“I’m insane. I’m fucked up. I have problems. But I don’t get depressed and I don’t get bored.” -Warren Zevon
Boredom is an unintended side-effect of the hyper modernized goal-oriented world. To be bored means to be so inundated with distractions that we don’t realize that what we’re trying to distract ourselves from is inherently interesting. Boredom arises out of delusion. When we experience boredom we are essentially taking life for granted. We’re committing an act that has relations with death, in a sense.
To be bored is to deny oneself a self-imposed purpose of living, an interest in activity or, in the very least, in contemplation. To a mind that is curious or stimulated boredom simply doesn’t exist. Let’s examine this through an example.
You’re sitting on the subway. You have a half-hour to kill before an important meeting with a professional person. Your palms are clammy, your mind is somewhat distant and starts to go blank. You’re bored. You’re stuck in your own head and you don’t want to deal with anyone else. Meanwhile, sitting around you are dozens of other human beings of varying races, belief systems and caches of life experience. Each one has experienced things you will never be able to experience through a lens you will never know. They all have organs, cells, atoms that vibrate. They’re all part of a genealogical narrative of sons, daughters, parents and grandparents. Like you, they’re rooted in psychological human conditions: love, hate, birth, death. They all have their little problems and their big problems, their secrets, their thoughts, their habits, addictions and sex drives. They’re all your species and they’re all weird in their way.
Now, this is to say nothing of the fact that the subway is a marvel of modern technology and deserves a bit of praise, or at the very least some sort of socio-economic or political commentary about urbanization and industrialization, class struggles, etc. The amount of speculation you can glean from even the smallest and most apparently ‘boring’ situation is nearly endless. It’s just a matter of how you think about yourself, your surroundings and your motives. Walk in the park and try to think about the trees and flowers on a cellular level. Or go to the gym and try to picture your muscle fibers breaking down and transforming themselves as you’re lifting. Get the idea?
If we’re always living for the next obviously accomplishment, the next obvious high, the next ‘good’ thing, eschewing all that is bad and uncomfortable, and altogether attempting to deny a sense of humanity for the same of dualism and pointless goal-oriented thinking that has come to define the modern American, we’re selling ourselves short. An attitude of mindfulness and self-awareness teaches us that the ego is an illusory thing with no grounding in real life. The ego is a ghost that follows us around and haunts our sense of well-being but cannot be pinned down.
Learning not to be bored is a way of transcending ego, of living outside yourself. To experiment with trying to put yourself in the realm of whatever is not yourself, whether it’s a subway conductor or a stained-glass window, allows you to transcend boredom. The late avant-garde American composer and artist John Cage said, “The first question I ask myself when something doesn’t seem to be beautiful is why do I think it’s not beautiful. And very shortly you discover that there is no reason.” When we probe something deeply enough, it grows interesting. If you give the world a chance to astound you, it will. It’s just a matter of putting in a bit of effort. I am often surprised by how few people really do this. It’s far more common to merely live than it is to be alive. To be bored is to be anti-life.