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Does Being Bored Mean You're Boring Or Is It Just The World Around You?
February 25, 2003 10:43 AM   Subscribe

Life, friends, is boring. We must not say so. [More inside.]
posted by MiguelCardoso (33 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
Dream Song 14

Life, friends, is boring. We must not say so.
After all, the sky flashes, the great sea yearns,
we ourselves flash and yearn,
and moreover my mother told me as a boy
(repeatingly) "Ever to confess you're bored
means you have no
Inner Resources." I conclude now I have no
inner resources, because I am heavy bored.
Peoples bore me,
literature bores me, especially great literature,
Henry bores me, with his plights & gripes
as bad as Achilles,

who loves people and valiant art, which bores me.
And the tranquil hills, & gin, look like a drag
and somehow a dog
has taken itself & its tail considerably away
into the mountains or sea or sky, leaving
behind: me, wag.

John Berryman
posted by MiguelCardoso at 10:43 AM on February 25, 2003


Does being bored mean you're boring or is it just the world around you? Is it the lack of life in you? Does boredom, in fact, kill?
posted by MiguelCardoso at 10:48 AM on February 25, 2003


Yawn...
posted by boost ventilator at 10:54 AM on February 25, 2003


. . .the world is quickly bored by the recital of misfortune, . . . . —W. Somerset Maugham

But MeFi is much less boring thanks to the one, the only, MiguelCardoso.
posted by LeLiLo at 10:55 AM on February 25, 2003


and moreover my mother told me as a boy(repeatingly) "Ever to confess you're bored means you have no Inner Resources

She was right. In my early twenties I had a roommate who complained about being bored with her life. She came home from work every night, sat in front of the TV, and ate chips. Or a dozen donuts. She never read anything but romance novels, had no interests other than shopping and whining about how she hated being single. I never knew anyone so limited. She was bored all right - and boring.
posted by orange swan at 11:14 AM on February 25, 2003


In Don DeLillo's "Americana", the narrator describes a party as so boring that the only subject talked about therein was boredom itself. Likewise, boredom is subjective, encroaching and yes boring. It's like mental yawning. It can be catchy.
Zelda Fitzgerald reportedly declared that she never allowed anybody boring to make her company, since she was never boring herself (this was a source of inspiration for the Pet Shop Boy's "Being Boring").
Other good songs about types of boredom:
-"The World is Full of Crashing Bores" (Morrissey-- true, IMHO);
-"I'm so Bored with the USA" (Clash- false, IMHO but nevertheless very much on the current Zeitgeist).

The greatest paradox of boredom is that to avoid it you cannot be sated; a state of light yearning and uncertainty (without too much "expectations of snap, crackle and pop") is a powerful antidote against boredom. It's important to leave some room for mysteries.

Does being bored mean you're boring or is it just the world around you?
It means you're at least temporarily boring. The world simply is what it is.

Good post, Miguel.
posted by 111 at 11:23 AM on February 25, 2003


the new book "Still Bored in a Culture of Entertainment" (InterVarsity Press).

Entertainment can't ever be more than a single piece of the puzzle. The opposite of boredom isn't enterainment per se, but engagement in what you're doing. That's sometimes connected with entertainment, if it's artful and has a theme that can catch you. It's sometimes connected with recreation. But it's also often connected with work/hobby.

Two quotes:

"A Master at the art of living makes no distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his education and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues with excellence what he is about and leaves others to determine whether he is working or playing. He, himself, always knows he is doing both."

(don't know the source... it was on my brother's wall growing up)

"The dullard finds even wine tasteless but the sorcerer can be intoxicated by the mere sight of water." -- HB

Seen in a slashdot sig. The author is apparently Hakim Bey.

Finally, I really doubt anyone who has discovered metafilter or nethack is bored.
posted by namespan at 11:25 AM on February 25, 2003


if we need a sponsor 111 we'll ask you, ok?

