(1) Again I observed all the oppression that takes place in our world. I saw the tears of the oppressed, with no one to comfort them. The oppressors have great power, and the victims are helpless. (2) So I concluded that the dead are better off than the living. (3) And most fortunate of all are those who were never born. For they have never seen all the evil that is done in our world.
(4) Then I observed that most people are motivated to success by their envy of their neighbors. But this, too, is meaningless, like chasing the wind. (5) Foolish people refuse to work and almost starve. (6) They feel it is better to be lazy and barely survive than to work hard, especially when in the long run everything is so futile.
(7) I observed yet another example of meaninglessness in our world. (8) This is the case of a man who is all alone, without a child or a brother, yet who works hard to gain as much wealth as he can. But then he asks himself, “Who am I working for? Why am I giving up so much pleasure now?” It is all so meaningless and depressing. (9) Two people can accomplish more than twice as much as one; they get a better return for their labor. (10) If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But people who are alone when they fall are in real trouble. (11) And on a cold night, two under the same blanket can gain warmth from each other. But how can one be warm alone? (12) A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.
(13) It is better to be a poor but wise youth than to be an old and foolish king who refuses all advice. (14) Such a youth could come from prison and succeed. He might even become king, though he was born in poverty. (15) Everyone is eager to help such a youth, even to help him take the throne. (16) He might become the leader of millions and be very popular. But then the next generation grows up and rejects him! So again, it is all meaningless, like chasing the wind.