In this set of images, Jonathon Roberts imagines cows sharing deep truths about the toil of work, as expressed in Ecclesiastes 3. This exploration is also inspired by a letter-turned-song from his father, a veterinarian for dairy cattle, shared in his artist statement.
9 What profit hath he that worketh in that wherein he laboureth? 10 I have seen the travail, which God hath given to the sons of men to be exercised in it.
12 I know that there is no good in them, but for a man to rejoice, and to do good in his life. 13 And also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labour, it is the gift of God. 14 I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it , that men should fear before him. 15 That which hath been is now; and that which is to be hath already been; and God requireth that which is past.
16 ¶ And moreover I saw under the sun the place of judgment, that wickedness was there; and the place of righteousness, that iniquity was there. 17 I said in mine heart, God shall judge the righteous and the wicked: for there is a time there for every purpose and for every work. 18 I said in mine heart concerning the estate of the sons of men, that God might manifest them, and that they might see that they themselves are beasts. 19 For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity. 20 All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again. 21 Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth? 22 Wherefore I perceive that there is nothing better, than that a man should rejoice in his own works; for that is his portion: for who shall bring him to see what shall be after him?
The way Ecclesiastes talks about meaninglessness and about the toil of work has always captivated me. Around the time I was thinking about these concepts, my father, John Roberts, a veterinarian who primarily serves dairy farms, sent me a letter. He is a beautiful writer and often has poignant thoughts about his work and his life in rural northern Wisconsin. The letter turned into a song called "State of the Art Veterinarian."
This got me thinking about cows the way they stare at us, at farmers and veterinarians as they work. What are they thinking about? Do they have some sort of wisdom, or insight into the meaningless and toil of work? Then, to be honest, it just really made me smile and laugh to think of cows speaking verses from Ecclesiastes. So... there you go.
Oh, one more thing. I often imagine an Ecclesiastes cow would make a great t-shirt. Who's with me? Here is the design by Paula Roberts. We're already half way there!
Jonathon Roberts is a composer and sound designer for games, film, theatre, and ensembles. His style grew out of classical and jazz training, and evolved through quality life adventures: touring the country in an RV with a one person theater piece on the Apostle Paul, living in Brooklyn with an improv music ensemble, performing in a downtown NYC absurdist comedy band, and a long stint writing music for the renowned slot machine company, High 5 Games. He has released four albums including the latest, Cities a song cycle personifying biblical cities. He created the popular podcast/web series ComposerDad Vs. Bible, in which ComposerDad accepts intense compositional challenges from a mysterious Bible while out with his kids. He frequently collaborates on music and theater projects with his wife, actor Emily Clare Zempel. They live in Beacon, NY, with their two boys and a tangled box of electrical cords. www.jonathonroberts.com