Sunflowers and Sand

Claret SunflowerThe sunflowers, far from being eaten by the slugs as I had expected, have rocketed up and are starting to flower. Most of them are multi-headed red ones – ‘Claret’. They are about five or six feet at the moment.

The sea down the road is now warm enough to swim in quite comfortably – though Wiseman’s is a fairly rocky beach. It seems best on the right hand side where the sand is heaped up against a rock outcrop. It’s lovely to swim there as the tide comes in over warm sand – though the surf break that’s said to appear at high tide has not worked for ages. Mainly a winter phenomenon.

I’ve been reading Jacques Ellul La raison d’ĂȘtre – a meditation (not a commentary, not verse by verse) on the rather gloomy book of the Bible called Ecclesiastes. Ellul comments that this is his last book – and he was an elderly man when he wrote it. This echoes Ecclesiastes in that the biblical book feels rather like someone trying to make sense of their life and not finding much. Ellul’s interpretation is, as usual, fascinating. Where many commentators find a rather rough assemblage of texts, with pious later additions (the book is mostly rather bleak – life is generally vanity, justice uncommon, all hopes of leaving something worthwhile foolish, etc, so more traditional pious statements look questionable), Ellul finds something dialectical – we are led to see the hopelessness of life in order to get beyond trust in riches, work, politics, the future, conventional religiosity. And then we might find a rather bare ascetic sort of faith. Though at this stage of Jewish faith there was no belief in immortality so it’s a curious sort of this-worldly asceticism – the pleasures of eating, drinking, etc, are encouraged, since that’s your lot! But on the other hand there’s this desire to see things are bluntly and bleakly as honesty demands. It reads a little bit like a depressed man in old age, finding not a lot of value in his life. Ellul himself has always been thought rather bleak and he is famous for his rejection of just about every obvious path out of the modern impasse (however defined!) so it’s natural that Ellul finds Ecclesiastes full of insight. Rather nice that such a bleak thing found it’s way into the Bible! Though it is a book that taken on its own presents a rather one-sided view of life, a view of life more from, perhaps, its conclusion than from its centre.

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