Idle Musing: The Joy Of Making Time

With the Easter weekend coming up and my family poised to descend upon me in an inexorable tornado of baked goods and idle gossip, I realise with a heavy heart that I won’t have much time for games in the next few days. That’s okay, though, because I know I’ll make time soon. I’m also comfortable in the knowledge that I live a relatively charmed existence, blessed with leisure time and technology, always poised to flip open an electronic hatch and escape into something pixellated.

Looking back, I realise that I’ve dedicated the best part of a life to precisely that. And it is a strange joy.

Actually making time for games has to be one of the best things about being a gamer. To see a run of hours in which you can indulge opening out in front of you, and to know you can pour it into mastering some game system, honing a skill, or just languidly exploring a game world, is an exquisite thing. And in our busy lives it can be one of the toughest things to orchestrate.

With businesses to run and a family to care for, I’m no stranger to the demands on my time. Even with a duty to play some games for money, it’s the case that now more than ever I peer wistfully back to the long days of my youthful unemployment that were sacrificed to Quake III, or the idle years before RPS, when I barely scraped a living and spent my days lost in Eve’s nebulae. I’ve been extraordinarily lucky to be able to give so much time to gaming, and even now, in the responsible depths of my Thirties, I am still making time for regular long hours at the screen.

More happiness.
I also familiar with the claim – the anxiety – that games are a waste of time. A distraction for slackers, and a sort of placebo for meaning. There’s always the idea that the time spent playing games could be given to more worthy activities, and I suffer the discomfort of that concern from time to time: perhaps I should be reading more philosophy, or catching up on emails, spending time mowing the lawn. Why am I slacking when there’s real, hard work to be done? But I’ve already addressed this problem in the past. To paraphrase my younger, even more idle self, there’s an extent to which there is something sacred in allowing ourselves to make time for escape. We’re taking advantage of incredible privilege: to spend time with our imagination, and with the imagination of others.

Hell, there’s more to it than that. My experience tells me that contemporary humans often need to mentally escape in order to get anything done. Apparently idle gamers are actually some of the most productive people I have ever met. It’s with that in mind that I keep returning to this quote by British satirist Will Self:

“[W]hat I most want to convey to you is that slacking is really quite different from other forms of inactivity. Your true and authentic slacker is not like a dosser, or a shirker, or a truant of any description. Indeed slackers are often surprisingly productive people. The reason for this is that the ‘slack’ itself, the actual head of inertia that the slacker builds up whilst doing nothing, is to the psyche as they stretched rubber of a bungee is to the bungee jumper. When the slacker reaches the very bottom of this descent into inactivity, he finds himself with an unconscionable amount of energy which has to be dispersed as quickly as possible. This is the only explanation I can come up with of how I have managed to do anything at all in my life.”

I’m certain that’s true, in some degree, of gamers. You could practically swap out “slack” or “slacker” for “game” and “gamer” in that paragraph. By making time for games we are not simply dossing – at least not all the time – we are instead doing something analogous to self-medicating. Applying a powerful dose of escapism to a mind stretched thin by a world which promises much and does not always deliver. Resetting psychological levers with mental acrobatics. Gamers have discovered that they are people who occasionally need a sideways mental step into the electronic if they are going to get anything done, and if they are to be the people they need to be.

So, if that’s identifiably you – and I suspect it is – make some time for games. Don’t let the thought that you really should be painting the spare bedroom gnaw at you too much, because there’ll be time for that too. Go find the game that is really precious to you, and open it up, and bask in the glow. It’s worth savouring.


  1. Average Ninja says:

    My first comment on this site:


  2. P7uen says:

    perhaps I should be reading more philosophy

    But you can play philosophy instead. I don’t subscribe to this article’s point of view because I find gaming as valid as any other activity. I don’t think a person would say “why am I reading this novel, perhaps I should be reading more philosophy instead”.

    Having said that, as an official Grown Up I do now literally schedule time in which to relax, otherwise I find I will never get round to it. 2 hours on Tuesday for a film, or an 16 hour window on Sunday for Skyrim, etc. Terryfing that it comes to that, but it works.

  3. fallingmagpie says:

    Thanks Jim! I’m supposed to be working today, but now I’m going to play games instead!

