In a community of mostly 18-22-year-olds, the experiences and thoughts of a 28-year-old can stand out from the crowd. Cody Cantabrana, a Senior Theology major from San Diego, is exactly one of those 28-year-olds who, although still young, has lived a life very different from most of the college students he is around.
He makes no claim to know all the wisdom of Solomon, but the parallels between Ecclesiastes and the experiences of his life are hard to miss.
You can hear them in his words.
“What advantage does a man have in all his work which he does under the sun? A generation goes and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever.”
“My earliest memories that I have are of going to the park when I was a little kid with my dad. I hung out with my dad a lot. My mom worked far away for JPMorgan Chase. She’s actually retiring this year. But she works in the car loan department. She doesn’t work for the bank she works for corporate. My dad’s a barber. He owns his own hair salon so I remember hanging out with him a lot.
“We went to Holiday Park a two minute drive from my house. We used to go there when I was probably five or something. It was a wooden park. You know how everything is made out of plastic nowadays; I feel super old but it was constructed of wood and metal. Those are the old school kind. I remember going down the slide, and there was sand on the bottom, not rubber.”
“Rejoice, O young man, in your youth. . . . Walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes. But know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment.”
“[We] went to church every Sunday: Carlsbad Community Church. We didn’t talk about it, though. We just went because it was something to do. I remember sitting in Sunday School where they had the felt board. I didn’t remember anything, just that Moses and David looked alike on the felt board.
“I think when I was younger I thought, ‘Oh yeah, I think I know this Jesus character.’ Then my motives were different when I was in high school. I was going to high school group because of girls.
“Then I’d go to Hume Lake for the summers because it was a different change of pace than staying at home. But I didn’t really participate. I’d hang out with all of the gothic kids and the kids whose parents made them go. I felt like I fit more in with that crowd.”
“I said in my heart, ‘Come now, I will test you with pleasure; enjoy yourself.’ . . . All that my eyes desired I did not refuse them I did not withhold my heart from any pleasure . . . and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind.”
“I graduated from high school and moved to Hollywood. I went to music school for recording and engineering at Musicians Institute. And I worked at the House of Blues as music hall security, also known as a bouncer.
“I was trying to do as much as I could to fulfill myself whether that was girls, partying, fighting, music—I loved music. I still do love music—I wanted to live that lifestyle that I thought would be most desirable and when I hit that point . . . it wasn’t.
“One of the biggest moments was when I ran into one of my favorite musicians in Ralph’s. His name is Jesse Hughes and he’s in a band called Eagles of Death Metal. He’s a really nice guy, but the more I talked to him the more I saw a sense of emptiness in his life. He was waiting for his coke dealer so that’s why he was talking to us. He actually gave us his phone number and told us to call him up because he was having a party at a hotel and he was having a bunch of porn stars and stuff and a bunch of musicians were going to be there.
“At first I was like, ‘Oh cool. Sick!’ And then we got back and I thought, ‘That’s so depressing. This is the life I want to live. Is this what I want for myself?’ It seemed so . . . empty. I kind of hit rock bottom at that point. I had used up all of my vices.’
“The heart of fools is in the house of mirth . . . as the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of the fools; this also is vanity.”
“One thing about the House of Blues that got me is that it showed me the depravity of the world. It was eye opening to see how people would react when they have the Fridays off work and they would come in and just want to do their own thing. There were porn parties that we had to work. You’d see the rich people snorting coke. Some of the bands that would play would be super dark. It was very much a gloomy experience and showed me how dark things can get.”
“What is crooked cannot be straightened and what is lacking cannot be counted.”
“When I was working one night my friends moved out so I was left paying the rent for myself which I couldn’t do so I had to move out. My parents were loving enough to bring me back home to San Diego. I moved back and started to do the same thing I was doing in Hollywood. I met up with a lot of high school and then played on a softball team but I would get super high or super drunk and then we’d play softball and party and I was dating around as well. And then, I don’t know, I just hit this moment of [thinking], are there any answers out there?
“I applied my heart to seek and to search out by wisdom all that is done under heaven. It is an unhappy business . . . for in much wisdom is much vexation, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.”
“I started to look at religions and test if they were right or not. So I started with Islam because I thought that was the total opposite of America. I didn’t want to touch Christianity because I had been around that boat a while. I read the Quran for what it was. It seemed very political. I tried to research all of their apologists and listen to [them] online, and it seemed too political for me. It seemed like it had an agenda more than a hope. I threw it out.
“Then I was into Buddhism and Hinduism. I actually really liked them. I thought they had a lot of good things to say. But they didn’t deal with death and death is something we all have to face in understanding, contemplate and acknowledge. They are very humanistic, and they didn’t want to tackle death so I threw them out.
“Then I went to Christianity because I wanted to prove Jesus wrong so once I proved Jesus wrong then I can move over to Judaism. And then if I could prove Judaism wrong then I could get rid of religion altogether and I could just live life the way I feel.”
“Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come.”
“I read the Gospels but I couldn’t really understand them. But I read Mere Christianity with the trilemma effect, which is: Either Jesus is a liar, a lunatic, or he’s telling the truth. So I went with that and though, well, he’s not crazy because a lot of religions accept him as a good teacher. So I was left with a liar, and it was hard for me to get past that and so logically I came to the conclusion that Jesus is who he said he was.
“At that time, though, I was still doing the same things. I was still doing drugs and stuff but this time I was going to church were my parents were going.”
“The conclusion, when all has been heard is: fear God and keep his commandments, because this applies to every person.”
“I always tell people you’ll know when the Spirit enlightens you or illuminates you to understanding the truth, and I think that became a reality when I was going to a men’s Bible study. I stopped at a light and thought, ‘I don’t know what I’m doing. Why am I doing this religion and still doing the same thing? Either I’m going to be 100% in or 100% out. I feel like I’m still serving two masters.’ And since then, everything changed.
“I was in a band and we would practice at least three or four times a week. We would drink and do drugs when we would practice so when I got saved I went to practice one day and told them, ‘I’m not going to do this any more. I’m done. I’m a follower of Christ and I can’t live this lifestyle any more and I need to get away from it because it keeps slowing me down.’
“So I lost my best friends. I started at zero. With nothing.”
“There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment?”
By Jen Gibb