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Rousell, J.H. (2016). Killing Time: Omnipotent Fantasies of Preservation, Hyper-Compartmentalization, and the Denial of Death in the Digital Age. Fort Da, 22(2):52-67.

(2016). Fort Da, 22(2):52-67

Killing Time: Omnipotent Fantasies of Preservation, Hyper-Compartmentalization, and the Denial of Death in the Digital Age

Jonathan H. Rousell, Psy.D.

Killing Time

In the English language, we encounter the phrase “killing time” as a way of describing frustration and resentment towards the feeling of not knowing how to fill up the emptiness that widens like a chasm underneath the comforting autistic cocoon of continuously scheduled activities. While often used synonymously, “killing time” is different from “wasting time,” because “wasting time” implies that one possesses time, and is in some sense making the decision to waste it.

“Wasting time” connotes the lavish spending of time as a commodity. “Killing time,” on the other hand, suggests a violent negation of time as a concept, and all that is implied by the concept of time itself. Time as a concept, and as a force of nature, represents change, and on the heels of change comes the reality of loss. Time is a reminder of death. Humans find ingeniously creative and destructive ways to avoid the reality of death and the dread and confusion that accompany it. Culture and technology represent two intertwined, intrinsically human modalities for defending against the unbearable impact of time as a force beyond our comprehension or control.

This paper seeks to examine the present-day linkages of culture and technology and their unconscious collusion to “kill time” by enacting omnipotent fantasies of preservation, hyper-compartmentalization, and the denial of death. I will present two interrelated lines of thought, one describing ways in which culture and psyche are affected by contemporary technological shifts and, secondly, how these influences have mobilized omnipotent defenses to counteract the experience of time as a measure of human mortality.

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