    More seriously, I enjoyed this read, and I absolutely agree. Leisure time of any kind is important to mental well-being, I’m sure some studies have proven, and games are some of the best, most stimulating, kinds of leisure. Far better than plonking down in front of Geordie Shore.

  4. Blackcompany says:

    I know we don’t always agree on everything, but one thing I think most of us can agree on is this:

    According to publishers, Douglas Adams was something of a slacker. He even said himself that “I love deadlines. I love the wooshing sound they make as they go rushing by.”

    And that, as I understand it, worked out pretty well for Mr. Adams, may he rest in peace.

  5. Ninja Foodstuff says:

    This really is a great series, I find myself eagerly anticipating the next one each week (why wasn’t there one last week :))

    I’m reading “Reality is Broken” at the moment, where author Jane Mcgonigal posits (amongst other things) that it’s an endemic problem of gamers to feel guilty about the time spent gaming and not doing other things (“gamer’s guilt”). However, her view is that time spent gaming is actually beneficial in a number of ways, and should never be considered a waste of time (pinch of salt). (As a side note, it’s a truly inspiring read, if a little too evangelical).

    But ultimately, as long as there’s no neglect towards others, why not do something you enjoy? When I was a kid, I would long for a time when I could do whatever I liked when I liked, and I think that’s something a lot of adults take for granted.

    • Anguy says:

      I’ve read that too although as you already pointed out it’s a bit to much for my taste. In my experience the house can still be kept clean without everyone playing Chorewars, but there are a couple of nice suggestions for gaming up your life.
      It’s been a while since I read the book but as far as I remember the second part was mostly aboout potential ideas for games in real life that I thought were rather boring and enjoyed the first part a lot more where shes writing about gamers guilt and other psychological and social “issues” (or whatever you want to call it) of gaming.

    • polyester says:

      As Mr. Walker already linked to below, This Gaming Life is a great work that makes the same argument (in a more comprehensive way).

      The more intelligent people we have acting as persuasive advocates for the pursuit of gaming, the better off not just gamers but anyone that can benefit from video games will be. If it becomes acceptable to do using arguments such as these, there’ll hopefully more freedom to include this as part of our lives without putting it in the same category as “killing time.”

  6. Caspian says:


    Thanks Jim for reminding me what draws my time and attention into these places in the first place.

    In a life spent running a business and filled with projects, tasks, spreadsheets, family, friends, chores and just *responsibilities*, it does feel really self-indulgent to spend a few hours of an evening losing all of that sense of care to an electronic world.

    I think that gaming has become a much more accessible, and acceptable way to spend time. Of course, there are lots of outlets for the psyche; meditation, reading, going down the pub with your mates, TV, film, the list goes on. Nobody worries about the person spending 3 hours a night in front of the TV though, and for those that want the intearction and satisfaction of *accomplishing* something, even if only in pixels, it’s a hobby I too have no regrets about.

    I like these not so idle musings, more, please.

    • soco says:

      Was going to say something like this, but you said it better.

      Why is it that we need to justify our time spent gaming when no one questions hours on end in front of a television or going to a movie?

  7. Gap Gen says:

    I’ve often wondered about the impact of games on my life. On one hand, they enabled me to deal with my mother becoming increasingly mentally and physically disabled over my teenage years. On the other hand, the emotional withdrawl that came with it is something that I don’t think I’ve quite unwound yet. Either way, games are a part of who I am and where I came from; my dad has mentioned the Gary Larson cartoon before, where parents watching their son play Mario imagine well-paying jobs for rescuing princesses. While I don’t quite do that for a living, my job doing computer simulations of galaxy formation would probably belong to someone else if I hadn’t become interested in game worlds growing up.

  8. realmenhuntinpacks says:

    Got this exact vibe going on today… I should be studying for a Russian exam, I have a paper and a presentation due in two weeks – but I’ve glimpsed my slot. I’ll be playing Project Zomboid til my eyes drop out. Maximum pleasure, aw yeah.

  9. Mako says:

    It’s a very important discussion to be having – balancing escapism, moderation, and other demands on your time. I do feel more guilt about playing games than other activities – not sure why. Perhaps because it is inherently more satisfying to have longer sessions, and thus can be more demanding on your time. So it feels like a longer time investment because I do it in ‘chunks’ rather than in pieces, even if the total time spent is the same as on reading or other activities. I do wonder what else I would do with the time spent playing games – would it be productive? Or would it be another hobby?

