There used to be a beer in Tanzania—Safari brand—that gave you a hangover without making you drunk. In similar fashion, children are often now disillusioned without ever having had any illusions. They are disenchanted without ever having been enchanted. For them, sophistication consists of being surprised by nothing, amused by nothing, interested in nothing, but bored by everything.

Needless to say, this is not a recipe for a happy life. I suspect that boredom of this existentially terminal kind is at the heart of the tremendous and insatiable search for self-destruction that has reached such epidemic proportions in the western world. Only the abyss gives a simulacrum of meaning to an otherwise empty life, and only misery is authentic.

The problem of the meaning of life is not a new one, even if it grows ever more acute now that the struggle for existence has been so decisively won, and genuine,...

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