● Ecc 12:1 . . So appreciate your vigor in the days of your youth, before those days of sorrow come and those years arrive of which you will say: I have no pleasure in them.
Most people cope pretty well with middle age, and old age too— as long as they're in good health, their mind is sound and, they have the right attitude. But nobody does good with advanced age. Your bowels won't work right, you'll be incontinent and smell bad; diverticulitis causes blood in your stools, your skin will be thin and easily torn, blue veins pop out on your legs and on the backs of your hands, you won't see things unless they're right under your nose, your sense of smell will be weak right along with your sense of taste. Savory foods will taste like cardboard and your stomach can't deal with them anyway. No more hiking, no more bicycle rides, no more airplane trips, no more travel at all. Walking, if you're able to walk at all, will really be little more than a shuffle of slow, flat footed, jerky little short steps rather than a brisk fluid stroll.
● Ecc 12:2 . . before sun and light and moon and stars grow dark, and the clouds come back again after the rain:
Often, as people get older and their health begins to fail, friends will ask: Hey, how's ol' so and so doing? And someone will say: Oh, he has his good days and he has his bad days. Well, eventually ol' so and so will have only his bad days and no good days ever again.
● Ecc 12:3a . .When the guards of the house become shaky,
The Hebrew word for "guards" is shamar (shaw-mar'), the word used of Adam when God tasked him with taking care of the garden in Gen 2:15; and here in Ecclesiastes it refers to the use of your hands in homemaking and gardening. Aged people's hands tremble. They can't hold anything steady. In fact, they have so little strength and dexterity left in their hands that they can't grasp anything securely; so they drop stuff a lot.
● Ecc 12:3b . . And the men of valor are bent,
Those in advanced age, even if they were once proud Olympic athletes, can't stand up straight and keep their shoulders back anymore. Older people get bent and hunched. They shrink too, and some practically curl over like a fish hook.
My mother-in-law really loved birds. But her back was so bent over that she couldn't look up to see them, and unless they were only a few yards away, she couldn't even lift her head high enough to see the ones down low on the ground. I could've gotten her the finest Leica optics money can buy, but it would just be throwing money out with the recycle. She couldn't use them on a birding trip, nor could she even go on one. And if that weren't enough, she lost the use of one eye because of glaucoma.
● Ecc 12:3c . . the grinding ones stand idle because they are few,
Before the advent of dentures and professional dental care, people commonly lost their teeth from decay and gum disease. As they got older, people lost more and more teeth until the day came when there finally weren't enough teeth left in their mouth to bite off food and chew it. Foods like grains, meats, and many crispy fresh fruits and vegetables were simply out of the question; so they had to eat mushy foods, foods that were overcooked; or that didn't require a lot of biting and chewing. There's still a lot of that in third world countries.
● Ecc 12:3d . . And the ladies that peer through the windows grow dim,
In some communities; women often wave to each other out their kitchen windows and share gossip, and chat. Well, the aged women can't see well enough to recognize their neighbors anymore and so their social life suffers. To make things only worse; younger people are impatient with aged folks and tend to treat them like children; and tune them out.
● Ecc 12:4a . . And the doors to the street are shut—
The doors are shut because aged people get chilled easily. Riding on a city transit bus once, in the dead of summer in San Diego, some senior citizens shut my window because the draft was making them cold even though the rest of us on board were broiling in the heat.
● Ecc 12:4b . . with the noise of the hand mill growing fainter, and the song of the bird growing feebler, and all the strains of music dying down;
I've already lost some of my hearing in the higher and lower ranges. It's natural and to be expected, even at my age; which, to date, is only 68. Hearing aids help a lot so we don't have to yell so loud at aged folks in order for them to hear us. Just imagine not being able to enjoy your favorite music; or straining to hear ordinary conversation.
