Description: Review: meaningless of life - where are we going?
WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE?
Meaninglessness of Life – Where are we Going?
by Ernest O’Neill
What is the meaning of life? That’s the question we’ve been discussing now for several months on this program.
You may ask, “Well, big deal! Why do you discuss ‘What is the meaning of life’ week after week, after week?”
Well, you remember the illustration we started off the program with several months ago. We mentioned that it’s
as if someone drew up a great tour bus in front of your door one morning and invited you to get on board,
because they were going to take you on an interesting trip.
You got on the tour bus and headed out toward the M1 motorway, then began to move at about 60 or 70 miles an
hour. After a few hours you asked the person beside you, “Where are we going?” The person beside you said,
“Well, I don’t know. Ask the person in front,” and you ask the person in front. They say, “Well, I don’t know
where we’re going. We’re just going somewhere.”
You began to wonder about the mentality of the people who are your fellow passengers. But, after a few hours
more, you started to ask other people on the bus, and they all replied the same way. Then somebody said,
“Don’t worry about where we’re going. Let’s break out the drinks; let’s break out the food and let’s have some
So you all had a wonderful lunch. You settled down to have a snooze and then after you wakened at about 7
o’clock in the evening you again began to ask the same question. “But, where are we going?” People kept
replying the same way to you. “It doesn’t matter where we’re going, let’s just keep on going.”
So, you all went to sleep that night and wakened up the next morning. Again, you asked the same question,
“Does anybody know where this bus is going?” and by now you were used to the reply. Everybody had got the same
story. “Don’t worry where we’re going. Let’s keep on cleaning the windows; let’s keep on picking up the
garbage; let’s keep on being happy with each other; let’s keep on eating; let’s keep on drinking; let’s keep
on having parties; let’s sing some songs. It doesn’t matter where we’re going.”
So, you continued like that through that day, through the next week and through the next week, through the
next month, through the next year and day by day, by day, everybody began to talk in the same terms: not of
where they were going, but of what they were going to do while on this bus, until gradually no one seemed to
bother where the bus was going at all, and no one seemed to care.
Except when children were born. They seemed to have enough freshness in their minds to ask the question. But,
gradually, they were taught by the other adults to ignore that question and to concentrate instead on just
cleaning the windows, on drinking, on eating, on having parties, on keeping themselves distracted.
Gradually, of course, you noticed that the only people who got off the bus were the people who died and were
thrown off. There came a time when you wished you were dead, because that was the only way you could stop the
world and get off. That’s why we ask the question, “What is the meaning of life?”
It’s because many of us feel we are in exactly that situation, except that instead of a tour bus, we are on a
space ship that is shaped like a sphere. Instead of going at 70 miles an hour, it is cruising through space at
thousands and thousands of miles per hour and none of us seem to have any idea of where it’s going or where
we’re going to end up at the end of the journey.
All we know is that there seems only one way off this spaceship at this time and that is by dying. That’s why
it has become the fashion in our era to write books on how to die, how to commit suicide, how to get off this
spaceship. We have become so mesmerized by the idiocy of cruising through space at incredible speeds not
knowing where we’re cruising to, that gradually some of us have begun to realize the only way into sanity is
out of all sanity and into insanity.
That’s why we’re asking this question. Because more and more of our young men and women, as well as more and
more of us are asking the question, “What’s the purpose of it all? Why bother?” We feel like A.E. Housman, who
years ago wrote that poem, you remember ….
“Yonder see the morning blink.
The sun is up, and up must I;
To wash, and dress, and eat, and drink,
and look at things, and talk, and think,
And work, and God knows why!
Oh, often have I washed and dressed,
And what’s to show for all my pain?
Let me lie in bed and rest;
Ten-thousand times I’ve done my best,
And all’s to do again”.
Many of us who step out of the front door every morning into the wet, driving rain to carry out the same
miserable boring tasks that we’ve been doing for years, many of us feel that way in these days. That’s why
we’re discussing the question, “What is the meaning of life?” and “Why are we alive?”
Thousands of us are bewildered about it. We don’t know the answer. We don’t know why we’re alive. We don’t
know what the meaning of life is. That’s why we’re discussing it. You remember, we said that in spite of the
fact that there seems such bewilderment in all our minds about the meaning of life and about the order and
purpose of life, yet we have to admit that in the world itself there is a great expression of order.
We notice the way the birds fly south in time to avoid the frost. We notice the way our hearts beat regularly
year after year without any visible means of support. We notice how the blood circulation carries on touring
around miles and miles of veins and arteries, and carrying 64 different substances without turning to sludge.
We are amazed at the order and organization of our human bodies. We are also overwhelmed by the design and
order that is evident in the world of nature. Those of us who have studied the chart of the elements are
amazed at how the elements fit into one another in a certain systematic pattern on the basis of their weights.
We see that even though we are bewildered and think the world has no meaning, yet, the world itself seems to
have lots of order and design in it. So, you remember, we said that there seems to us a lot of reason for
believing that the world did not originate out of insane chaos or out of absolute chance, but in fact it can
be traced back to some intellect that is at least as intellectual as our own.
We, in other words, agreed with Einstein who said that his religion consisted of a great respect for the great
Mind that originated the universe. So what we have been saying is that there is a great deal of circumstantial
evidence around us to suggest that there must be an intellect behind this universe — even if that intellect
used some system of evolution to end up bringing the world where it is today. Still, some intellect must have
programmed that evolution. It did not come through time-plus-chance. Even if there was a “big bang”, there had
to be something that exploded. There had to be something that made the “big bang”.
Even if there was a single-cell amoeba, there had to be somebody that originated the single-cell amoeba and
planted within it the potential to turn into something more than a single-cell amoeba. So what we have been
saying is that there is a great deal of circumstantial evidence to suggest that there is an ordered personal
intellect behind the universe that is at least as personable as us.
Then, you remember, we asked if there was any empirical evidence, any touch-and-see evidence to show us that
that intellect has ever tried to communicate with us. Is there anything that we can point to and say that
there is not only circumstantial evidence, but there is actual touch-and-see evidence that this intellectual
personality behind the universe does actually exist.
Of course, you know how we discovered that there is; there is evidence that that person exists. It isn’t in
people like Muhammad, or Buddha or Confucius, or any of the other great religious leaders who were just human
beings like the rest of us, people that have never got off the bus themselves, but have always been on the
But there is a remarkable person who joined the bus at some point in the journey — who came from outside the
bus — and that remarkable person has told us that there is a personal intellect behind the universe.
That’s why we’re discussing this question, “What is the meaning of life?” Because we say the only way to find
out the meaning of life is if we can find some person who has come from outer space, who knows what it’s all
about and who knows who originally created it. That’s the person that we’re talking about these days. Let’s
continue a little further tomorrow.