Hail ye hollow men!

We are the hollow men

We are the hollow men

Leaning together

Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!

Our dried voices, when

We whisper together

Are quiet and meaningless.

T. S. Eliot wrote this poem in 1925—the year Fitzgerald wrote The Great Gatsby about an obsessive decadent, Hitler published the first volume of Mein Kampf and John T. Scopes was tried for violating the new Tennessee law that prohibited teaching evolutionary theory in schools—a year flanked by a couple of world wars.

Critic Robert F. Fleissner wondered whether Eliot’s hollow men were “symbolic of a nihilistic attitude or whether their hollowness mainly represented an emptiness waiting to be filled.”

I believe it was the latter. Even today, our world is filled with hollow men waiting, wanting to be filled, as a voice drones in their secret place: “The eye never has enough of seeing, nor the ear its fill of hearing. What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. Everything is meaningless.”[1]

Solomon wrote that nearly ten centuries before Jesus was born. And it’s been printed in more than 5 billion copies of the Bible since Johannes Gutenberg published his Latin Vulgate back in the 1450s. Yet, we still think we’ll be happy if we can fill our lives with enough stuff.

Walmart heiress Ann Walton Kroenke owns a $150 million, 281-foot yacht called the Aquila. No big deal, though, because entertainment mogul David Geffen has a 454-foot super-yacht he picked up for $590 million that comes with a basketball court. Then again, a Russian billionaire/politician named Roman Abramovich floats around in the Eclipse, a $1.9 billion yacht equipped with two helicopter pads, 25 guest cabins, a couple of swimming pools, several hot tubs and a disco hall.

Are any of them happy? Probably not, because even Abramovich knows that someday, somebody else is going to own a $2 billion boat.

Only God can fill our hollowness. Not because he won’t allow anything else in but because everything we let in eventually and inevitably breaks, fades, rots, sinks, wears out or is stolen.

I wonder sometimes if God’s people know that, though.

We probably don’t have a couple billion dollars to spend on toys. We just keep buying stuff with money we don’t have, because no matter what we have or how much we have, it’s never enough. So we work 60 or 80 hours a week striving to get more. But more never satisfies, and we need just a little more.

Stuff can’t fill our hollowness. Only God can. He fills us and causes us to overflow.

Not all Christians are trying to fill their hollowness with stuff. Many are trying to fill it with religion. But religions are just a different kind of stuff.

Being one with God, letting him fill our hollowness, is not religion. It’s life. Not Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings, summer camps and mission trips. TwentyFourSevenThreeSixtyFive Life.

Hollowness is the opening in our life waiting for God.


[1] Ecclesiastes 1, The Holy Bible, NIV.