Description: Moral argument continued - consciousness and selfishness
WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE?
Morality and Selfishness
by Ernest O’Neill
What is the meaning of life? Many of us in these days say that there is no discernible meaning in life at all.
It is absolutely meaningless. That is why so many of us are committing suicide and why so many of us are on
drugs. There seems little point or purpose in life. Is that your opinion?
What we’re discussing on this program each day is whether there are any hints or clues in the universe itself
as to the meaning of our lives. That is, whether we can find any clue in the natural world around us as to why
you and I are here in the first place. It is interesting that though so many of us see the meaninglessness of
life, yet when we look at the world itself, we see it is full of meaning.
We only have to look at the amazing intricacies of our own eye in order to see how it has all the complex
equipment that the most advanced Nikon camera possesses. There are all kinds of focusing abilities and
cleansing abilities that it has that it takes us years and years to develop in our research labs and in our
It’s the same with the movement of the planets and stars. If you remember seeing the movie years ago called
“2001”, you were struck by the fact that the maker of that movie had to somehow represent the ordered, quiet,
glorious, dignified procession of the planets and the stars around one another. In order to do that, he went
to great lengths to express the obvious harmony and order that there is in the movement of the stars and
They are not bumping into one another madly. They are not colliding with each other. They are not roaring all
over space. They are, in fact, moving very precisely, so precisely that it takes us all the cleverness and all
the computers that we can muster in the space centers in order to ensure that our satellites enter the right
orbits. In other words, we depend on the order that we perceive in the planets for the success of every space
shot that we experiment with.
It’s so, of course, with you. Tomorrow, you will try to keep an appointment. Your clock will be set on the
basis of the order that is inherent in the rising and setting of the sun, which is, of course, dependent on
the absolutely regular rotation of our earth on its own axis. Of course, the seasons are dependent on the
orbiting of our earth around the sun.
So, there are many indications in the apparent, carefree flight of birds to the south, or in the amazing order
that you find in a colony of ants. There are all kinds of clues and hints that our world itself is filled with
order and filled with meaning and filled with purpose. That is accentuated when we begin to look at our own
lives. We begin to see how personable you and I are.
We realize that we understand love. We understand all kinds of nuances when we converse with one another. We
are able to discern in the flicker of an eyelid a mark of deception or a mark of honesty, a mark of friendship
or a mark of hostility. We are able to reflect on our own actions and to examine them to see whether we
approve of them or not.
In other words, we see that inside this physical body that we have there is a complex psychological,
spiritual, mental, emotional personality that is higher than that of the animals. Our little dog cannot
appreciate Beethoven’s “Fifth Symphony”, except perhaps to the extent that the noise rises or falls. He may
perceive a certain tone at times, but he doesn’t understand the intellectual content of the music.
He is not able to reflect on the politics of the day. He is very limited as to how valuable he can be to you
as a friend, however hard he tries. That’s because we are human beings and we have all kinds of personable
abilities that are beyond that of animals. The thought comes to us, of course, surely, as it must take a
watchmaker to make a watch, as it must take an intellectual reasoning mind to produce the kind of order and
design that Einstein or our other scientists and researchers perceive in our universe, surely it must also
take some force or power that is at least as personable as we are in order to make persons like us.
So, many of us see in the existence of personality some clue or hint that whatever originated the universe,
whatever programmed evolution into the whole system, whatever programmed survival of the fittest or adaptation
to environment into the original single-cell amoeba, whatever that was, that force or power or “Ã©lan vital”
must be at least as personable as we are and probably much more personable than we are. But at least it is as
personable as we are.
So, we conclude that the meaning or force or thing or originator behind our universe must surely have an
intelligent mind and must surely be at least as personable as we ourselves are, because we know that a lesser
cannot make a greater, and an animal cannot make a person.
However, beyond the meaning that we perceive in the design of the physical world and of ourselves, we can see
in our own behavior another clue. There is a great paradox in our lives that perhaps you’ve noticed. For
instance, we are perhaps the most selfish bunch of creatures that you could ever set your eyes upon. Put us
together in cities and we have immense trouble getting on with each other.
We complain about the neighbor in the apartment next to us. We complain about the person above, whose plumbing
makes so much noise. We complain about the people who run their stereo or TV too loudly. They, in turn,
utterly ignore us because they want to have their own way. In other words, we are a selfish group of
Wherever you find us, we are trying to get our own way, because we find it’s easier to want our own way than
to want somebody else’s way. We find it’s easier to lose our temper than to keep our temper. We find it’s
easier to hate people and to be angry at people than to keep our temper and to be kind and patient with
people. We find it easier to fight one another and to oppose one another than to help one another.
Yet, the incredible fact is that we believe it’s wrong to fight. It’s wrong to argue. It’s wrong to be
selfish. It’s wrong to lose your temper, in spite of the fact that we all find it is easier to lose our
temper. It’s easier to be selfish. We WANT to be selfish. We WANT to lose our temper. We WANT to have our own
way. Yet, we continue to believe from deep inside ourselves that that kind of behavior is wrong.
Why? Why is that? Why do we still feel that those things are wrong when we find that it is easier to do them
than to avoid them? Let’s talk about that clue tomorrow.