DOVER, DE—Area resident Keith Ludauer, 32, a data-management technician and father of two known for his interest in sports trivia, military-aircraft documentaries and collectible TV memorabilia, should just give up, a panel of state and local officials agreed Monday.

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Decades of long, heart-wrenching struggle on the part of Ludauer to discover some tiny fragment of meaning and validity in his pointless, unfulfilling existence should be abandoned, officials said, as there is "no evidence at this time indicating a reasonable likelihood of a positive outcome of such a search."

"There's no point in Ludauer continuing to strive to find validity and meaning in his life," said Third District alderperson Becky Shapiro. "It's not going to happen. That much, at least, we know. We're clear on that point."

County assessor Janet Polk agreed with Shapiro. "Keith's best bet is to throw in the towel and abandon these fruitless 'hopes,'" she said. "Things will go a lot easier for him once he accepts the inevitability of his confusion and emptiness."

Polk said that Ludauer recently embarked on an unsuccessful campaign to improve the quality of his life through a series of consumer purchases, which only served to compound his misery. His decision to switch from his usual Sunny Delight-brand citrus-flavored fruit drink to Capri Sun-brand juice-box beverages, for example, resulted in "no appreciable improvement in his life," Polk said, as did his purchase of an extra-long Reach toothbrush and an easier-to-program VCR remote control.

Sensing that his eight-year-old daughter Cara was growing hostile toward him, Ludauer recently attempted to solidify the parent-child bond by taking her to the monkey island at the local municipal zoo. The attempt, like all similar efforts to infuse his life with meaning, failed miserably.

Ludauer has avidly searched for a sense of validation and purpose in his life since childhood. For all his searching, however, he has yet to find anything even remotely spiritually fulfilling, and has on numerous occasions expressed dejection over the apparent futility of his personal quest.

Yet Ludauer, though increasingly fixated on his inability to discover a way to live meaningfully, remains optimistic. "I've got to go on, somehow," he said in a flat, dull monotone, barely concealing the all-pervasive despair which will eventually engulf him. "I can't give up. Not ever. There's got to be something that makes my life worthwhile. I am a human being, and every person is special. I just know it."

Local officials disagree. "Clearly, Ludauer is too wrapped up in this issue on a personal level to be able to step back and see that there is, in fact, nothing special about him," city comptroller Stuart Herberger said. "The more tenaciously he clings to the belief that he has value as a person and that there must be some overall good he can serve in his life, the greater and more drawn-out his agony will be."

"There is nothing for him to believe in," Dover mayor Arthur T. Bulone said. "There is only a hollow, windblown nothingness consisting of short, fleeting stabs at survival followed by death. Ludauer should face that."

Calling Ludauer's existence "a hopeless case from the start," Bulone called upon fellow community members to support the panel's recommendation that he immediately surrender to the gnawing void he has for years tried to keep at bay.

Ludauer, whose wife divorced him in 1995 shortly after a crisis of conscience forced him to leave the church, said he plans to keep moving forward, a course of action panel members called "ill-advised."

"Ideally, we'd like to see him give up and stagger through life with deadened, glassy eyes; perfunctorily performing his undemanding work-related duties in a soulless haze, and then returning home to stare at white noise on the television until sleep brings a momentary respite from the unending oblivion of meaninglessness," Shapiro said. "Until he can accept that there is no point in anything about his life, he will always be disappointed beyond heartbreak."