    • Maldomel says:

      For my part, I replaced most of my gaming time with other hobbies like reading, making music and browsing the internet. But I also converted some of that time to be with friends. Nothing really “productive” in the end, but it works fine for me.

  10. Maldomel says:

    This is probably one of the best gaming related read I ever had. I am only 23, but I consider that I have been addicted to games in a hard way during what was supposed to be the best years of my youth, and I regret that I was such a lazy ass and a weak person (I don’t blame it on games, but rather on myself).

    These days I don’t really play anymore, I slowly switched for some more “useful” hobbies. I have many great memories related to gaming, but it makes me sad when I think of all the stuff I totally missed because being alone with games was better from my point of view as a teenager.

    So that is exactly what I do now, making some time for games. Some time to enjoy them, to experience that original feeling of cheer joy they gave me once.

    Also, this is the kind of article that reminds me why I love RPS. Thanks you Mr Rossignol!

    EDIT: Also, the whole “slacking can help being productive” is so true. Not for me, because I have a tendency to skip important things altogether when I start slacking a bit, but for many people I know it is right. When I see them I get the feeling that they are not doing anything at all, but in the end the results are there, because when they start working for good things are done right. Like, in a better way than for people who just work work work all the time, for some reason.

  11. ZIGS says:

    I think G-man just had a little accident in his pants there

  12. Azoreo says:

    I have to head out to a baby shower with my wife in a few minutes, so I don’t have as much time as I’d like to compose this reply.

    I’m 28 and I spent huge amounts of time on games. Having done so I spent a lot of years rationalizing, to myself, the value of spending it on games instead of on other things. However, the truth is that while I’ve had some great experiences, both in and out of games, a better balance between the two would have been much better, much “healthier”.

    There were a lot of keywords in the article that represented the way I felt about gaming before I started doing some reading, some research, and even went to therapy – and realized that for me, gaming was an addiction. This part of a quote, especially, struck me: “When the slacker reaches the very bottom of this descent into inactivity, he finds himself with an unconscionable amount of energy which has to be dispersed as quickly as possible.” It sounds exactly like depression and the following mania, and it sounds very familiar – especially when put in context of the “guilt” from playing games, roughly mentioned in the article. Waste too much time on games, feel a build up of guilt, reject the games and try to do “useful” things, but eventually you go back to get your next hit.

    Anyway – it’s just a thought. It’s what I went through, and I seriously wonder how many other games struggle with an addiction – even being high functioning like I was – but mask it and excuse it away as something special.

    • tobias says:

      Thanks for this. I’m 25, work full time, but there’s other things I want to do with my life, though it always seems to be games that occupy the majority of my free time. I can identify it as an addiction quite easily- if you do something for 30 odd hours in a week, and know that much of that time could be spent doing things you know would make you happier, then it’s not hard to tell. I appreciate your post, as it’s rare that you hear addiction addressed- or rather confessed- and I wish RPS would do a proper feature, poll, writers/readers opinions and input, more about personal stories and anecdotes rather than scientific research (which John covers most capably), as I can’t imagine I’d be the only person to find that fascinating (and possibly helpful).

      EDIT: Also, your view on the ‘rubber band effect’ being related to depression/mania rings true to me, except I’d just twin that to guilt in my own experience. It’s not a positive thing that you bounce back from shitloads of slacking, it’s a tacit acknowledgement that you can’t balance the elements of your life as you know you should, and react by manically attempting to fix your ills. And of course, without balance, you’ll just bounce back, as you say.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      All of life is about balance, and doing things in moderation. But there’s also a tendency in our current attitudes to identify something we enjoy doing, or feel compelled to do, as “addiction”, when it it often nothing of the sort. I’d advise reading John’s editorials on game addiction before self-describing as a game “addict”: link to

      There’s a huge difference between normal cycles of activity and inactivity, and those caused by mania or depression. Mental health problems are quite often entirely normal behaviours that become exaggerated, and I think it’s vitally important to distinguish between making time to do something you enjoy, and neglecting responsibilities or behaviour irrationally to spend time gaming. There’s no doubt that some people do that, but it’s not the experience for the majority of gamers.

      The anxiety people feel about “wasting time” should not be confused with the anxiety caused by behaving unhealthily or irresponsibly.

