We live in a culture of boredom. It may seem odd that, within the most overstimulated society in human history, there is such rampant boredom, but I am not sure that this is quite as odd as it seems. These apparent — and delightful — contradictions are riddled across the flux of life, in all of its forms.
The real question is simpler and more direct. What is boredom and what can be done about it?
Here is the situation: My two sons are generally occupied without interruption, but they do occasionally come and tell me that they are, collectively, bored. I bristle. I have no patience for boredom. None at all.
Today’s reply was as clear I’ve been thusfsar. “You are not bored, you are just being lazy; stop being lazy and that will cure you of your boredom.”
This at least approximates the truth of the matter, I think. Boredom is evil, in the metaphysical sense. It is a privation. There is no such thing as actually being bored. Boredom is merely a condition that brought on by sloth, producing a perverse inversion and squandering of the great capacities of the human imagination.
The constructive educational lesson is that living is an art in the most direct sense of the hard work of creativity. Art takes work. And time.When we refuse to live, to embrace the rigor of the art of living, we are susceptible to boredom. We are dead in the empty, nihilistic sense. We exist contrary to what and who we are.
Rather than wax existential or culturally despondent about it, however, all we really need to do is to stop being lazy and get to work.
Play, dance, suffer, make, die, rejoice, join, depart, heal, write everyday, clean a wound, be still, offer. These are just a few alternatives to boredom.
The other so-called cures — the news, the news, shopping, the news, the news, the memes, and the links and stories about how bad everything is and how scared and horrified you should be and how angry we need to get to fix it so share it with everyone and comment rabidly about it and what the score was and the entertainment highlights and all the ads and super sales — are really just compacted boredom, a laziness that can seem quite active and even exhausting, but is the more menacing cousin of my boy’s daytime apathy.
We don’t need to fear boredom. It is nothing. Snark and piety won’t disabuse nothingness. We just need to get to work doing something instead of nothing.