I said in my heart, Go to now, I will prove you with mirth, therefore enjoy pleasure: and, behold, this also is vanity.…
He now resolves to abandon the "studious cloisters." For their quiet he will substitute the excitement of feverish pleasure. But this tremendous reaction from the joys of the philosopher to coarser animal pleasure is not easy. He has to goad his mind before it is ready for this new and low direction. He has to say to his heart, "Go to now, I will prove thee with mirth." What a fall is here, from the contemplation of high themes of truth, the works of God and man, to merely sensual pleasure! But the experiment is brief. It would be. For a man of wisdom could not be long in discovering the utter worthlessness of sensual gratification; sharp and swift comes the conclusion: "I said of laughter, It is mad, and of mirth, What doeth it?" It has sometimes been the question of thoughtful people how the wise man could bring himself to try this second experiment, the effort to find happiness in "the lust of the flesh" and "the lust of the eye." This, it is usually thought, is the delight of fools. But that a man who could say he "had seen the works that are done under the sun," whose philosophy had ranged over new things until they were seen to be the old things recurrent, who could truly say that he had "gotten more wisdom than all they that had been before him in Jerusalem," — for such an one to fly from philosophy to pleasure, from meditation to mirth, is accounted phenomenally strange. But it is not. Across just such extremes does the restless spirit fly that has not yet learned that happiness is not the creature of circumstance, but the outgrowth of the life. And how it magnifies this inner character of happiness to reflect that even wisdom pursued for its own sake may be seen to be so hollow that the soul will fly to the farthest distance from it, inferring that even sensual folly may be a relief from the emptiness of knowledge!
(C. L. Thompson, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: I said in mine heart, Go to now, I will prove thee with mirth, therefore enjoy pleasure: and, behold, this also is vanity.