      • Wisq says:

        There was a time, only a couple of years ago, where I would have vehemently disagreed with you. (In fact, I probably did, in some RPS article’s comments at the time.)

        I went through a long period where I was being paid by the hour, so my work hours were flexible. But I was also gaming way into the night (think 4am), and then either coming in super late (think “afternoon”) and leaving only a bit late (promising myself I would do better the next day), or coming in reasonably on time but sleep deprived and falling asleep at my desk (unbilled hours). I was making a living due to my high hourly rate, but barely.

        After a few years of this, our small company was having trouble finding more work, and it was time to find another job while feeding off a tiny trickle of remaining contracts. (I still wonder how much I contributed to our company’s problems. My hours of actual work were indeed quite productive, meaning the company got a nice deal out of it, but I suspect not nearly as good as if I had actually been working proper hours, thus lowering our overall productivity and usefulness as a contractor.)

        During my unemployment, I spent a ton of time gaming when I should have been job hunting. It was like a long unpaid vacation. I had so much free time (and little money) that I got into MMOs, since for those with lots of time, they have a rather hefty reward-vs-price ratio.

        In both situations, I was adamant that gaming was like an addiction. It releases the reward chemical dopamine into the brain. I can (still) game for hours without noticing a need for food or water or sleep. (Staying hydrated can be a challenge.) I need alarms to tell me to go to bed, because I would easily go all through the night otherwise.

        But these days, I feel I was wrong. Gaming’s chemical reward is no different than any other hobby’s. Sure, it tends to use the “random rewards” thing that behavioural science says is so effective at inducing repetitive behaviour — monkeys pressing buttons, etc. (MMOs are particularly adept at harnessing this.) But that’s no different from occasionally achieving success in other hobbies, just a bit more focused. It’s certainly more akin to gambling than to (say) cigarettes, and while you can argue whether gambling addiction is a real thing or not, the bottom line is, a tendency towards gambling is all in your head and can be displaced by anything else that provides a similar level of reward — as compared to a real biological need for nicotine, or cocaine, or whatever else.

        More importantly, my gaming problem was a symptom of my problems, not the cause. (So was the sleeping, incidentally.) My job was boring and isolated. I’d done all this stuff before, a hundred times. I was in a rut. Gaming was the hobby I’d always had, and it was particularly well suited for escapism.

        When I secured my current job two years ago, I worried endlessly that I would have trouble escaping from my gaming escape, that I wouldn’t be able to keep proper hours, or even that I wouldn’t have enough energy to make it through a real work day without my (by then usual) afternoon nap.

        All of that disappeared immediately once I was doing something that was actually fun and engaging. Yeah, I still spend most of my non-work hours gaming, and I still have funny work hours, but that’s actually part of my job description now, and I have such energy and drive while at work that nobody ever feels I’m not pulling my weight.

        To those who honestly think that excessive gaming is ruining your lives: Look elsewhere before you lay the blame on it. It’s a convenient excuse and scapegoat, but I suspect you may find it’s just the end result rather than the cause.

    • polyester says:

      I agree with Jim’s response. There’s a world of difference between addiction (and everything that mixes into it, such as depression and the like) and guilt of doing a “bad” activtiy, as so designated by society.

      Why I think it’s important to have an outlook expressed in this article is because people love to find scapegoats for everything. In the example explained here, there might’ve been an addiction to gaming, but it is only through a process like therapy that you find the root of the addiction. Seldom do you find the activity in quesiton to be the true culprit, it acting out more in the role of facilitator. Fear of failure, family problems, and the like end up being the real issue, requiring you to step away from what you are addicted from (and trying to escape from) and face the issue. It’s just that in the preliminary stages of you trying ot find out what’s the problem, it’s too easy to blame the activity without looking deeper.

      In most cases, though, I do think balance is possible.

  13. Buttless Boy says:

    Mostly I worry that by spending so much time playing games, I’m missing out on awesome books and movies and stuff. I don’t think I need to play fewer games, or spend less time doing “unproductive” things, I just need more balance in my slacking time.

  14. CaLe says:

    Gaming is secondary to the other thing I do now. It used to be primary, above all else and that is not good, not good at all.

  15. McDan says:

    Good words Jim. They hit home. There’s still a place for gaming even with hard workers. Excellent stuff.

