What is the Meaning of Life
Our Search for Security
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What is the Meaning of Life? Program 66 Our Search for Security by Ernest O’Neill
What’s the meaning of this life that we’re living now? What’s the purpose of it? Why are you here? Why am I here? That’s the subject we’re discussing on this program each day. What we have been saying is that in order to get a satisfactory answer, or indeed, an answer that has any validity at all, we need to find someone who knows more about the universe than you and I do, or indeed than any other human being including Einstein does.
The difficulty we all have in answering the question why are we here, or what is the purpose of life, or why is this earth in existence, is that we ourselves are tied to this earth. We have never been off it, except those of us who may have been in satellites or been involved in space shots. We have no idea of what lies beyond the sky. The only way we have, therefore, of getting the answer to the question of why are we here is to find someone who has been.
Of course, there is only one human being who has ever been beyond the sky above us, who has been beyond the furthest planet and the furthest star, who has been beyond the furthest spot in space that we are able to see with our radio telescopes. That person is not Zoroaster, not Buddha, not any of the great Hindu prophets, because they were all human beings and died like dogs, like the rest of us.
This man Jesus of Nazareth lived in the first century, and said that he was going to be executed and that he would come back to life again after three days, and that’s exactly what he did. He came back to life and lived here on earth for more than a month. He proved to all the people who knew him that he was not a ghost at all but was a real human being, really alive as he was before — indeed, more alive than he’d ever been before.
Then he disappeared off the earth completely. In the interim period, he explained things about life and explained to all of us what life is about and why we’re here. That’s why we are serious about listening to the answers that this remarkable man gave to us in regard to the question, “What’s the meaning of life”?
What we shared yesterday was that the first thing he said was that we were born of flesh and that’s all we were. That is, that the life that you and I had inherited from our dads and mums was just created life. It would last perhaps 70 years, or in the case of Churchill, maybe over 90, at the most 100 and then we’d go out like a light.
What Jesus said to us was that we wouldn’t believe that. We wouldn’t believe that. We have some feeling inside us that we were made for eternity. We have some feeling that makes us feel that even though everybody else may drop into the grave, we will not. Yet, we know we will. Still, this feeling persists inside of us that we were made for something bigger than that.
We were made for something more than just going out like a light. So, of course, he explained that most of us spend our whole lives trying to parley the characteristics of this created life into the kind of life that we feel we were made for. That kind of life is a life that really many of us would describe as a kind of heavenly life, because we have very definite ideas of what life should be like.
For instance, most of us feel we should have a sense of stability and safety and security. That’s it. We feel that this is the life we were made for. We were made for a life that has some kind of eternity about it, that has a stability about it, and a safety and a security about it. Those are basic attributes of the life we were made for.
Actually, most of us spend our whole lives using our minds and its shrewdness to bring this kind of life about, in spite of the fact that the life on this earth that we experience has very little stability and very little safety and very little security. Yet, we spend most of our time trying to bring those things about in our life.
For instance, most of us feel we got our education in order to survive. We feel we ought to exchange the degree that we got, or the training that we got, for the best financial reward that we possibly can. We ought to try to make our position in relationship to our colleagues as secure as possible.
We ought to try to trade up the cars and the houses, try to improve our investments, try to build up a cast iron life insurance and medical insurance package as well as we possibly can. So, most of us dedicate our lives to trying to transform this present life that is more like the life of a fiddler on the roof (it is so unstable and so insecure) — we spend our lives in some way trying to establish a stable platform for ourselves in the midst of all this instability.
Yet, we realize that it is really doomed to failure. We look at a man like Howard Hughes who probably was more successful than any of us will ever be at amassing millions and millions and billions of dollars and creating a huge empire around himself. Yet we’re haunted by his last hours on earth.
You remember how he died in a little dark room on the top floor of a very expensive luxury hotel with Kleenex stuck to his fingers. He covered his hands all the time with Kleenex tissues since his father had died of what he felt was bacteria. He was determined at all cost to keep absolutely clean and not to die of any virus or any bacteria of any kind.
He died, you remember, the death of a pauper. He died — of all things — of malnutrition. He had allowed himself to get into such indiscipline in his eating habits, and he dominated his own assistants and associates so completely, that he did not get enough nourishment to keep himself alive. There’s a man who probably was more successful than any of us ever will be, did everything possible to establish security and stability in his own life, and yet, he died the death of a pauper, of malnutrition and, really, of fear.
Most of us still try to do it. We do everything to try to establish that security and stability that we feel we should have. It’s the same with the other attributes that we feel we were made for. We somehow feel that we were made for a kind of heaven. We don’t like to put it in those terms, but we feel we were made for a kind of heaven.
We feel we ought to experience a kind of serene peace and happiness that will give us complete rest and quiet. Yet, we would naturally get bored as G. K. Chesterton says, if that’s all we experienced. So we feel that ought to be combined with an incredible exhilaration and excitement.
We imagine a kind of life that we aim for that combines the rest and relaxation of a South Sea island and the peace at Walden Pond with the physical and emotional excitement of the Arabian Nights. So we search for that kind of wild excitement and great deep peace in every relationship and experience that we can enjoy. However many people we use, or however much we suppress chemically our anxiety, we always end up with a sense of emptiness, loneliness and anti-climax.
It is a desolation that is the opposite of the conviviality and interest and utterly satisfying relationship which we feel we were made for. So many of us find that we are spending our lives trying to get into relationships that will bring this kind of experience to us.
So much of our experimentation with sex is not really because we like sex, but it is because we feel that somehow we can reproduce that tremendous moment of excitement in the orgasm that will give us absolute satisfaction and absolute joy and delight. Yet, however many people we use, we never seem able to get to the point of excitement which we think we were made for.
This is what Jesus said. He said, (paraphrased) “You know, you’re born of the flesh and that’s all you are. All you’ve got is created life. But you’re always trying to make this created life into something that is greater than created life. You’re always trying to reproduce some of the excitement of eternity in this present life.” And he says, “It’s just impossible. It’s impossible to do it.”
Let’s talk a little more tomorrow about what this man Jesus said was the meaning of our present lives.