyes" have been "in his head": he has had a wider and clearer vision; and he has lived a higher kind of life. But to what purpose? Where is the permanent advantage? These two men have lived their short span: and here has come Death, as the great leveller! For a few years, perhaps, the scholar may be spoken of; his name may even get into some "biographical dictionary" but, unless he is one of a very select few, it will be little more than a name, and, in the ages to come, he will be altogether forgotten. To what purpose, then, has he "scorned delights, and lived laborious days"? Can he be said to have made the best use of human life, if he has simply spent it in acquiring a "wisdom" which leaves him, in the end, indistinguishable from the fool? Thus, then, we seem to be driven to the same conclusion as Ecclesiastes. Whatever advantages earthly wisdom has, it cannot be regarded as the chief good for man. The amassing of knowledge as the one supreme object of human existence is a vain delusion: it is a "feeding on wind": it fails to satisfy the deepest cravings of the human soul.
(T. C. Finlayson.)
Parallel VersesKJV: The wise man's eyes are in his head; but the fool walketh in darkness: and I myself perceived also that one event happeneth to them all.