  16. Wanoah says:

    As you get older, finding the sort of time you need to play games is a challenge. I think that this is partly why so many gamers react so angrily to some of the arbitrary DRM restrictions that are rife in modern gaming and get so annoyed the plethora of overlays, distribution platforms, account requirements etc.

    We move heaven and earth to get ourselves a couple of precious hours of uninterrupted gaming only to find that half that time is spent trying to get some poxy unwanted Gamespy account’s password reset before you can even begin the game you fancied playing. Or you patiently wait for a game to download; fire it up and then it tells you that you need Games Marketplace for Windows installed as well, which was at no point mentioned previously, and, and, and…well, the RAGE sets in pretty quickly because these goddamn people are stealing your precious time from you and sucking all the potential enjoyment out of your free time.

  17. felisc says:

    indeed, great words. clap clap clap.
    felt good reading this.
    I’d love to see this small article transform into a 15 pages essay. i’m sure i’ll feel even better after.

  18. acenck says:

    I swear, Jim, you’ve done it again. Bravo

  19. NathanH says:

    Most philosophy is toss anyway. Murdering pixels is likely to be more productive.

  20. Fumarole says:

    Idle Musing has become my favorite RPS series.

  21. pilouuuu says:

    Wow, this is just perfect! I’ve been reflecting upon this a lot lately. Thinking about all the hours of fun I had, about the interesting worlds I visited, the beloved characters I’ve met and the hard moral decision I had to take.

    Just like in the discussion if games are art I think that games are the highest level of art because they allow interactivity, I’d also say that games are a very amazing form of philosophy because they allow us to take part in stories and do this we wouldn’t do in our normal lives.

    I’m also in my thirties and sometimes I feel gamer’s guilt, thinking that I could accomplish much more in life if I didn’t play and see the ammount of hours I played I think that if maybe I should leave this hobby. Wrong! I think that gaming made me a much better person. I lived experiences which I never could have if I decided just to live in the outside world. I got to relax after moments of terrible stress. I got to share with my beloved ones, fun moments.

    I have the feeling that other people waste much more time in other activities that are not as fulfilling as gaming, so I’m trying to eliminate any guilt about that.

    I totally understand that it’s hard to lose yourself in games as in teenage years. I don’t know if it is that I don’t have as much patience or if games are simply not as enganging nowadays, but whenever I get into the zone and lose myself in those pixels, I can say that few things feel as good as that.

    I definitely hope that games get better again, with all these kickstarter stuff, so we can all keep playing them and enjoying life because of them.

    • Lone Gunman says:

      Well at the end of the day if something makes you feel good without harming anyone else then it doesn’t really matter.

  22. Lone Gunman says:

    This makes me better for playing games when maybe I should be doing my bloody business proposal assignment.

  23. Angel Dust says:

    Ha, I was just thinking yesterday about how I simply don’t have the time to sink into gaming that I used to. I recently picked up the X series on Steam, had a little play with it and really liked what I saw but quickly realised that it’s one those games that require long gaming sessions. Being a father of two with a full-time job means I simply do not have that kind of time anymore. I mean, I still pretty much have the time in hours but it’s more fragmented and sometimes requires multi-tasking some other necessary task. I still play games a lot (currently: Lone Survivor – thanks Adam!) but I also read 40 or so books a year, practice guitar 2-3 hours a day, take long walks, watch several films a month and spend plenty of quality time with my wonderful family. I’ve never personally had an issue with ‘gaming guilt’ because it’s plain to see, and point out to anyone trying to belittle me, that any leisure pursuit is as pointless as any other and as long as you aren’t neglecting your family or something like that, then you what you do with your truly free time is your own business.

  24. bulletbill88 says:

    I signed up just to comment on this post. Good stuff, this kind of thoughtful post is part of what makes RPS so much different and better than your standard run of the mill gaming news/review website.

    Although I primarily play games by myself nowadays, originally gaming for me was a social activity – me and my brothers playing a game against each other, or one person manning the controls while the rest of us yelled out advice. Even now, when I’m browsing through games on steam, if I see something that looks like it would be fun to play with a couple of mates (in the same room – I’m a child of the pre-internet age and have never felt much urge for online play) I feel compelled to buy it on the chance that there will come an opportunity to test out its multiplayer component. Recently, my brothers were in town and we spent a great day playing Magicka with the x-pads plugged into my pc. Games combine problem solving, cooperation and immediacy in a way that no other hobby can.

