Peggy Lee was an American jazz and popular singer, song writer of the 20th century whose career spanned six decades. Her signature song was a 1969 hit entitled “Is that all there is?”
The song begins with witnessing her house catching on fire as a little child. As the flames consumed it and she stood watching in her pajamas, she asked, “Is that all there is?
The song moves to various life events. Going to the circus. Falling in love. Long walks by the river. And finally the death of her husband. Each time she asks, “Is that all there is?
The repeated refrain after each stanza goes like this:
Is that all there is, is that all there is
If that’s all there is my friends, then let’s keep dancing
Let’s break out the booze and have a ball
If that’s all there is
The song seems rather pessimistic. Maybe even nihilistic. Although Peggy Lee didn’t see it that way. In an interview she said “It’s about the experiences you go through in life, necessary for growth… The attitude has a lot to do with how we survive. If you can love work enough to take the dues you have to pay, it’s worth it. If not, there must be something else you can do to make you happy.”
The search for significance, meaning and fulfillment to life has been the constant quest of humankind. One of the great books of the Bible, Ecclesiastes, is dedicated to understanding “life under the sun.”
In one passage the preacher put this way:
Whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them.
I did not withhold my heart from any pleasure,
For my heart rejoiced in all my labor;
And this was my reward from all my labor.
Then I looked on all the works that my hands had done
And on the labor in which I had toiled;
And indeed all was vanity and grasping for the wind.
There was no profit under the sun (Eccl. 2:10-12)
So, is life just one series of big disappointments interspersed with a few superficial, short living moments of exhilaration?
Sadly many people think so as they chase the wind, trying to grab for all the gusto they can get, while wondering, “is that all there is?”
Recently Nathan Ward posted on facebook a quote from commentator Edward M. Curtis that speaks to this issue. “Our culture has bombarded us with the idea that happiness and fulfillment are just out of reach but can be found if we just get into this school or accumulate this much wealth or marry that person or become a partner in the business or any number of other possibilities. We have embraced a lie and are consumed by all sorts of pursuits that, according to Qoheleth (the Preacher), by their very nature lack the power to satisfy and to give meaning to life. … The siren song of materialism and success call out loudly in our culture, and few can resist them. Those who respond to the melody always run aground on the rocks of [vanity] and find themselves chasing after the wind.”
Jesus came to earth to show the human race a better way. To provide spiritual meaning to life. To offer hope. To give guidance. And ultimately free us from Satan’s snare and the servitude of sin. “My purpose,” He said, “is to give life in all its fullness” (Jn 10:10). Life under the sun. And life beyond the grave.
The Preacher’s quest in Ecclesiastes revealed that significance in life is not about success within itself. But in the reward of work well done. In understanding God’s purpose. In appreciating the brevity of life. Of keeping material possessions in their proper perspective. And realizing that it all comes from the hand of God.
“Is that all there is?”
The conclusion is to “fear God and keep His commandments. This is the whole of man.”
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman