益處、進展或意義在哪裡?──WHERE IS THE PROFIT, PROGRESS, OR PURPOSE?

那是一次令人印象深刻的會議。聚集在一起的有海軍將領、將軍、上尉、上校、企業總裁、醫生、教授,各種層級和不同職業,具有影響力的人們。然而,他們是成功或失敗都不明顯,因為沒有制服,他們看起來都一樣。這次聚會是一次追憶往事之旅,那是2016年我們美國海軍官校1961年級在55年後的同學會。 當我環顧房間,追憶起所有這些年輕的勇士們,曾經充滿了驚人的希望、夢想和抱負,我所想到的是:「他們都去哪裡了?」

所有曾經是身強體壯的年輕勇士們,現在都是滿臉皺紋的老人。我可以認出少數幾個,但如果要辨識出他們中間的大多數人,就必須看一下名牌了。再仔細看看,我可以回憶起他們每個人在畢業典禮那天,向空中拋出帽子,換上我們所選擇的服務部隊的制服,並踏上人生偉大旅程中,下一個階段時的樣子。

在這次聚會中,我們重溫了曾在一起生活的四年裡,共同經歷的所有冒險和不幸。甚至花時間簡要地分享55年來的精彩事情。第二天早上,我們集合在美麗的海軍官校圓頂小教堂。根據傳統,我們會聚在一起舉行追思會,以紀念那些自上次團聚以來逝去的同學。那一年,追思名單上有66個名字。越戰結束後,人數有所減少,但最近人數又逐漸增加,這是年齡增長的自然結果。

坐在歷史悠久的小教堂裡,我只能猜想,在座的有多少人會被列入五年後的追思會程序中呢?考慮到本班級成員的成就,我確信有一些人的名字會被刻在紀念碑上,但我無法不思考,最終,我們所有的名字,都將被刻在某個公墓,或墳墓的花崗岩墓碑上。

死亡,有人稱之為「死神」,是不尊重人的。無論我們多有權勢,多麽成功,或者多麽富有,那個深入地下六英尺的洞,是那偉大的等化器。死亡是一個很公平的過程:我們都會死。我們每個人的墓碑,都將包含我們的名字和兩個日期(出生和死亡),然後用一個連接號分開。正如有人曾經說過的那樣,在評估一個人的生命時,「一切都在於連接號」- 到底在這中間的幾年裡發生了什麽。

追思會儀式包括朗讀《傳道書》,這是我最喜歡的聖經書卷之一。 所羅門也許是有史以來最聰明的人,他寫道:「凡事都有定期,天下萬務都有定時。 生有時,死有時…」(傳道書3章1-2節)。在前幾章,他就提出一個深刻的問題:「人一切的勞碌,就是他在日光之下的勞碌,有甚麼益處呢?」(傳道書1章3節)。也就是說,沒有益處

他的結論並不如我們期望的那樣。他說:「已有的事後必再有;已行的事後必再行。日光之下並無新事。」(傳道書19)。換句話說,沒有進展。所羅門還總結說:我見日光之下所做的一切事,都是虛空,都是捕風。」(傳道書114。這最終意味著,沒有意義

如果「日光之下」、在這地上,沒有益處、沒有進展或沒有意義,那麽我們必須假設這些只能在天上找到,且這些東西將持續到永恆。你仍然正在寫你的墓誌銘嗎 ?那麽你會如何書寫 「連接號」中間的生命呢?你的「連接號」會不會有任何持久的益處、進展或意義呢?

William “Fritz” Klumpp 曾在美國海軍擔任飛行員,包括參與越南戰爭期間的多項戰鬥任務,曾任商業航空公司飛行員、房地產主管和 CBMC 前任常務理事。

備註:如果你手上有聖經想閱讀更多相關內容,請參考以下經文:
傳道書8章15節
8:15 我就稱讚快樂,原來人在日光之下,莫強如吃喝快樂;因為他在日光之下,上帝賜他一生的年日,要從勞碌中,時常享受所得的。
傳道書12章13節
12:13 這些事都已聽見了,總意就是:敬畏上帝,謹守他的誡命,這是人所當盡的 本分( – 或譯:這是眾人的本分)。
12:14 因為人所做的事,連一切隱藏的事,無論是善是惡,上帝都必審問。
約翰福音15章4-5節、16節
15:4 你們要常在我裏面,我也常在你們裏面。枝子若不常在葡萄樹上,自己就不能結果子;你們若不常在我裏面,也是這樣。
15:5 我是葡萄樹,你們是枝子。常在我裏面的,我也常在他裏面,這人就多結果子;因為離了我,你們就不能做甚麼。
15:16 不是你們揀選了我,是我揀選了你們,並且分派你們去結果子,叫你們的果子常存,使你們奉我的名,無論向父求甚麼,他就賜給你們。
以弗所書2章10節
2:10 我們原是他的工作,在基督耶穌裏造成的,為要叫我們行善,就是上帝所預備叫我們行的。
以弗所書4章12-13節
4:12 為要成全聖徒,各盡其職,建立基督的身體,
4:13 直等到我們眾人在真道上同歸於一,認識上帝的兒子,得以長大成人,滿有基督長成的身量。
歌羅西書3章17、23-24節
3:17 無論做甚麼,或說話或行事,都要奉主耶穌的名,藉著他感謝父上帝。
3:23 無論做甚麼,都要從心裏做,像是給主做的,不是給人做的,
3:24 因你們知道從主那裏必得著基業為賞賜;你們所事奉的乃是主基督。

