Or "My Xbox Broke A Month Ago and I Haven't Missed It At All".
I was listening to Talk of the Nation on NPR on Monday afternoon and caught the end of an interview with Kay Hymowitz on an article she wrote recently for the City Journal, which was also adapted as an editorial for the Dallas Morning News. According to Hymowitz, young men in their 20's are experiencing an unprecedented wave of freedom that they are exercising by playing video games, seeking meaningless sexual gratification and otherwise acting like adolescents. Hence her term "child-men". The articles make a strong case for her point that today's young men are being socialized to be boys fixated on entertainment and self-centered pursuits. Marriage, now coming later than ever for men and women, has lost its civilizing and maturational influence on this generation. Instead of raising children, many young men are instead spending countless hours playing games, both with women and video games. If you only have time for a quick read, go with the Dallas News editorial. For the full article, check out the City Journal page. I have points of disagreement with her, but that is not what caught my attention on the radio.
What caught my attention is the simple fact that I, too, play video games. Or at least I did. See, about 4 weeks ago my Xbox360 took a dive. Many thousands of Xbox360 owners have had trouble with a manufacturing defect that produces the dreaded "Red Rings of Death" (the term is a take-off on the Window's classic "Blue Screen of Death" which appeared whenever your computer crashed). Basically, the lights around the power button turn red and this means your Xbox360 is dead. Microsoft extended the warranty for three years for every Xbox for this and is providing free repairs. My Xbox did not suffer RROD. Rather, the video card apparently died. Which means the system boots up and logs in, which I can tell from the sound effects, but there is no video output. Just a blank screen with some swimming dots. Obviously, this makes actually playing a video game rather difficult.
I was initially quite upset since I was in the middle of some campaigns on different games. That's kind of like having to leave a theater half way through a movie you were enjoying. I didn't like wasting money on the games that I could now not finish. And I especially didn't want to waste $100 on fixing the stupid thing for what is obviously a defect but would not be covered because my warranty is expired. But I forgot about it after a couple of days. School started, we finished up getting things ready for the baby (now just under 4 weeks off if he comes on time), I started reading more, poking around online and engaging in some discussions, talking to friends and family more often on the phone and generally just enjoying life. Until I heard Kay Hymowitz on Talk of the Nation talking about Child-Men. And I realized that, to a certain extent, I am one. Or maybe I was one. I wasted a lot of time playing on that stupid thing. Time that could have been much better spent talking to my wife, studying, praying, exercising, helping other people, writing - any of a hundred different things that had casually and thoughtlessly gotten sucked up by a white box sitting next to my TV. Hearing her talk about these guys, and hearing something of myself brought up in the article, made me realized that I not only didn't miss my Xbox, I'm glad its gone.
I realize there are probably some readers out there who have no idea what a change this is for me. For a very long time, video games were my outlet. Over the last 2.5 years especially, with school as busy and stressful as its been, getting lost in a game was one of my primary stress-relievers. And now I see just how dependent I was on that mind-numbing experience and I'm seeing how so much of popular culture is similarly stupifying. We waste so much time, energy and pieces of ourselves in pursuit of...nothing. It brings to mind my high school Latin teacher when he taught us the meaning of nihil - "less than straw". The Latin mind could conceive of nothing as insignificant as a piece of hay. And that is exactly what today's culture wants us to do; we seek insignificance.