I hinted that Stuart Hamblin, the author of “This Old House” might have fallen back on some Old Testament illusions and memories from his Christian upbringing. He said that he wanted to write a song about an old house but also about the house that we live in day to day, what Paul the Apostle called the ‘earthly tent we live in”. In the book of Ecclesiastes we come across what many folks have perceived to be the quintessential description of old age. Allegorical interpretations run rampant and sometimes the bare bones haunting images that are readily apparent in the the casual reading of the chapter are buried under what a scholar named John F.A. Sawyer has called a ‘grotesque list of geriatric symptoms”.
Ecclesiastes 12 New International Version (NIV)
12 Remember your Creator
in the days of your youth,
before the days of trouble come
and the years approach when you will say,
“I find no pleasure in them”—
2 before the sun and the light
and the moon and the stars grow dark,
and the clouds return after the rain;
3 when the keepers of the house tremble,
and the strong men stoop,
when the grinders cease because they are few,
and those looking through the windows grow dim;
4 when the doors to the street are closed
and the sound of grinding fades;
when people rise up at the sound of birds,
but all their songs grow faint;
5 when people are afraid of heights
and of dangers in the streets;
when the almond tree blossoms
and the grasshopper drags itself along
and desire no longer is stirred.
Then people go to their eternal home
and mourners go about the streets.
6 Remember him—before the silver cord is severed,
and the golden bowl is broken;
before the pitcher is shattered at the spring,
and the wheel broken at the well,
7 and the dust returns to the ground it came from,
and the spirit returns to God who gave it.
8 “Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher.[a]
“Everything is meaningless!”
So let us look at these allegorically and as we get there you will see why this can be treacherous.
Verse three allegorically means – when your legs get tired and tremble and osteoporosis makes you hunch, and you find it hard to eat because your teeth are mostly gone and it is hard to see because your eyesight is going,
Verse 4 – you figure it out. If we are consistent we have to find a body part that matches the “door to the streets” and match it with the sound of our munching not being heard.. Rising up at the sound of birds means that old people get up with the birds, not because they hear them singing but because they can’t sleep and can’t hear them sing anyway.
Verse 5 – Old folks get afraid of falling and are afraid to go out because they might get mugged. The almond tree had white blossoms and we will have white hair, the grasshopper that used to jump far and wide just crawls like we do and the
caperberry, sometimes translated as “desire” was the ancient answer to viagra. I bet you didn’t know that when you were eating capers.
It is depressing stuff and as I said rather haunting. It is a picture of a haunted house in a way. The statement of one of my friends the other day is appropriate. This stuff about the golden years is bunk.