What is the Meaning of Life
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WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE? Program 81 Satisfied Living by Ernest O’Neill
What is the meaning of life? That’s what we’ve been talking about on this program for several months now. Why are you here? Why do we exist? What’s the purpose of the world and the whole universe? We need to be patient with each other as we tackle such a cosmic question as this, because it’s as if the old saying about not being able to see the wood for the trees applies more effectively and more intensely to this question than any other.
We as a human race seem to be mesmerized and distracted by all kinds of other subsidiary questions to such an extent that we hardly are able to conceive of this question, let alone to attempt an answer at it. So, I ask you to be very patient as we try to discuss this together, because it’s as if the whole universe and the whole of our experience is planned so that we cannot answer this question.
Yet, it is essential that we do answer it and you know that. It’s vital that we begin to get some idea of why we are here, especially in this age when more teenagers are committing suicide than ever before in our planet, and more people are in greater despair than ever has been the case in the past history of mankind. So, it’s vital that we begin to get a handle on this question, “Why are we alive?”
You who have been listening for some time now, know that we have tried to tackle the answer to this question from the point of view of getting some authority that had some more information on this kind of cosmic issue than we ourselves have. Therefore, you remember, we decided that we had to go beyond Muhammad, who was just an ordinary man like us, died and was buried as we will be buried.
We had to go beyond people like Buddha or the Hindu prophets, beyond people like Zoroaster or Confucius. They were just ordinary human beings like the rest of us, who were giving their thoughts, their best ideas, their best shots and hypotheses at what the world was made for, and what the purpose of it was.
We resolved to try to go to the one man who seemed to have given evidence that He had passed beyond this life at some point in His own existence, and had passed beyond the space that we can see with our own eyes or with our telescopes. We chose a man who gave evidence that He, of all men, had actually passed through the experience of death and come back to life again.
Of course, we chose that man, the only man who has filled those qualifications, and that’s the man Jesus of Nazareth. Now, don’t go to sleep. Don’t say, “Oh, that old religious stuff again.” It’s not that old religious stuff again. In fact, this man Jesus is a historical figure. In fact, that old book we keep on ignoring as used and misused by evangelists, and religious people and church people to keep us all in our place, that old book called the Bible, is actually a collection of the best history books that we have in our possession as human beings.
Particularly the last third, or the last quarter of that book, consists of about 27 different documents that are called the New Testament. They give us better information on the activities of this man Jesus of Nazareth than we have for the activities of Julius Caesar, or Plato (who wrote “The Republic”), or Thucydides, or Herodotus, or any of the other great figures or literary historians of that age.
We have, you remember, followed through the manuscript evidence that there is to prove that the books that we now have are the books that were actually written back at that time, and we began, you remember, to examine
the validity and the integrity of the writers of those books to make sure that what we read here was actual history. Of course, I can only refer to those previous discussions that we’ve had and you can, by all means, send for cassettes of those if you want to catch up with where we are in this discussion.
But, we therefore decided on a simple, intellectual basis– on cool, calm examination of the documentary evidence for the historicity of this man Jesus — we did decide that, yes, He did live the life that He is said to have lived. He was the kind of man they described him as being in these books of the New Testament. So, we’ve begun to study what He has been explaining to us about the meaning of life, and the purpose of the creation.
You remember, we looked, then, into some clues we saw in our own life that might help corroborate what He was explaining. Of course, we discovered that none of us are absolutely contented. None of us are satisfied. None of us are getting as much love, or happiness, or as much security as we feel we need. So we all, equally, are trying to establish the security that we think we were made for.
That mixture, you remember, we said of the Arabian Nights, the excitement of the Arabian Nights, and the serenity and peace and the stability of Walden Pond, and somehow we are never able to quite get it. We never manage to get enough food, enough clothing, enough shelter, enough nice homes, enough combination of vacations and stability and steadiness to really satisfy us deep down.
It’s the same, you remember, as we talked about our sense of worth and our sense of self esteem. We never seem able to get enough sense of our own value. It doesn’t matter how many wives we try to persuade to treat us as king of the universe. It doesn’t matter how many of our friends we try to get to flatter us or to look up to us. It doesn’t matter how many people seem to vote us to be the best person they know.
They never are able to give us enough sense of significance or importance or self worth to give us that sense of value and uniqueness that we really believe we have. It’s as if we all feel we are unique but nobody else knows it. So, there are 5 billion of us little flies on this earth trying to get everybody else to show us that we are unique, and yet, nobody seems interested in us.
It’s the same with happiness. We try to get a combination of fast boats, motorcars, motorbikes — of nice vacations, of wonderful relationships with other people — and somehow we never seem to get to that point of happiness we think we were made for. So, there is a clue there. Somehow or other, we don’t seem able to get from what we have in this present world of things and people and circumstances the security and the significance and the sense of happiness that we feel we were built for.
And, of course, we look to the words of Jesus himself, who said, “Really, you know, you’re born of the flesh.” That is, you’re born of human parents, and what is born of the flesh is flesh. That’s all it is, and flesh and blood can never inherit the kingdom of heaven.
It doesn’t matter what kind of kingdom of heaven you imagine yourself made for, you can never somehow reach that point of satisfaction that you think you were built for from what you can get from people, things and circumstances here in this world. That’s because, really, you were made for something more than those.
You remember we shared how Jesus explained to us that actually the things that we have around us are only gifts from a dear Creator who actually wants to be our friend. In fact, He wants to be our Father. What we really need is not so much the things He has given us, not even the sky, and the sunlight, and the beaches, and the breakers on the Australian coastline. What we need is not so much even that love that so often comes out from the eyes of our mother, or our wife, or our children.
What we need is not so much even the security that we get at times from the investments, and from the stocks and the shares. What we need is the love that lies behind all those things and that’s what gives us real satisfaction. That’s what we really need deep down.
Actually, there is an amazing verse. It’s in another part of the Bible, that’s a part of the Old Testament. It’s a book that is very rarely referred to, because it actually contains so much, at times, of Greek philosophy in it. But it’s the book of Ecclesiastes. It has a remarkable verse that says that kind of thing in Chapter 3 and I think it’s verse 11. It has part of the words of that popular song that we had some years ago, you remember. The first part of verse 11 runs like this of Ecclesiastes 3, “He has made everything beautiful in its time.”
You remember, “Everything is beautiful in its own way.” He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, “He (that is, the Creator) has put eternity into man’s mind, yet so that he cannot find it.” He cannot find what God has done from the beginning to the end. But God has put eternity into man’s mind, and that’s something of what many of us feel. We feel there is something eternal in us, that still we cannot get a satisfaction from what we see in this world.
Let’s talk a little more about that tomorrow.