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You’re walking along—doesn’t matter where, or when, for that matter, if the lighting is good—and you pass a window. One of those floor-to-ceiling types of things that catch your feet and way past your head all in one frame. It’s dark on the other side, creating the perfect mirror effect to display your visage, as if the entire industrialized world is begging to reflect your image.
You want to look.
You crave a glance.
You have to turn and watch, as your figure struts past.
It’s what I like to call an Ecclesiastes moment. You know, “Vanity of vanities; all is vanity.” Everyone does it—checks themselves out in the windows as they walk by. And don’t try to deny it! You can claim that you’re just making sure everything’s still in place or making sure your hair still looks good. Maybe that’s true for the first glance, but four windows later? You know you’re checking yourself out.
For everyone else in the world, the Ecclesiastes moment usually takes place in shop windows at the mall or downtown, but for me, considering I loathe shopping and don’t have a car, it’s usually in office building windows.
I’ll be walking someplace—work, the grocery store, etc.—at the peak of dusk, a good hour after professional businesses have closed. It’s completely shut down and dark, while the outside world is alive with the last strokes of sunshine and streetlights all aglow. In this atmosphere, unlike shopping centers, there is no fear of being caught looking. You can stare as deeply as you like at yourself for fifty yards of reflective glass and no one will catch you.
Thanks for the article. Kohelet (the author of Ecclesiastes) certainly likes to knock holes in anything we try to pursue for our own gain. He also likes to point out that we can enjoy those same pleasures on life’s journey when we relax and enjoy the simple things – “So I commend the simple pleasures of living, for there is nothing better under the sun than to eat and drink and enjoy life.” He often points out that life is slipping away like a vapour but when he does it is always with a reminder to enjoy the day you have right now.
I perform Kohelet’s work on stage and often when I come to the end of the book I will find someone younger in the crowd and speak these words directly to them – “Be happy while you are young and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth. Follow the desires of your heart and whatever your eyes see, but do not forget that God will call you to account for how you live. Banish anxiety from your mind and cast off the troubles of your body, for youthful energy quickly passes away.” Too often we waste our days in extremes, either denying joy or pursuing pleasure to our own detriment. We fuss about a few aches and pains and waste days when we are actually in relatively good health.
I love your line, “when the outside world is alive with the last strokes of sunshine and streetlights all aglow.” Reminds me of Kohelet’s words from 2500 years ago – “life is sweet and it is a pleasure to see the light of day, no matter how many days a person may live, each one should be fully enjoyed, for darker days of futility will come.” I think Kohelet would tell you to enjoy that look in the mirror and not be concerned that someone might turn a light on inside the building and take away your joy. Thats the strange thing about futility, about vanity, it can make a fleeting joy incredibly potent.
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