反省與問題討論

  1. 你是否參加過同學會,無論是你的高中或大學畢業班,甚至是家庭聚會?對你來說那是什麽樣的感覺呢?人們的互動如何?他們是渴望重溫舊日的友誼,還是僅僅更想用自己的成就,令人加深印象呢?
  2. 有人說:「一切都在於連接號」意指出生日期和死亡日期之間的時間長度。你有沒有想過,像連接號這種小小的標點符號能代表一個人的整個生命歷程嗎?想到這一點,你有什麽感覺呢?
  3. 在某些方面,舊約《傳道書》並不是聖經中最振奮人心的書,因為它提出了諸如「一切都是虛空 」或 「一切都沒有意義」的說法。當你每天為所奮鬥的事,在確立優先事項時想到這樣的觀點,你有什麼反應?
  4. 本篇作者認為傳道書的作者得出的結論是,生活中最重要的東西很多都是無益的,沒有任何進展,也沒有完成任何可以超越死亡的意義,你同意嗎?為什麽?我們要怎樣才能改變這種情況呢?


WHERE IS THE PROFIT, PROGRESS, OR PURPOSE?

By Fritz Klumpp

It was an impressive meeting. Gathered together were admirals, generals, captains, colonels, corporate CEOs, medical doctors, professors. Influential men of various ranks and professions. None of their successes and failures were apparent, however, for without their uniforms they all looked the same. The gathering was a trip down memory lane, our U. S. Naval Academy class of 1961’s 55-year reunion, in 2016.  As I looked around the room and recaptured memories of all those young warriors, filled with incredible hopes and dreams and aspirations, all I could think of was, “Where have they gone?”

All the once-physically fit young military warriors were now wrinkled old men. I could recognize a few, but it was necessary to look at name tags to identify most of them. Looking more closely, I could recall each of them as they were the day we tossed our caps in the air on graduation day, changed into the uniform of our chosen branch of service, and set forth on the next stage in our great journey of life. 

At the reunion we relived all the adventures and misadventures that we had shared during those four years we lived together. There was time to briefly share some of the highlights of the 55 years since. The following morning, we assembled in the beautiful Naval Academy domed chapel. The tradition has been to gather for a memorial service to honor those classmates who have fallen since the last reunion. That year the list contained 66 names. After the Vietnam conflict ended, the numbers slowed, but lately the numbers have increased, a natural consequence of men advancing in years. 

Sitting in the historic chapel, I could only wonder how many of those present would be listed in the memorial service program five years from then. Considering the successes of members in this class, I am sure there are some whose names are engraved on monuments, but I could not help but think that eventually, all our names will become engraved in granite – at some cemetery or gravesite. 

Death, whom some refer to as “The Grim Reaper,” is no respecter of persons. No matter how powerful, successful, or how wealthy we may be, that six-foot hole in the ground is the great equalizer. Death is a very democratic process – we are all going to die. Our personal piece of granite will contain our name and two dates (birth and death), separated by a dash. As one man once said, when evaluating one’s life, “it’s all about the dash” – what happens in the years in between.

The service included a reading from Ecclesiastes, one of my favorite books of the Bible.  Solomon, known as perhaps the wisest man who ever lived, wrote, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die…” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-2). Earlier in the book he had asked a profound question: What profit has a man from all his labor in which he toils under the sun?” (Ecclesiastes 1:3). That is, No Profit.

His conclusion was not what we might expect. He said, “What has been will be again, what is done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9). In other words, No Progress. Solomon also concluded, “I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and indeed, all is vanity and grasping for the wind” (Ecclesiastes 1:14). Which ultimately means, No Purpose.

If there is no profit, progress, or purpose “under the sun” – on earth – then we must assume these can only be found in Heaven, things that will last for eternity. You are still writing your epitaph, so what will your “dash” say about your life? Will your dash include anything of lasting profit, progress, or purpose?

William “Fritz” Klumpp served as a pilot with the U.S. Navy, including numerous combat missions during the Vietnam War, is a former commercial airline pilot, real estate executive, and former Executive Director of CBMC.

Reflection/Discussion Questions

  1. Have you ever attended a reunion – whether it be for your high school or college graduation class, or even a family reunion? What was that like for you? How did people react? Were they eager to renew old friendships, or more intent on trying to impress others with what they had accomplished?
  2. The statement is made, “It is all about the dash,” meaning the span of time between the date of birth and the date of death. Have you ever thought about how a small punctuation mark like a dash can represent the entire course of someone’s life? How does that make you feel to consider that?
  3. In some respects, the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes is not the most encouraging book in the Bible, since it makes statements like “all is vanity” or “all is meaningless.” When you consider that in light of the things you strive for every day, those priorities you establish in your life, what is your reaction?
  4. Mr. Klumpp understands the writer of Ecclesiastes as concluding that much of what we regard as most important in life is of no profit,results in no progress,and accomplishes no purpose that will last beyond the grave. Do you agree? Why or why not? How can we change that?

NOTE: If you have a Bible and would like to read more, consider the following passages: Ecclesiastes 8:15, 12:13-14; John 15:4-5,16; Ephesians 2:10, 4:12-13; Colossians 3:17,23-24


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