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The Existential Vacuum: Birth Canal of the Knockout Game?

Training our children to seek amusement rather than meaning could have deadly consequences.

by
Rhonda Robinson

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January 6, 2014 - 9:00 am
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SadChild

Every parent has heard it — that dreadful lament of “I’m bored!”

Although it’s usually accompanied by dramatizations of actual pain, few parents have patience for it. Even fewer view it as something to be concerned about. That could be a deadly mistake.

I certainly didn’t view it as more than an annoyance. My children learned very quickly and early on that to complain of boredom was a bad idea. At least expressing it to me, that is. The first time those words would come out of a child’s mouth, I simply replied, “Oh that’s great. I have plenty of work for you to do. If you don’t know how to fill your time wisely, I will happily fill it for you.”

You would be amazed at how fast a child can figure out something else to do besides extra chores. One full dose of work instantly cures childhood boredom.

What about children who are never taught what to do with boredom? What do they grow into?

This week’s reading of Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning brought to light what could be the answer to a problem not yet conceived of at the time of its writing. Frankl explains,

The existential vacuum is a widespread phenomenon of the twentieth century…man has suffered another loss in his more recent development inasmuch as the traditions which buttressed his behavior are now rapidly diminishing. No instinct tells him what he has to do, and no tradition tells him what he ought to do; sometimes he does not even know what he wishes to do. Instead, he either wishes to do what other people wish him to do (conformism) or he does what other people wish him to do (totalitarianism). ….

The existential vacuum manifests itself mainly in a state of boredom.

In most cases, when children announce their boredom, parents give them placebos rather than cures. They think it is not really a problem at all. By dismissing the issue as unimportant, the parent takes the path of least resistance and too often offers entertainment as a cure. (This is evidenced by the large sums of money willingly paid for gaming systems.)

However, if Frankl is correct, and it is a real issue, then we are in essence training our children to seek amusement rather than meaning. This could have deadly consequences.

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Top Rated Comments   
I'd say that the existential vacuum is a fertile ground in which evil spawns and grows. Through simulating meaning and purpose, evil takes root and grows more powerful. Individuals without purpose are so vulnerable to evil.
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
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All Comments   (14)
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I think the Kushner quote has something to it. Meaning in work, love, and courage. We can think of meaning found by so many in all of these. However, I think the quote about "depression, aggression and addiction" not being understandable without knowing an existential vacuum underneath is very, very dubious. We've all known and know each of them and they are. Very much a part of humanity even at its best. What underlies that is just a fallen world.
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
And I would add that the Will to Pleasure is not due to a lack of Meaning, but a rejection of it and a natural desire for Pleasure at any acceptable cost.

When you engage in procreative activity but prohibit the consequential creation of a human, you elevate the pleasure of sex over the creation of a person. The sex becomes supreme over human value.

This translates into raising enjoyment above the rights of others to exist. This is the Knock-out Game, and this is why the little sociopaths laugh and joke so easily after a successful punch.
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
Excellent article.
This hypothesis seems to describe our current politicians.
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
Search For Meaning vs. Pointless Existence.

I still lay the Knock-out Game on the doorstep of the Pill. Every adolescent child, born and raised after the advent of the Pill knows that he was wanted, or at least allowed to come into existence. But he also knows that he would have had a lot more siblings if his mother hadn't used the Pill. Every child knows that it was his or her mother's decision, a matter of her sole discretion as to whether a child was going to be allowed to come into being.

It is no longer consensual sex in which both partners engage equally in reproductive behavior; leaving conception to the Creator. It is that the mother decides who is of worth and value based on her own determination. So every child knows intimately and fundamentally, perhaps below the conscious level, that human life is a matter of another human being's judgment, comfort and approval.

How can this not lead to the understanding that every stranger's existence is a matter of another person's judgment, comfort and approval?

Of course if the atheists are right then we are all just floating on this lifeboat called earth and we can throw anyone off we want. But if there is a God, and especially if we are created in His image, then we are of a worth determined by our Creator and not subject to human devaluation.

The Knock-out Game is not a matter of boredom but of value.
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
Will to Power is also a repudiation of perceived humiliation or opprobrium. It's the saving of face and establishment of reputation. The voice of censure and judgment on social merits is profiled as a certain face, usually that of a white woman of a certain age. I can see where it would be dangerous for people like me to even be seen in certain neighbourhoods.......
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
I asked my father who grew up during the Great Depression if he was ever "bored" when young. He replied that he spent all of his time trying to keep warm and fed. Way too much to ever be bored.

Today's children are pampered, spoiled and overstimulated "into" boredom.
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
I was thinking about something similar recently - the VAST amount of money and time we spend entertaining ourselves, how important it is for us to be entertained. It seems unbalanced somehow.
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
I'd look to hatred and envy being the drivers more than boredom.
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
Boredom is referred it in the existential sense, as a nihilistic state of mind presented with lack of meaning and purpose. Boredom expresses itself in anhedonia until roused into activity through will to power.......
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
I once dated a girl named Anna Hedonia. She was attractive enough but a real drag at parties.
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
I'd say that the existential vacuum is a fertile ground in which evil spawns and grows. Through simulating meaning and purpose, evil takes root and grows more powerful. Individuals without purpose are so vulnerable to evil.
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
Idle minds are the Devil's workshop.
I thought everyone knew that.
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
Yeah but these are *really* blank minds. You'd think a vacuum would be harder to sprout something in.
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
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