Description: Search for happiness in favorable circumstances or relationships
WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE?
Happiness in Your Circumstances
by Ernest O’Neill
Do you want to be happy? Yes, that’s it. Do you want to be happy? I can hear you thinking, “What kind of line
is this guy going to take?” But really, I’m just asking you as an ordinary human being, like yourself, do you
want to be happy? You know the answer that you or I would give to this question, “Of course, we want to be
happy! That’s the point of living, to be happy. I do want to be happy!”
Yet, there’s another thought which comes in right behind that one, “But I don’t know if it’s possible. Indeed,
as the years pass, I grow increasingly doubtful as to whether it is possible to be happy. But, yes, I do want
to be happy.” If I ask you, “Can you remember ever being happy?” you’ll say, “Well, yeah, yeah I can! There
have been moments when I’ve been happy.” If I ask you when those were, maybe you look back to some time when
some circumstances occurred that seemed absolutely right.
You met the right girl, or you married the right man. Or you remember a vacation where the weather was just
perfect. Or you look back to a party where the people at it were just exactly the ones you wanted to be with,
or you look back to an experience that had an excitement and a thrill to it. Or you look back to some
beautiful painting or piece of music that you heard. You look back to something that happened. Happiness is
with the right happenings.
You look back to some circumstances that were exactly right. Of course, the reason for the importance of this
question is that we’re all concerned with happiness. We feel we ought to be happy. We are losing hope of being
happy, but we feel we were made to be happy. We tend to look back longingly to days when we were children,
when we seemed to have last been happy. It seemed there was a time when life was simple enough so that you
could be happy. But it’s years ago, and we’ve almost lost hope of being happy.
That’s why so often we try to blot the whole thing out, if we can blot it out with a couple of sherries, or a
couple of whiskeys and soda. Or, if that is no longer working anymore, maybe we can blot it out by smoking the
right stuff, or by injecting ourselves with the right stuff. Somehow or other we can reach that point of
nothingness, and of non-existence, or of unconsciousness of our existence, that will provide a kind of nirvana
for us. It will, at least, blot it all out.
Maybe we will not be happy, but we will not anyway be overwhelmed by the anxieties and the worries and the
pressures we have now. But deep down underneath all that old cynicism is the vague hope inside that we would
be happy sometime. That’s why we listen from time to time to religious people, because when they talk about a
kingdom of God, we kind of long for that. We feel, “Yeah, we were made to be happy.”
Of course, what we’ve been sharing over these past weeks is that we were made to be happy. You were made to be
happy. But, the happiness that you were made for is a deep happiness. The greatest happiness you know you can
experience in this world is that of a real relationship of trust and love with another person. That’s why the
marriages that are successful are successful, not because everything has gone right, not because all the money
is there. But because you’re related to some person whom you can absolutely trust, and whom you know
absolutely trusts you and appreciates you and will stay with you through thick and thin.
That seems to bring a happiness that nothing else will bring. What we’ve been sharing is that that’s the
happiness we were made for. We were made for the happiness of a love relationship with the greatest Being in
the whole universe, that is, the Being that created it — the God that made it. He actually made you to be His
friend, to be His child, to be someone whom He could love and for you to love Him and know Him. That brings
complete and absolute happiness.
Of course, we’ve given up all of that old stuff. So we’re left on our own with a kind of Godless universe
around us, and ourselves very much on our own, isolated pretty well, and searching for the happiness that we
feel we were made for. It is true, that we feel deep down we somehow some day will find that happiness. That
why the gold pot at the end of the rainbow is so fascinating to us.
That’s why the hope of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” — we always feel that somewhere there is happiness, and
we ought to be able to find it. That’s why Utopia, and the dreams of an ideal society have such a fascination
for us human beings. That’s why we’re always talking about the “elixir of life”, that perfect essence or
substance that you will find that will be the meaning of life and bring happiness to us.
The unfortunate thing is that our fascination for happiness drives us to all kinds of resources and all kinds
of activities in order to obtain that happiness. You know some of them that we have got into. We are
absolutely convinced that the only thing that will make us happy is circumstances. So, we find ourselves
dictated to by our circumstances. If it’s a nice day, if the sun is shining brightly in the morning, if it’s a
spring day and the crocuses are coming up, we feel happy! We feel happy.
If it’s a dull day, and raining and cold, and windy, we feel miserable and depressed. If it’s the Christmas
Eve, we’re all happy and excited at the office party. If it’s the dull, dog days of summer, or the dull days
of the depth of winter in February, we feel down and depressed. So, we become utterly dominated by external
circumstances. We are like little dogs. We are dominated just by what comes into our eyes and through our ears
It’s so with even the things that we eat. If we eat something that makes our tummy feel nice, then we feel
happy. If we drink something that makes us feel nice, then we feel happy. If somebody smiles at us, we feel
happy. If somebody glares at us, we feel down. It’s the same with the economy. If the economy is going well,
we feel a little more uplifted. If it’s down, we feel a little more depressed.
It’s amazing how we’ve become puppets, marionettes, that are controlled by the strings of circumstances. So
much so, in fact, that our personalities have become perverted. Instead of a happiness that rises from within
because of the love relationship with the infinite Being behind the universe, we have a happiness that is
dominated from without, from the circumstances around us, from the events that occur, from the things that
happen to us.
So, we go up and down in our lives. We’re up one day and down the next. It’s interesting, because the
circumstances change so quickly. The things that make us unhappy yesterday have changed today. So, we’re
happy. The things that make us happy today have so often changed the next week, and we have every reason for
being unhappy. So, we go up and down like yo-yo’s with little stability, and above all, little happiness in
our lives, because our happiness always is dominated by what happens to us, by our circumstances.
So, in so many ways, we have become like little robots, little marionettes that are tugged by strings — the
strings of events that happen to us. So many of us find and feel, therefore, that our lives are governed by
chance, by sheer chance. We talk about being lucky. We talk about luck. We talk about “the Force being with
us”, or luck being with us, or us being lucky today or something nice happening to us today. But, all in all,
we feel less and less in control of our own lives.
We feel more and more that we are not people or individuals. We are just the chance effects of the events that
occur in our lives. This gives us great insecurity, great lack of happiness, great uncertainty, great
discontentment. So we have in a way become monsters that are governed by the events that happen to us. Yet, we
still have not found the happiness that we were made for. That happiness, of course, comes from a relationship
that is far greater and far more stable than the passing events that occur in our lives.
Wouldn’t it be great to be independent of whether the day was dull or sunshiny, whether the events were good
or bad? Is such a life possible? It is. But we have undoubtedly a problem of a personality to take care of in
order to enter into that. Let’s talk a little about that tomorrow.