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It Makes No Difference In The End

"Do you know what common Anna Frank, Van Gogh, Franz Kafka and Stu Sutcliffe?" I asked her. We were driving to my friend's wedding and the ride seemed to take forever. The road was packed. It seemed like everybody in Tel Aviv was going to the wedding, although I knew that only 150 people were invited.

"Who's Stu Sutcliffe?" she asked. "He was with the Beatles, in their early days, when they were playing clubs in Hamburg. Eventually he decided to stay in Hamburg with his German girlfriend, and study art."

"Were they all Jewish?" she tried and I smiled - "Only two of them, as far as I know. No, that's not it." I knew she would loose her patience soon... "They all died anonymous," I told her. "All four of them became famous only after they died. They actually never knew that they would become famous. Van Gogh died a frustrated, bitter pauper, The Nazis killed Anna Frank in a concentration camp, Kafka's masterpieces were published years after his death, and Stu Sutcliff died a year an a half before his former band members signed their first recording contract."

"Don't you think it's terrible?" I asked her after a long silence. "What's terrible?" - "Dying without knowing that you're going to become famous one day. People are striving for recognition and fame, and these people made it, but they never knew about it. Isn't it one of the worst things that can happen to someone?" "Not really. I mean - it's sad, but when you think about it - does it really matter? Once you're dead, you're dead. Regardless of how acclaimed, revered and admired you were. It makes no difference in the end."

"In the biblical book of Ecclesiastes, King Solomon opens with these words: "Meaningless! Meaningless! Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless." And that's coming from a man who claimed to be the richest and smartest and most famous 'under the sun'. He reached the same conclusion. Everything is meaningless, and so is fame and admiration. Bottom line - it means nothing."

I was a kind of smashed and dizzy when we got home. However, the first thing I did was to open the Bible and look for the book of Ecclesiastes... I heard her saying "Good night" (or at least that's what I presume she said) as she turned off the light in the bedroom.

"The words of the teacher son of David, king in Jerusalem..." I read the whole thing (excellent relief for a severe hangover). I was in great suspense as I was nearing the end of the book. So many intriguing dilemmas and fascinating existential questions, and such a disappointing solution - "Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man." - the perfect anticlimax...

"Many scholars believe that the last few sentences are a much later addition to the original text," she told me over breakfast. "There was a big debate whether to include this controversial scroll in the biblical canon. It seems like they reached a compromise."

"And one more thing - many people believe that the author wasn't really King Solomon but a much later impersonator who wrote the scroll hundreds of years after King Solomon's era. He used the King's name to draw attention to his writing, after receiving little or any acknowledgment from his contemporaries. I guess you can add him to your list of became-famous-too-laters," she said with a smile. And then she became serious...

"You know something - I never thought about it this way... I mean - if it wasn't really King Solomon who authored the scrolls, which I believe it wasn't, then the entire scroll takes on a different perspective. It's not the rich and mighty king who after experiencing almost every possible indulgence under the sun comes to the conclusion that everything is 'Meaningless', but a bitterly repressed and frustrated writer who probably spent long years trying to reach the limelight, but never really made it big. And then he came up with a brilliant idea - he could use a pseudonym, something that will draw immediate attention." She looked out the window and whispered - "Brilliant... absolutely brilliant... - you see - he knew that his contemporaries would recognize immediately that it's not a King Solomon novel. The pessimistic ambiance, the blasphemous radical ideas... he knew no one would buy that. But maybe one day, far into the future, people just might believe that it was the king himself..."

I picked up my friend from his office. He was tanned and seemed a bit disconcerted and dreamy. I wondered if it was because he just returned from a three-week-long honeymoon, or because he was adjusting to his new marital status..

"So, do you know what Anna Frank, Van Gogh, Franz Kafka, Stu Sutcliffe and Ecclesiastes from the bible have in common?" I asked him...

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