The Futility of All Endeavors
2 Vapor of vapors and futility of futilities, says the Preacher. Vapor of vapors and futility of futilities! All is vanity (emptiness, falsity, and vainglory).
3 What profit does man have left from all his toil at which he toils under the sun? [Is life worth living?] 4 One generation goes and another generation comes, but the earth remains forever. 5 The sun also rises and the sun goes down, and hastens to the place where it rises. 6 The wind goes to the south and circles about to the north; it circles and circles about continually, and on its circuit the wind returns again. 7 All the rivers run into the sea, yet the sea is not full. To the place from which the rivers come, to there and from there they return again. 8 All things are weary with toil and all words are feeble; man cannot utter it. The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing. 9 The thing that has been -- "it is what will be again, and that which has been done is that which will be done again; and there is nothing new under the sun. 10 Is there a thing of which it may be said, See, this is new? It has already been, in the vast ages of time [recorded or unrecorded] which were before us. 11 There is no remembrance of former happenings or men, neither will there be any remembrance of happenings of generations that are to come by those who are to come after them.
The Futility of Wisdom
12 I, the Preacher, have been king over Israel in Jerusalem. 13 And I applied myself by heart and mind to seek and search out by [human] wisdom all human activity under heaven. It is a miserable business which God has given to the sons of man with which to busy themselves. 14 I have seen all the works that are done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity, a striving after the wind and a feeding on wind. 15 What is crooked cannot be made straight, and what is defective and lacking cannot be counted.
16 I entered into counsel with my own mind, saying, Behold, I have acquired great [human] wisdom, yes, more than all who have been over Jerusalem before me; and my mind has had great experience of [moral] wisdom and [scientific] knowledge. 17 And I gave my mind to know [practical] wisdom and to discern [the character of] madness and folly [in which men seem to find satisfaction]; I perceived that this also is a searching after wind and a feeding on it. 18 For in much [human] wisdom is much vexation, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.