What is the Meaning of Life
Order, Design and Purpose of Life
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WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE? Program 146 Order, Design and Purpose of Life by Ernest O’Neill
What is the meaning of life? That’s the question we’ve been discussing for some months now here on this program at this time each day. We’ve been trying to tackle it from a semi-intelligent viewpoint, trying to deal with the things that you and I regard as real, rather than with a lot of mythology and a lot of personal opinions. What we said at the beginning was, was that we all have these questions about what the meaning of life is, or the explanation of why we are here. Why are you here? What is the purpose of your existence? What’s the point of my existence?
If we answer, “Well, the point of my existence is to stay alive”, then you know that begs that question of why stay alive. It’s the same with the kind of answer, “Well, I stay alive so that I can get a good education?” “Why?” “So that I can get a good job.” “Why?” “So that I can have children.” “Why?” “So that they can get a good….etc., etc.” Ad absurdum.
The answers to the question, “What is the meaning of life?” so often drive us into vicious circles, out of which we cannot escape. That’s what we’re trying to do in our conversations at this time each day. What IS the meaning of life? What we have said is that the meaning of life depends a great deal on what you and I believe about the origin of life.
For instance, if you believe that life has resulted just from the chance collision of atoms in space, or if you believe that life has come from a mindless, impersonal “Ã©lan vital”, or a mindless, directionless, evolutionary process, then your answer to the question “What is the meaning of life?” will be very different from your answer if you think that though there may have been an evolutionary process, it is, in fact, filled with purpose and meaning. It suggests that there is an intelligent mind somewhere at back of the universe.
If you believe that, then your answer to the question “What is the meaning of life?” in that case will be very different. For instance, if you and I think that the existence that we now experience has come about by sheer chance and has not been planned, then we are left with some very unpalatable facts. Fact one is that there are five billion other people on the planet besides yourself. Those five billion are scrambling around for whatever food and clothing is on this earth. They are scrambling for as much of it as you are scrambling for.
That immediately introduces into your attitude to life some very compulsive reasons for existing. One of the main reasons is just to get enough food to keep yourself alive, if only so that you can think a little more about why you are here. So, your life takes on a driving compulsion to get as much food, clothing and shelter as you can. Of course, the other five billion are trying to do the same thing, so it brings a certain fear and apprehensiveness into your approach to life and into your approach to your daily work and into your school. It brings in a spirit of competition that is not nearly as enjoyable as just living life for its own sake. It becomes somewhat of a rat race.
It’s the same about your feelings of self-worth and your identity. You begin to realize there are five billion others who all think of themselves as unique, as you think yourself to be, and, obviously, they don’t realize how unique you are. So, your life often takes on a kind of impulse to make yourself seem important in other people’s eyes, or, at least, to bring yourself before other people’s notice. So, again, there comes into your answer to the question of the meaning of life some degree of compulsion.
In other words, there is a sense in which you can’t afford to sit back and take an academic, reasoned approach to this question, because you are rather preoccupied with some of the needs that you have, the need you have for security, the need you have for a sense of value and significance.
It’s the same, actually, with your attitude to happiness, because you begin to be doubtful about what the purpose of life is after it’s over. You determine to yourself that you will get as much happiness here on this earth as I possibly can. So, you become a driven man or a driven woman.
In that case, “What is the meaning of life?” is…well, the meaning of life is that I am a driven man; I’m a driven woman. I’m driven by needs of security and needs of significance and needs for happiness. Really, I can’t academically or intellectually deal with that question of what is the meaning of life. The meaning of life is thrust upon me by the needs that I find I have.
Whereas, if of course you believe that there is enough evidence in the order of the seasons and in the order of the orbiting of the planets around the sun, and if you feel that there is enough indication of order and design when you study the DNA molecule or you look at the chart of the elements and see how miraculously it seems that they fit into that chart as we discover each element. Or if you feel, like Einstein, that the order and design in the universe indicates that there was another mind that is greater than our minds that can discover that order and design, then you can take a much more relaxed attitude to the question.
You begin to ask yourself, “Now, if there is an intelligent mind behind the universe, then that mind must have had some purpose in creating me, because that mind certainly has an obvious purpose in creating the smallest insect. The incredible balance of nature shows us that there is a purpose for everything in nature. It is incredible the way there has come about a purpose for everything in our own bodies.
So, this intelligent mind behind the universe has certainly shown great economy in His design of things. It is reasonable to believe that He has shown equal economy, if not more so, in creating us. We seem to be the very peak of creation. We seem to have, for instance, the only brain cells that are able to think about themselves. So, there are indications that we are certainly near the top, if not at the very top, of the natural creation. It is utterly reasonable to believe that this Creator had a reason for making us.
Then, your task begins to be how to find out the nature of this Creator and this Maker and find out if He knows about you being here and what He had in mind in putting you here. Of course, your approach to the question of the meaning of life becomes a great deal more balanced and can be, if you use your mind, a great deal more intelligent. That, of course, is the approach that we have taken.
We have said that it is utterly unreasonable to believe that this whole thing came about by chance, because order and design cannot result from time plus chance. There had to be a personal mind behind the universe. You know how, in the earlier programs, we have discussed the reasons for believing that there is an orderly mind and then believing that that orderly mind was personal. And then believing that that orderly mind had a Son, and that that Son was the unique man that lived in the first century of our era. That man was Jesus of Nazareth.
Now, I won’t try to go over all that explanation. If you would like to explain or talk about or discuss the reasons for believing that there is a Creator, then please do send for the earlier tapes and catch up with us on that. But, we have got to the point in our discussion where we believe that that is very reasonable. Because of our discussion and our study of the documentary evidence and manuscripts that lie behind the history of the New Testament, we have come to the conclusion that that man, Jesus of Nazareth, is actually the Son of the Maker of the world. He explained to us what the meaning of life is and what reality is.
That’s really what we would like to discuss now for the next months and possibly the next years. So, please do, if you have not reached that point in your own thinking, do write to the address that I give at the end of the program and we will send you those earlier tapes and you can catch up with the discussion. Now, what I would like to begin to do tomorrow is talk about the explanation of the meaning of life that this unique man, Jesus of Nazareth, gave us.