“Better is the sight of the eyes than the wandering of the soul — this too is vanity and exasperates the spirit.”
There is an old saying that goes: “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” In other words, be satisfied with what you actually have than to risk losing for further gain. And though there is a great deal of debate in terms of how commentators understand this passage (Christian and Rabbinic alike), that seems to be the heart of what Solomon is communicating to us. It is better to enjoy that which God has already placed in your hands than to be constantly dreaming of “greener grasses” elsewhere and chase after a wandering spirit.
Perhaps, this is one passage that strikes at the heart of many of us who fancy ourselves dreamers and who don’t really “fit into the mold” that society around us sets before us. For, indeed, it is the dreamers who often change the world with their ideas. At the same time, even the dreamer must recognize that it takes tangible efforts to bring dreams into reality. And perhaps that is what we most need to take away from what Solomon is teaching us here.
Many years ago, while I was still teaching High School, I went to a teacher’s conference (continuing education and all that) and remember sitting in a seminar where the presenters were talking about this great plan to equip youth to rise up and be a clear Christian witness in the communities, the schools, and the colleges around them. On the surface, it sounded great, so in the question and answer segment, I asked, “What is your plan to accomplish this?” I was stunned and profoundly disappointed by the speaker’s answer. He said, “I don’t know, I’m just the motivational speaker.” Needless to say, I left the seminar and did not attend any more seminars that they had to offer.
That’s the problem with chasing after the soul and only chasing after the soul. At the end of the day, nothing tangible is put into practice. What does need to think, to dream, and even chase after the soul with ideas that are “outside of the box” somewhat; but at the same time, they must be grounded in reality if they are going to benefit anyone. So, set your sights on observable and tangible things even as you dream about what God is or may be doing with you.