Boredom as defined by Merriam-Webster’s dictionary is the state of being weary and restless through lack of interest, we have all at one time or another experienced boredom and surely most people encounter it frequently. It is a peculiarity of emotion, an enigma amidst the tides of strong powerful feelings of love and hatred, anger and joy, boredom lies somewhere off center, neither happy nor sad and generally speaking isn’t something we choose to dwell on too much. If we designated colors to our feelings passion would be red, sadness blue and boredom a most dull, unremarkable grey, the colors of nothingness and apathy.
To be bored is something odd I think, a blemish upon your life the weight of which you never really consider, the simple gravity of feeling bored is something I most wholeheartedly feel is a serious and damning statement upon the condition of an individual for a multitude of reasons.
If we look closely at the definition there is a requirement of restlessness in the individual experiencing boredom, a rebellion against such feelings and a will to see them dismissed from the mind, however this is generally speaking only an option in the face of boredom on a much smaller scale. I have no interest in perusing the intricacies of your dissatisfaction with a certain book, or the feelings of malcontent during a slow work day, no these feelings are fleeting ephemeral expressions of your innate desire to seek fulfillment for the moment, to enjoy yourself right now, within the next couple of hours or couple of days and clearly therein lies a reflexive desire to rebel against that nuisance of emotion.
No, I wish to speak of boredom on a much grander scale, boredom with life, with love and with existence itself does not always lend itself to the same implied notion of rebellion, in fact, often you’ll find most people complacent with boredom of this magnitude. They’ve condemned themselves to the most horrid idea that this perhaps is how life should and shall continue to be for them, that perhaps their relationship just isn’t salvageable, maybe he/she was always this boring and that a meaningless existence reduces all effort in this life to purposeless time wasting.
“If life — the craving for which is the very essence of our being — were possessed of any positive intrinsic value, there would be no such thing as boredom at all: mere existence would satisfy us in itself, and we should want for nothing.” – Arthur Schopenhauer
Consider the above quote and all that it entails. Why are we bored? Well Schopenhauer would say it is because life itself is an exercise in misery, that boredom is the endgame of every noble pursuit and lofty aspiration. When you spend years working towards a promotion and finally get it, now what? You want to work towards another promotion, or get a different job, you want something else. When you spend months saving up your allowance to get a new pair of shoes and finally buy them, now what? You want a different pair of shoes, or a new shirt, you want something else. In a sense he is telling us that nothing will ever fulfill us, we are insatiable creatures simply by virtue of our birth and there is no certain state of contentment ever to be achieved. We will always be searching, endlessly and infinitely, and in the end, we will always end up unsatisfied and miserable. That is the true nature of life, the reality that nobody wants to see but deep down in the wretched depths of your consciousness you know to be true.
How nice it would be to cross a finish line into the kingdom of heaven and lay there for all eternity, to sit in fields of violets with a lover and feel the purity of happiness all around you and exhale the sheer totality of satisfaction that fills the air in such a place. Perhaps it is a curse we have been given the minds to imagine such things and have them not exist, but such is the truth and if nothing, we are at the very least capable of dreaming such things at night when we lay ourselves to sleep.
I believe, and bear with me here, that one should consider boredom an alarm, yes an alarm – the very same kind you use to wake up in the morning or remember to wish your mother a happy birthday. Boredom is an internal notification system that greets you with a petrifying screech when your mind begins to feel under-stimulated, it is a very abrasive reminder to you that something isn’t quite right, almost as like a call to action from within. Boredom is just a by-product of our insatiable nature and as with most things it’s in the way that it is handled that leads you down the pathways to good or bad outcomes. Consider briefly the rich man bored with life, he sees no more enjoyment in the small things that life has to offer because he has experienced it all, love, loss, antiquity, all the wonders of the world have graced his eyes and now…what is left?
Marcel Proust in his seminal work “A la recherché du temps perdu” spoke in great detail about the perception of artists creating a ceaseless value in life, one almost exempts from boredom. Artists he says, have the ability to strip from things the idea of “habit”, that which ruins our notion of simple and beautiful things because they became mundane and ordinary. The parallel made is to look at how much a small child enjoys a puddle, a mere incidental collection of rainwater in a depression of earth, so often we see this and subconsciously acknowledge these sorts of thinking without first reflecting upon it in our own lives. Why have we so heinously neglected to appreciate that which exists in our life at all times? The feeling of a calm breeze, the sunlight beaming down heavenly rays of light through the clouds, the feeling of your skin pressed against another and the warmth contained therein.
Only once you have steadied yourself and admired for a moment the simple aspect of this creation that you will find there the ability to appreciate all things in a whole new light. In a place where the apathetic greyness of boredom and insufficiency dare not dwell, there is a sense of contentment and wonder in even the smallest of things.
Boredom is not a statement of our condemnation to eternal misery, it is not an inescapable reality, it is to be seen as a gift, a reminder if you will, that there are so many things worth being interested in all around you, all the time. And even if life is fast, we are always in search of newer more interesting things and that’s fine, progress is the way of humanity and there is no denying that. But when you learn to appropriately perceive boredom as it is and react accordingly, you will be beset by the realization that if we live in a garden and never stop to smell the roses, how could we ever truly appreciate anything outside of it?
Ansel Johnson is a Moroccan-American Writer and Student currently based out of Dubai with extensive firsthand experience in issues related to mental health and a focus on helping to both create awareness and removing the stigma around getting help in the Middle East.