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By Carl S ~

History. What place in history the present crisis in Iraq will occupy no one knows. The current conflict between the forces of ISIS and everyone else dominates. This is a religious war, as are the ongoing religious conflicts among the religious factions opposed to ISIS, whose aim is to return to an Islamic Caliph-dominated Middle East, this time dictated by Sharia law. Caliphs are history, their reigns abolished centuries ago. History. I came across a book review of “Delphi: A History of the Center of the Ancient World.” Delphi lasted for a thousand years, where rulers came for wisdom, to consult priestess-oracles on the future, and on the decisions they must make. Delphi celebrated its many gods, held athletic, music, painting, dance, and mime competitions; Delphi, with its over-adorned sanctuaries and wealth. What remains of Delphi? It is a tourist attraction in Greece, where perhaps others, as I, ponder the fact that one day it became “history.”

Consider the glory of ancient Egypt, with its kingdoms, its gods worshipped with faith passionate, and its doctrines of life after death. It too is gone as if it never was. What memorials it left standing for the ages are pyramids, which are tombs, built for many years by men and women who had better things to do, like spending their time in loving and taking care of each other and their children. For tombs? What are left are the end results of royalty and clergy leeching off the population. (As then, so it will be if and when the religious righteous in the Middle East and America get their way.) This is history, and in the whole scenario of time, it is vanity.

What of Nazi Germany and its “thousand year reign,” and the Soviet Union? What became of the Super Race, the New Soviet Man? Those were doctrinal revolutions driving nations to another type of Promised Land, blessed Paradise, their “priests” just as sure of themselves and dedicated as any religion-driven ideologues. Millions have died and suffered intolerable miseries for a promised earthly or heavenly future because of them and their followers. Yet still, the likes of ISIS, the Taliban, neo-Nazis, etc., etc., militate through whichever way they can. For what ends?

We are reminded of the comment in Ecclesiastes, “All is vanity.” We are reminded of the vanity of a belief in a divinely-endowed-human-centric-universe, where all that matters is us (or “Us,” as in “God’s Elected Ones”), and our goals. Such dogmatism is vanity. The vain ISIS are lying to themselves, as are the Taliban, those who fought Christian wars in Europe, and the religious “right” everywhere. The religious alone still stand amongst the destroyed ruins their predecessors have made, and still have not learned the lessons those ruins are shouting at them: Don’t do this again! And yet they keep trying to force “the will and the glory of God” on others, even if that ”glory” comes of bloodshed. Yet all is vanity, because glory does not last and never did. And how many have suffered and will continue to suffer because of their vanity?

At the end of humanity’s rainbow is not a paradise or spiritual pot of gold, but the continual history of the ordinary and mundane, the tears, joys, caring, disappointments, love gained and lost, things to be enthused about: the everyday life of ordinary people, that persists through and survives ideologies, greed, persecution and disasters. This is not vanity; this is reality.

Someday, people will say, “What was the big deal about Christianity?” Someday, people will openly ask, “What was the big deal about Islam?” Past gods have become superstitious shadows, their temples returning to the dust from which they came. So shall one more god, with priests and dogmas, also be discredited, shown to be nothing but vanity. Already this is happening. Meanwhile, we have to deal with the blissfully-insistent-ignorance of those who refuse to learn, but especially so, for those who will not learn: “Don’t do that again!”