“In conventional usage, boredom is an emotional or psychological state experienced when an individual is left without anything in particular to do, is not interested in his or her surroundings, or feels that a day or period is dull or tedious.” – Wikipedia
Boredom: The desire for desires. – Leo Tolstoy
I am currently living in limbo, playing the waiting game, twiddling my twat … I am bored. I can’t think of a single friend, male or female, relative or acquaintance, personal or professional, who claims to be bored. CLOSE to EVERYONE I know is overloaded with tasks, responsibilities, appointments, etc., with only a few that are comfortably sated. I am the only person I know who professes to be bored, and it’s not just because of my current circumstances (no home, no job, no local pals, my only mail coming from my friend, Hillary—more on all of that in a later post), but it feels as if I’ve been living with boredom for some time. Listlessness is familiar territory.
And so I poked a little (and I do mean a little, I’m not the best of researchers) into boredom. I’ve yet to arrive at a conversational understanding of the subject but apparently the study of boredom is getting some overdue attention as a separate component of behavioral science. Boredom has been attached to drug use (yup), binge eating (yup), erratic and dangerous driving, and accounts for 25% of student achievement variation, the same number as innate intelligence. From nature.com:
“There is no universally accepted definition of boredom. But whatever it is, researchers argue, it is not simply another name for depression or apathy. It seems to be a specific mental state that people find unpleasant — a lack of stimulation that leaves them craving relief, with a host of behavioral, medical and social consequences.” (and yup)
“Boredom has a long cultural history and an adaptive function in human life — it serves a vital creative purpose and protects us by helping us tolerate open-endedness; in childhood, it becomes the wellspring of imaginative play. And yet we live in a culture that seems obsessed with eradicating boredom, as if it were Ebola or global poverty, and replacing it with a peculiar modern form of active idleness oozing from our glowing screens.
No thinker in the history of humanity has done more to shed light on both the problem of boredom and its existential solution than Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard (May 5, 1813–November 11, 1855) — a mind of such timeless insight into the fundamental desiderata of the human soul that he was able to explain, in the middle of the nineteenth century, the psychology of online trolling and bullying, the reason for the eternal tension between the majority and the minority, and why anxiety fuels creativity rather than stifling it.”
What to do with my boredom, or how to interpret it, is also for another post. But this from Kierkegaard: and here I will leave you, as it’s getting way over my head and I’m getting bored.
“Here… is the principle of limitation, the sole saving principle in the world. The more a person limits himself, the more resourceful he becomes. A solitary prisoner for life is extremely resourceful; to him a spider can be a source of great amusement… What a meticulous observer one becomes, detecting every little sound or movement. Here is the extreme boundary of that principle that seeks relief not through extensity but through intensity.”
illustration: patrycja podkoscieiny