There is a really interesting scene in the movie, Groundhog Day, where weatherman Phil Connors is trying to figure out what is going on. He sits at a bar in a bowling alley with two local guys who are drunk, and he asks them this question: “What would you do if you were stuck in one place, and every day was the same, and nothing you did really mattered?”
One of the men stares into his beer mug and says, “Yep, that about sums it up for me.”
Life is more like Groundhog Day than we’d like to admit. And this is precisely the topic the book of Ecclesiastes takes up. If all there is to life is the alarm clock and routines of a typical morning, followed by work or school, finishing off the day by hitting the gym, eating dinner, and watching TV before bed and then doing it all over again, if that’s all there is, what’s the point? The monotonous prison of life is vexing.
Suppose a friend of yours was to come up to you and say, “This Tuesday afternoon from 3-5pm, I would like you to stand on the corner of Cedarburg Rd and Pioneer.” You would say, ‘why?’ Your friend says, “What do you need to know that for? I asked you to stand on the corner of Cedarburg Rd and Pioneer this Tuesday from 3-5pm.” You would say, “I’m sorry, but even though you’re my friend, I really need to know why you want me to do that. What will it accomplish? What purpose is there?” To respond that way is natural.
The author of Ecclesiastes is saying, “You will ask a question like that about how you’re spending your Tuesday afternoon, but will you ask that question about how you’re spending your life? Can you answer this question: what is your life about? How do you know your life isn’t a waste? If you can’t answer that question thoughtfully, you are living on instinct. You are living like an animal.”