11 segerIn the first few chapters of Ecclesiastes, Solomon asserted that the universe couldn’t care at all about you and your problems. No matter what happens to you, the sun will rise and set, the seasons will come and go, and the rivers will continue to flow into the sea. That Old Man River; what does he care if the world’s got troubles, what does he care of the land ain’t free? He doesn’t care! The world around us is a fallen world and there is animosity between man and his environment. Work and labor is the result of sin shared by both man and woman. It is a lonely feeling. I think this might have been the basis for Woody Guthrie’s song that Pete Seger (rest his soul) often sang: “you got to walk that lonesome valley; you have to walk it by yourself. Nobody else can walk it for you; you have to walk it by yourself.”

There are four kinds of loneliness that have been identified by psychiatrists. First, there’s simply the loneliness of being alone. In itself this is pretty miserable. Prisons use “solitary confinement” as one of the most serious forms of punishment to keep the inmates in line. POW’s who have spent months in alone is small rooms spend their lives struggling with those memories. Second, there is also psychological loneliness. That’s when a person is physically part of a group but doesn’t feel like they belong. Most rebellion and delinquency during adolescence is often attributed to this kind of loneliness. Third, there’s what is known as the loneliness of separation. I felt this most profoundly when I went off to boot camp with the Navy at 17. I missed those who cared about me. Finally, there’s one of the most profound kinds of loneliness. Theologians and Philosophers refer to it as “existential loneliness.” That’s the sense of being alienated from the universe. A generation is born, a generation dies. The rivers continue to flow, the wind continues to blow. The sun continues to rise and set. The inanimate world couldn’t care less about the drama of humanity let alone the sufferings and pains of the individual. I remember an old movie entitled, “A clockwork Orange.” It presented the world as a huge clock, wound up and pitched into empty space to wind itself down by an aloof God who, like Old Man River, just keeps on rolling along.

When people see themselves that way they begin to look at others that way. In a Clockwork Orange violence and greed and every other corrupt thing reigned supreme. That’s how people treat each other in a universe that doesn’t care. Solomon addresses this “evil done under the sun” in Ecclesiastes 4:1-2. He says, “I saw all the oppressions that are done under the sun. And behold, the tears of the oppressed, and they had no one to comfort them! On the side of their oppressors there was power, and there was no one to comfort them.” The oppressed and the oppressors are in the same boat! This is always what happens when God is taken out of the picture. I remember an old song from the 50’s by Brenda Lee entitled “All Alone Am I.” She sings it to a lover. All mankind sings it to God; “All alone am I ever since your goodbye, all alone with just a beat of my heart.”