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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.

Ecclesiastes 3:9-22

Ecclesiastes Cows


Jonathon Roberts


Photo Credit:
Artist location: New York City/Wisconsin

Curated by: 

Spark+Echo Arts


Digital images, satire, music

Image by Giorgio Trovato

Primary Scripture

What profit has he who works in that in which he labors?
I have seen the burden which God has given to the sons of men to be afflicted with.
He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in their hearts, yet so that man can’t find out the work that God has done from the beginning even to the end.
I know that there is nothing better for them than to rejoice, and to do good as long as they live.
Also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy good in all his labor, is the gift of God.
I know that whatever God does, it shall be forever. Nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it; and God has done it, that men should fear before him.
That which is has been long ago, and that which is to be has been long ago: and God seeks again that which is passed away.
Moreover I saw under the sun, in the place of justice, that wickedness was there; and in the place of righteousness, that wickedness was there.
I said in my heart, “God will judge the righteous and the wicked; for there is a time there for every purpose and for every work.”
I said in my heart, “As for the sons of men, God tests them, so that they may see that they themselves are like animals.
For that which happens to the sons of men happens to animals. Even one thing happens to them. As the one dies, so the other dies. Yes, they have all one breath; and man has no advantage over the animals: for all is vanity.
All go to one place. All are from the dust, and all turn to dust again.
Who knows the spirit of man, whether it goes upward, and the spirit of the animal, whether it goes downward to the earth?”
Therefore I saw that there is nothing better, than that a man should rejoice in his works; for that is his portion: for who can bring him to see what will be after him?

Ecclesiastes 3:9-22

The way Ecclesiastes talks about meaninglessness and 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 and 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.

Spark Notes

The Artist's Reflection