Meaning and the Scarcity of Time

Jan Cossiers – Narciso

There is a ‘business’ that threatens to take over our lives. Could the ‘busy-making’ that we are all increasingly preoccupied with be the conscious generation of scarcity—time-scarcity? If so, what is to be gained from creating a scarcity and hardship? The psychoanalytic frame understands that creating a predictable, contained hardship is a successful way of managing threat-anxiety when faced with an otherwise unpredictable, calamitous hardship. The hardship that lingers in the background is a scarcity of meaning; personal irrelevance. What better way to displace the anxiety of personal irrelevance (i.e., meaning-scarcity) than to allocate anxiety instead to projects, deeds and responsibilities, thus making the pursued commodity time, rather than meaning.

Of course, this business of busy-making, does lead to intense self-preoccupation. Small wonder writers of the post-war, boom reflected on our social culture of pathological narcissism. In modern parlance, with the ubiquity of user-generated media, one may speak of main character syndrome. One should note however that this form of auto-biographical inhabitation is not inherently problematic. Being in the centre of our own theatrical narrative gives one, according to the influential sociologist Erving Goffman, a sense of agency, self-control as well as general emotional and social awareness. However since Goffman’s time, other prolific writers and thinkers have reflected on the impact of this hyper-individual framing on our ethical thinking, sense of self, and even perception of reality.

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