MUSIC MONDAY: JOHNNY CASH, TRENT REZNOR, & KING SOLOMON
by Greg West
Everything is meaningless?
‘Hurt’ was one of the last music videos that Johnny Cash ever made, and a haunting one it is. Because the song seems so autobiographical of Cash, many people mistakenly give him credit for writing it, when in actuality, it is a cover of a song that was written by Nine Inch Nails’, Trent Reznor. When watching the video and listening to the haunting lyrics, it brings to my mind images from the biblical book of Ecclesiastes. A lot of people avoid reading the book of Ecclesiastes because they find it too depressing. In Ecclesiastes chapter 1 verse two, Solomon begins the with the statement, “Everything is meaningless; completely meaningless!” No, this does not sound cheerful at all! Although I do agree that Ecclesiastes is, in many ways, ‘depressing’, I do not think it is a book that we should avoid given the conclusions arrived at by its author, King Solomon.
Israel’s King Solomon, the son of King David, started out his reign on the right foot. In a dream God had told Solomon that he would give Solomon whatever he asked for (1 Kings 3:5), to which Solomon replied, “Give me an understanding heart, so that I can govern your people well and know right from wrong. For who by himself is able to govern this great people of yours?”
God was so impressed with Solomon’s answer that not only did he decide to make him the wisest man who ever lived, but he also decided to bless him with peace, long life, and riches and fame far beyond anything the world had ever known (1 Kings 3:10-13). Under King Solomon’s reign, Israel experienced the most prosperous period it has ever known, before or since. It was also during this time, under Solomon’s direction, that the great temple was built in Jerusalem.
Sadly, after such a good beginning, despite all of his wisdom, riches, and fame, Solomon’s heart turned away from God and toward the pagan gods of his many foreign wives. In spite of all that God had given Solomon, everything that he could ever have wanted and more, Solomon was still not satisfied and turned his heart away from God.
To sum up the book of Ecclesiastes in an egg shell (sorry, I couldn’t resist), Solomon is grieving over the fact that although there was no pleasure in life that he did not deny himself, it was all meaningless. He had finally come to the realization that no matter what you do in life, if done apart from God, and not to the glory of God, then you may as well just be spitting in the wind.
Trent Reznor is someone who the world would consider to be very ‘successful’ in life, yet despite all of his success, he was once quoted as saying, “The biggest revelation I’ve had about my own life is that I’ve done everything I’ve ever wanted to do and I’m still pretty miserable.” Whether Trent Reznor knows it or not, he is paraphrasing Solomon from the book of Ecclesiastes; “Everything is meaningless; completely meaningless!”
Why is it that so many people who have amassed great wealth and achieved worldwide fame, still express feelings of unhappiness, dissatisfaction, and even depression? Could it be that Solomon was right; that apart from God everything is meaningless?