What is the Meaning of Life
Our True Sense of Self
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WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE? Program 190 Our True Sense of Self by Ernest O’Neill
What is the meaning of life? That’s the subject we’ve been discussing now for, I think, about one hundred and eighty eight broadcasts this year. And we’re trying to deal with it from the point of view of our own, normal personal experiences. And what we have been saying recently, after discussing what the origin of the world was and how it was made and what we think the Maker had in mind when He made us, is the dreadful feeling so many of us have that we have become machines ourselves.
We are surrounded by machines. We’re meeting automated gas or petrol pumps now at the service stations. We so often go up and pay our money through a glass window to someone that seems almost an automaton at times to us in the service station. We get out money from, not personal tellers, but from machines built into the walls of our banks. We often phone our friends and receive answering machines speaking to us, telling us where they are. And all in all, we find ourselves dealing as often with machines as we do with people. And many of us feel that we also have become machines because it seems we, ourselves, have been programmed.
We’ve been programmed to please people from when we pleased our first junior infant teacher to the last time we responded to our boss’s smile or were all worried and went home depressed after he had frowned at us. We find ourselves behaving so often like machines as far as our jobs are concerned. We discover that we do them almost as a robot would, with not terribly much interest in the job. And we do it primarily just to get our little pay packet at the end of the week or month so that we can exchange it for something that will go in our tummies and then, we hope that we might exchange it for something that will give us a little happiness.
And so, we have realized that many of us live like machines. And we have reached the point where for us, the problem is not to research into the problem of outer space, but rather, research into the problem of inner space. And we, so often, look inside to see if there is anybody in there at all. Where did we go, the ‘us’ that used to be? Where am ‘I’? Where was the fresh little personality that used to think of all kinds of happy hopes and thoughts when it was five, six or seven years of age? And we wonder longingly, “Now, where is that person?”
What we have been saying is that many of us find that there seems nobody there. We introspect a little; look inside to try to find out if there is any person there. And we begin to come up with the conclusion there is nobody there. And then, we realize with horror (and horror, probably, is an understatement) that we cannot find ourselves. We actually don’t know who we are any longer. We can’t tell what we really do want to do with our lives or what we really think.
And we begin to see that we have died inside, that something has died inside us, something that was good. It’s as if Wordsworth’s line of poetry has a pathetic meaning for us especially. He said, you remember, “and there hath passed a glory from the earth.” And it seems as if in our own lives so often there hath passed a glory from the earth. Some of the fresh spontaneity that used to be “me” has disappeared.
And what we have been saying is that there was a remarkable man that lived in the first century of our era and was different from all the other so-called religious leaders, in that they all died like us and were buried and that was the end of them. But this man died and was buried and then came back to life again, and lived here on the earth for more than a month, proving to everyone that knew Him and many that didn’t, that He was able to overcome death, and that He was actually the Son of the Maker of our world. And that man was the man that we know as Jesus.
And he, actually, said this. He said, “You know, if you live depending on the world of people and of places and things and circumstances for your security and your significance and your happiness, you’ll eventually die inside. You’ll just die.” And he knew we would. He knew that you can’t keep on depending on the bank or the company for the security that you need, your financial security and your material security, without, as that old song goes, “losing your soul to the company store.”
Eventually, you become utterly dependent, and a slave to the thing or the person that seems to be able to provide you with the money that will give you the security or the food and the shelter and clothing that you need to stay alive. And that’s what happens to us. We die inside. And we become just robots that are stimulated and motivated by the powers that provide us with security.
It’s the same with our desire for significance or self worth, or self esteem. We start off thinking that we’re simply using our friends to establish our prowess or our prestige by our cleverness. But, we end up depending on their opinions of us and depending on their approval and we become slaves that do whatever will gain their approval. Whatever will get a smile from them will produce the right joke from us. Whatever will please them, we will do. And so, we die inside.
We cease to be ourselves. We lose the sense of what we, ourselves, are. And this man, Jesus, said, that will happen to you. And there’ll come a time when the only answer will be if somehow that can be recreated inside you: what you used to be when you were a child; what you used to be when you were young; that spontaneous you. That will have to be recreated in you, and no psychologist can recreate that. No one can recreate that because that is your spirit that has died. That’s the real you. When we talk about the spirit of Churchill, we talk about the very essence of the man. When we talk about your spirit, we are talking about your real essence, the thing that makes me, me, and makes you, you.
And that’s what has died and that’s what has to be recreated. Jesus said that you actually have to be born all over again and the man he was talking to (it’s recorded in one of the books of the New Testament called John in chapter 3) was a scholar. And he said, “You mean I have to enter into my mother’s womb all over again and be born?” and Jesus said, “No, no. You have to be born from above. You have to be born from above by the spirit; my Father’s spirit, who is the Maker of the world. He has to put that spirit into your spirit again and make you alive again.”
And of course, this man whose name was Nicodemus could not believe it. He said, “Do you mean that can happen?” And Jesus said, “Yes, it can.” And it actually can happen. What we have done is, we’ve made it so religious that we think it’s a spooky thing, but actually you can start all over again. You can be changed inside and there is only One who can do it. And that is the Maker who originally made you. Let’s talk a little further about how you can actually experience that once and for all in your life. Let’s talk about that tomorrow.