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The Paltry Haul

In a reflection on the sad songs of Frank Sinatra, Paul Kelly composes a beautiful soliloquy on the losses in life. In part he says: “You reflect on all you’ve missed – how much of your life you’ve forgotten, how much has streamed by you, how paltry the haul in your little net.” What a great expression: The paltry haul. That same thought occurs to me whenever I see deceased estates being sold off in second-hand shops: “Was that it? Was that all that was in the net?”

What Paul Kelly doesn’t realize is that he’s simply channeling the words from the old Book of Ecclesiastes. That old preacher made the same lament millennia ago: “What does man gain from all his labour at which he toils under the sun?” The gain is meagre. The haul in the net is paltry. “Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher. “All is vanity.”

The thought however, according to Ecclesiastes, is not meant to leave us paralytic on the couch, inebriated and sad, nor to goad us on with a FOMO-complex to chase for more, nor to warn us to tie down all our goods and chattels with a stronger strap; but to teach us that this world is broken, and to remind us that it will always be so until the End; and to offer the wisdom that though our haul in life will inevitably be paltry, the love of the God who made us is not.

DM 15th October 2019

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