● Ecc 12:5a . .When one is afraid of heights
We can fall aplenty when we're young and get away with it. Our joints are tight and strong, our ligaments are taught and springy, our bones are solid and tough, and we can handle all the bumps and bruises life throws at us. But not so when we reach advanced age. Falls, even little ones, are extremely hazardous; and can even be fatal.
Every now and then the news runs a story of an aged person who stumbled and fell at home and broke a hip; and couldn't even reach the telephone to call for help; sometimes laying there for days until the landlord or relatives checked in on them. I knew an aged lady who's broken hip actually caused her death. Her body was so weak already from fighting cancer that the broken hip put it over the edge.
● Ecc 12:5b . . And there is terror on the road.
Back in Solomon's day, people didn't move about cocooned in the safety and comfort of a shell of metal and glass like many of us do today in modern motorized vehicles. Well; they didn't have inoculations for pneumonia back then so the aged were always in danger of literally catching their death outdoors due to exposure to wind, rain, cold, and dampness. They risked heat stroke and exhaustion too because none of those old-time conveyances came factory-equipped with AC; subsequently, aged folk didn't travel too far from home in those days; they were too much at risk of not only brigands and muggers, but mostly the elements.
● Ecc 12:5c . . For the almond tree may blossom, the grasshopper be [gravid], and the caper bush may bud again; but man sets out for his eternal abode, with mourners all around in the street.
Nature isn't dismayed by the passing of a human being. Flowers continue to bloom, bugs continue to multiply, and fruit continues to appear on vines, bushes, and trees; and birds continue to migrate. When people drop dead, the world doesn't drop dead with them. Trees and flowers go right on budding and blooming, fish go on swimming, birds go on flying, bees go on buzzing, the Earth goes right on turning, and the Moon goes right on shining as usual just like nothing ever happened.
The world was doing just fine before any one of us came along, and it will go on doing just fine after we're all gone. When those 2,829 people died in the 2001 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, and another 200,000+ were killed in the 2010 Haiti earthquake, and another 169,752 were killed in the 2004 tsunami in Indonesia, and yet another 25,000 killed and/or went missing in Japan's tsunami in 2011 —nature felt neither pity nor remorse; and the stars in their courses didn't even blink.
And funerals? What a joke. Standard funerals are anti-Green. The figures below represent chemicals and construction materials consumed on account of, and/or buried with, America's dead in just one calendar year.
• over 30,000,000 board feet of hardwoods
• over 100,000 tons of bronze, steel, and copper
• over 1,000,000 tons of concrete.
• over 1,000,000 gallons of formaldehyde
• over 2,000,000 acres of land have been clear-cut and made into cemeteries good for nothing else which have to be maintained with pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and petro-chemical fertilizers which all eventually leach into the soil and into our water supplies.
We are literally killing the planet to honor our dead. And the irony of it all— the sublime irony —is that the reason half of us go to funerals is to pay our respects to people we couldn't be bothered with when they were alive.
● Ecc 12:6 . . Before the silver cord snaps and the golden bowl crashes, the jar is shattered at the spring, and the jug is smashed at the cistern.
People with money, like king Solomon, had fancy lighting in their homes. Chandeliers made of ornate bowls overlaid with gold, containing oil or candles, were suspended from the ceiling by metal contraptions made of silver. Ancient bowls, and jars, and jugs were fragile. Once broken, they weren't repaired, but discarded and replaced with a new unit. Man is like that— just an expendable vessel; and death destroys him beyond repair like one of Solomon's terracotta dishes.
● Ecc 12:7a . . And the dust returns to the ground as it was,
Man's body is composed of mother nature's physical elements. She wants them back. But the power that makes things alive doesn't consist of mother nature's elements. The power of life is divine; and God (or the gods, whatever) wants it back after you're done with it.
● Ecc 12:7b . . and the life-breath returns to God [or the gods; whatever] who bestowed it.
In other words; man's life is a short-term loan.
● Ecc 12:8 . . Utter futility— said Koheleth —all is meaningless!
for Psalm 112