    Of course now that we are all older and live in different parts of the world I don’t get much of a chance to get together with my school mates or brothers much anymore, so gaming tends to be something I do myself as an enjoyable relaxation activity. But I hope that one day, I’m able to play games with my own kids. I’d much rather see them sitting down in front of a game, using their brains, working on their hand-eye coordination and socialising than spending all arvo sitting in front of the TV.

    Anyway the missus has ducked out and I have a chance to play some games so time to get to my point:
    1. There is no reason why your gaming needs to be anti-social. There are plenty of games that are social and can be played with friends/family.
    2. There is no reason why gaming can’t be part of a balanced life. If you are getting your stuff done, not missing important things in your own life, or the lives of your friends and family then its ok.
    3. The immediacy of gaming can be used as an incentive. I.e. one hour of homework then half an hour games and repeat etc. Great motivator for me.

  25. bill says:

    I find that recently finding time to play games has become almost as stressful as the things I’m trying to avoid. I tend to feel that I should be able to play all games like I used to, and that I’m “behind schedule” or “missing out” because I haven’t played all the games that everyone is talking about on RPS.

    If I truly have some free time that i can devote to gaming, then that’s a great (but very rare) feeling. But if i’m just trying to cram in some gaming where it doesn’t really fit then it ends up creating more problems than it solves.
    I feel that i MUST achieve something useful in that time, so games become a race to finish, and enjoyment/stress comes from progress/milestones rather than enjoying playing.
    I no longer have any tolerance for games that waste a moment of my time, or that force me to repeat, or that force me to end a preciously snatched session in the same place that i started.

    The problem is that the “game” part of gaming requires time to master… in the way that chess requires time to master. But other forms of entertainment don’t require that.

    I can watch 5 great movies in the time that it took me to work out what the hell i was even doing in Baldur’s gate. I can watch 30-40 great movies in the time it’ll take to finish it.
    Much of that time will be the great “i thought i just played for 10 minutes but 4 hours past” thing you only get when you are gaming. But then looking back I’ll think “was it worth spending 30 hours killing kobolds over and over again?”.

    Games are great time consumers, but they are often unsatisfying in what they finally provide. Because games are based on repetition and filler… games are made of the bits that they cut out of movies and books to keep them pacey and reasonable in length.

    • pilouuuu says:

      Yes, I totally agree. I also sometimes find myself with some free time, but not in a mood to play because I know that I will stay awake til late and that if I play for just maybe one hour I’ll feel that I haven’t accomplished anything.

      Maybe it would be better if instead of 40 hours extended with grinding and repetition we had shorter, maybe 5 hour games, but in which every part of the game seems worth it. In that sense I think that Portal 2 did a great job.

      Also, all games MUST have good endings which make you feel satisfied after investing so many hours into them. I’m not ranting about Mass Effect 3, by the way, because funnily enough, I still haven’t had the time to finish it. Working on it though!

    • YourMessageHere says:

      To reply to both bill and pilouuuu, I agree with you to a limited extent, in that I too sometimes find myself with the time to play but not the inclination. However, I tend to put that down to general malaise with the world rather than a problem with games.

      Consider: you could watch 30-40 great movies in the time it takes to play through Baldur’s Gate. If you were to try, though, surely you’d see maybe 3 or 4 actually great movies, 10 or so more decent ones and the rest would end up being of various states of unsatisfyingness, from a bit flawed to utterly dire. By contrast, the game experience shouldn’t really change massively across those 60odd-80odd hours, consistently delivering gameplay which you know you enjoy. Which is then, in hindsight, a more fulfilling experience? Which is more of a grind?

      As for endings – this is absolutely as true of any other form of fiction as it is for games. Just because a game might take 60 hours to play but a book only takes 6 to read or a film 2 to watch doesn’t mean you are more or less emotionally invested in one or the other. Pilouuuu’s point about Portal 2 is a case in point: as a shorter, more focused experience, it shows how your attention and affection for it is more tightly focused within its duration; my favourite film is only 89 minutes long but I love just about every frame of it. A disappointing, lacklustre, unsatisfactory ending cocks up a story in any medium.

  26. Rhygadon says:

    “a sort of placebo for meaning” … ouch. That’s painfully well put.