Existential Vacuum

Table of Content

Viktor Frankl has observed the existential vacuum, a prominent phenomenon of the twentieth century that captivated humanity. He noted how people in this era have become disconnected from their sense of purpose. In particular, he identified the United States as experiencing a more intense emptiness compared to Europe or developing nations. This occurrence could potentially be attributed to the gradual erosion of animal instinct over time. However, regardless of whether it pertains to humans or animals, every living culture possesses a fundamental set of instincts that govern our way of life.

Throughout history, humans have suppressed their innate instincts through the establishment of societal regulations called “civility”. In earlier times, individuals commonly lived with extended families and adhered to distinct gender roles. Men primarily acted as hunters while women focused on domestic duties like raising children and managing household chores. Although there may have been occasional desires for activities traditionally associated with the opposite gender, such inclinations were generally discouraged. The strict definition of gender roles was essential for ensuring survival.

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In ancient times, people had to rely on their own skills to survive. They had to craft clothes from animal skins, create weapons for protection and hunting, and make everything they needed for their homes. Unlike today, there were no convenient stores to purchase items from. Even as civilization progressed and stores became available, everything was still made by hand since technology didn’t exist until the late 19th century. Additionally, people believed in higher powers such as gods who controlled various aspects of their lives, including weather, hunting outcomes, and the dynamics within their communities.

Religion has been vital in shaping people’s lives and fostering unity within families, communities, and societies. It gives individuals a sense of purpose and meaning, empowering them to better their surroundings for themselves and their communities. Throughout history, different cultures have introduced policies that go against human instincts, causing individuals to navigate life without relying on their natural inclinations. This trend has become especially prominent in the last century.

In the absence of innate instincts, individuals are forced to make difficult decisions without fully understanding their limitations and potential consequences. As a result, people often feel uncertain and directionless. Technology has increasingly undermined humanity’s ability to be self-sufficient over the past century. Rather than relying on hunting, farming, and gathering for survival, we now rely on retail stores. Additionally, the introduction of automated sewing machines and large-scale factories has made clothing production obsolete.

Why bother creating clothes when you can simply purchase them from a department store? The same phenomenon can be observed with creative pursuits. Instead of crafting our own hunting tools, we now opt to buy them from a gun shop. Similarly, jewelry making has been replaced by the mass production of necklaces available at stores like Macy’s. As society increasingly relies on ready-made products and disregards their own skills and instincts, life seems to have become both more intricate and lacking in purpose. The food we consume no longer holds any personal connection; it is merely a prepackaged item obtained from the store.

Although the consumption of meat still exists, we have forgotten its true meaning. We no longer acknowledge the sacrifice made by animals like cows, whose lives are given so that humans may continue their own. In earlier times, people respected and understood the importance of food in sustaining life. However, this understanding is now absent, as we lack knowledge about how our food affects our bodies. Our only connection to food is the desire to satisfy our hunger, and with easily accessible meals, its significance has diminished. Similarly, our perspective on clothing focuses more on how it enhances our appearance rather than valuing the craftsmanship involved in its creation.

In the past, humans were amazed by the daily occurrence of the sun rising after disappearing at night. They also held fear towards storms and showed gratitude for successful hunts and harvests. Religion was then created to worship either the gods or a Supreme Being, and expressing faith became an essential aspect of society. However, in recent times, faith has increasingly diminished, primarily due to scientific explanations about the mechanics of storms and the sun’s movements.

Many individuals no longer experience a sense of wonder and admiration, resulting in the disappearance of traditional ceremonies honoring the harvest or the hunt. However, this paper is not the appropriate platform to delve into specific cultural calendars. While people may still attend religious services like church or synagogue, they no longer feel the same level of submission to that awe-inspiring power. Moreover, the once strong bond within families, both immediate and extended, has weakened. In previous times, multiple generations would reside together or in close proximity, with aunts, uncles, and cousins all taking part in celebratory occasions.

As children grow up and leave their families, they can lose that important connection. Humans find significance in creating a bond with their families, and not having a family can result in feelings of isolation and detachment. This can also lead individuals to experience the existential vacuum, which is found to be more severe in the United States. Without innate instincts to guide them, people often live without purpose, resulting in contrasting ways of thinking as evident in our current two-party political system.

Recently, the intensity of the two-party system has increased, with one party displaying more hostility than the other. Both parties have always aimed to gain government control and sway American citizens towards their ideology. Previously, it was acknowledged that both parties were working for the same country but had differing perspectives. However, in recent times, one party firmly believes that only their approach is correct and is less inclined to collaborate with the opposing party.

The party accused of being a “bully” does not reflect the general goodwill of the nation but instead caters to financially capable individuals. This has led to instances of violence, riots, and a complete disregard for America’s founding principles. Moreover, there is an unfortunate lack of comprehension regarding the Constitution, which is the foundation of our country. Despite declaring themselves as protectors of this essential document, members of this party fail to grasp its historical origins. Is it possible that the deep division in our nation stems from a sense of existential emptiness?

The bully party no longer regards the rest of the US as a viable part of this country. Their objective seems to be to oppress those who they perceive as unable to afford living in the United States. They no longer wish to aid their fellow Americans or consider what they can contribute to their country. Instead, they crave all that their country can offer, disregarding those who are less fortunate. Despite asserting support for “Chevrolet, Mom & Apple Pie,” they genuinely overlook their fellow citizens unless they too are multi-millionaires.

The current generation of individuals lacks the same connection to the fundamental principles of ethics and morality that were the foundation of the United States. Their primary concerns revolve around evading taxes, avoiding sharing, and harboring a fear that their wealth will be targeted. Taxes are a necessary contribution required from all members of society. However, certain individuals prefer that the burden of sacrifice falls upon those who struggle to feed themselves, rather than those who have the means to easily meet their obligations. As this division between the two groups grows and the dominant “bully” party gains strength, the sense of emptiness and purposelessness becomes increasingly profound.

As the existential vacuum grows, it attracts more people. Despite its negative nature, there is a way to counteract its detrimental effects. Socrates famously stated, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” This implies that without reflecting on our lives and learning from past mistakes, we are without hope. Hence, it can be expanded to “The unexamined way of life is not worth living,” underlining the importance of studying history and avoiding previous errors to live a fulfilling, joyful, and prosperous life.

When examining past conflicts and wars, it is crucial to inquire about the underlying disagreements that ignited them. By posing this question and conducting thorough research, we can come to comprehend that fundamentally, we all share allegiance to the United States. While this notion may appear oversimplified in today’s complex world, President Kennedy’s words from over half a century ago remain profoundly meaningful: “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what YOU can do for your country.”

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Existential Vacuum. (2017, Apr 10). Retrieved from


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