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What is the Meaning of Life

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Lesson 189 of 208
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Are You a People Pleaser?

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WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE? Program 189 Are You a People Pleaser? by Ernest O’Neill

What is the meaning of life? That’s the question that we’re discussing now in this about the hundred and eighty ninth broadcast this year. And we’re trying to find out the purpose of our lives; why you are in existence and why I’m in existence.

I have a friend who jokes about the moment when she draws up to one of these modern service stations and you get out and if your car takes diesel, of course you get out at the diesel pump and you switch the thing on and then comes this disembodied voice saying, “This is a diesel pump. Does your vehicle require diesel?” And of course she feels like answering in the same tinny voice, “Yes, it is and it does.”

You might have been at one of those service stations or you might not, but certainly when you have that experience, you begin to feel, “I’m dealing with a machine here, a kind of automaton” and the whole impression is further reinforced when you go to pay. The person in the glass cubicle — and again you speak through a window to them or you speak through a hidden microphone and it comes out to them by means of an amplifier. You begin to wonder, “Are we human beings at all, or are we just diesel pumps and automatons and recorded messages speaking to one another?”

Of course the whole impression is emphasized when you think of the answering machines that we now have on our telephones. And we hear someone say, “This is Ernest O’Neill. I am not at home. Please leave a message at the sound of the tone.” And you then begin to feel stupid as you speak into a machine, feeling that of course you’re not in contact with anybody and it’s doubtful if you may ever be. And many of us are realizing that “Animal Farm” has already arrived. We wonder if Orwell’s “1984” has come and gone and we haven’t actually noticed the difference because we were already what he described.

However it is, there are countless numbers of us in all countries today who begin to feel that the machine age is taking over. We are delighted when we realize that the artificial intelligence experts in the computer world do feel that it probably isn’t possible to actually reproduce all the subtleties and the shrewdness of human intelligence but yet we do feel that we’ve gone quite far along that road.

And part of what reinforces this in our own mind is we are troubled at times about the way we, ourselves have become like machines. Many of us go out day after day to work feeling that it’s just an automaton operating. It’s not a real human being. We go and we walk the same road. We get the same bus, or we drive the same car. We end up in the same office. We mutter the same small talk. And we operate continually to feed the same machines, and the same boss comes by, asks us how we are and we say, “We’re fine,” or “Very well, thank you.” And we go through the day often just repeating nothings, and truisms and cliches’ that get us by.

And we wonder, “Is there any personal life left?” And of course we go home so often and sit watching a box with a picture on it of other people living life and we try to live vicariously their lives with them or dream their dreams with them and then we have some supper, say goodnight and go to bed and so the whole day starts all over again very much in a machine-like way. We hardly feel that we’re achieving anything personal in the whole experience. And increasingly, we find our own actions and our own life is made up of responses and reflex reactions that are almost predestined.

And we wonder, is there anybody inside us at all, or have we lost ourselves utterly? Indeed, that’s why so many of us feel life is empty and dry today. Because we sense that there is no personality that is actually

creating anything new or initiating anything. Indeed, when we begin to think what we would like to do, or what we would prefer, we find so often we are dominated by what television tells us we would like, and by the kind of vacation we should have or by the kind of book we should read, or the kind of movie we should go to.

We find increasingly that when we wonder what we should do for a leisure time activity or for relaxation, we find ourselves mouthing the same cliches or slogans that we have heard on television, or we have read in the newspaper. And so, increasingly, great numbers of us wonder, are we alive at all? Is there any “us” in the whole situation? Or is this just a bundle of machines who do what they are told to do? And of course we find that when we attempt to be original and be different, and be creative, and be personal, we discover that we are trying to be that even in the same ways that we’re told to in the commercials or the advertisements.

And so, we try to buy a different kind of coat, or we try to buy a different kind of car, but we find we’re buying the cars or the coats that other people are buying to try to make themselves unique. And that’s what brings some of the bewilderment to many of us in these days. Many of us feel we can’t discover anything personable in ourselves at all, and actually, it is true. Many of us have ceased to be the fresh, new personalities that we were when were little five or six year olds. We have all become the same. We have become conformed to kind of an image of the rest of the world that makes us all alike.

And when we try to find out if there’s any “us” in there, we begin to realize whatever there was has died years and years ago. It died maybe — who knows — with the first star that we got on our card in junior infants school for reading well. And we saw that we would get reward if we read well. Then, we saw we would get praise if we got onto the football team. Then, we saw we would get a good job if we got a good degree or got a good training in some trade. And then we saw we would get more money if we pleased our boss. And then, we saw that we would be looked upon as a good husband if we did the right things for our wife.

And so, we have spent our life trying to please people and being afraid of not pleasing people and the result is that we feel we’re a shell. We feel we’re just an outside shell of a person and there is no “us” inside and we wonder, how on earth can we find the “us” again? We find that we almost feel we have to start all over again; we have to be born all over again.

And that’s the amazing thing. That man, Jesus of Nazareth, who has proved to be the only one who seems to have successfully left the earth and come back to tell us what it’s all about — he said that’s exactly what has to happen. You can’t enter again into your mother’s womb, but you do have to be born again from above. You have to start all over again — and the amazing thing is He said you could. I don’t know if you know the Bible at all, but in chapter 3 of a book called John, you find him saying exactly that to a man called Nicodemus. He said, “Look, you have to start all over again. You have to be born again inside. You have to be recreated inside.”

And of course last day, we shared a promise that the Maker of the world once gave 2000 years ago when He said, “A new heart I will give you. And a new spirit I will put within you.” And many of us feel, that’s exactly what we need. We need to be able to find ourselves again so that we no longer are just robots or automatons. How do you find yourself again? Let’s talk a little more about that tomorrow.

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