This is a very enjoyable post .
I have often thought about how the pursuit of happiness means never being happy.
posted by sgt.serenity at 11:26 AM on February 25, 2003


And people. Having people in your life that you really enjoy, care about, and share exchange experiences and ideas with makes a bigger difference than anything I just mentioned. Harder, tho'.
posted by namespan at 11:27 AM on February 25, 2003


john berryman was 48 when he wrote that. maybe he was having a midlife crisis - but probably not. by calling himself a "wag" on the last line, he's winking to us. life's not boring. maybe heroes like Achilles (who died young, incidentally) are, though.
posted by _sirmissalot_ at 11:32 AM on February 25, 2003


reminded me of a recent book by sam lipsyte called 'the subject steve', in which the man dies of boredom. Hysterical and hilarious.
read more here or here (last one is amazon link).
posted by Sijeka at 11:37 AM on February 25, 2003


well of course we're bored...the gubmint is shutting down all our bong and zigzag stores.

I love this poem, Miguel. Thanks for reminding me of it.

Another poet on the subject:
Someone is boring me. I think it's me.
...Dylan Thomas
posted by madamjujujive at 11:44 AM on February 25, 2003


if we need a sponsor 111 we'll ask you, ok?

Who's we? What do you mean by sponsor? Are you trying to bore me?
posted by 111 at 11:55 AM on February 25, 2003


I'm not sure, 111, but I think Sgt. Serenity just paid you a big compliment in a 12-step sorta way...
posted by Holden at 12:17 PM on February 25, 2003


Speaking of quotes: Back in the day when one of our circle would fall listless and couldn't be moved we'd trot out...

boring, Sidney, boring, boring, boring

And I've always felt this quote sums up How Not to Be Bored: "I went to the woods because I wished to live life deliberately. To front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could learn what it had to teach, and not when I came to die, discover that I had not lived."

Well, that, and a wifi connection to Metafilter.
posted by ?! at 12:36 PM on February 25, 2003


namespan, Google says the source may be James Michener.
posted by ashbury at 12:37 PM on February 25, 2003


The opposite of boredom isn't enterainment per se, but engagement in what you're doing.

No, boredom is itself an engagement. Anyone who's been really, truly bored knows this.
posted by riviera at 12:37 PM on February 25, 2003


I only remember being bored once in the last twenty years. It was two summers ago on an island in Maine. I thought I could never get bored with books, people and a piano in the vicinity, but I was wrong.

Being bored was a novel sensation. It was exciting.

(I'm talking about ongoing boredom, ennui, a consuming existential angst...no, that's too strong...but, anyway, not just being bored in a meeting. That's just life, Jack.)
posted by kozad at 12:59 PM on February 25, 2003


Bored? I've the cure for that. Sit still, take a deep breath, stop thinking.
posted by wobh at 1:00 PM on February 25, 2003


N is for Neville who died of ennui...
posted by jonson at 1:01 PM on February 25, 2003


Given that I'm generally too busy to be bored, on those rare moments it sneaks up on me it's almost like a blessing. Boredom strikes me as a very industrialized phenomenon, and when I feel it coming on I take a moment to remember I'm lucky to live a life where boredom is an option.
posted by jalexei at 1:06 PM on February 25, 2003


Wobh is right, sort of. A great stress-relief technique is to try to become bored. Sit in a chair and don't do anything. I usually end up just decompressing and, after an hour or two, realizing exactly what it is I want to be doing. Then I go do it.

I've also experienced the ongoing boredom that kozad wrote about. (Long story.) It's intense, and somewhat suffocating. But it's interesting, and you grow.

I feel way too preachy today. I'm going to go shut the hell up.
posted by callmejay at 1:06 PM on February 25, 2003


N is for Neville who died of ennui...

You beat me to it, jonson. Ever since I saw The Gashlycrumb Tinies, I've always felt that Neville's death was the worst of all, the one I'd least like to experience. Maybe it was because of the chillingly appropriate picture Gorey drew for that one.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 1:15 PM on February 25, 2003


Okay, a little off topic, but for any fan of the Gashlycrumb Tinies, here's this.
posted by jonson at 1:19 PM on February 25, 2003


Boring Postcards. This is actually a coffee table book a friend gave me as a gag gift. She later came over to find it held a place of prominence on my (well, duh) coffee table. I was seriously enthralled by it. Boredom is in the eyes of the beholder.

As a kid I learned quickly to not mention any feeling of boredom to my mother. She had the ability to create chores out of thin air. An expression of boredom could quickly lead to fence mending, ditch digging, gutter cleaning etc.
posted by elwoodwiles at 2:00 PM on February 25, 2003


Beautiful post, Miguel. Justification for the existence of Metafilter and redemption for at least a thousand of its ugly, redundant, petty insults of the last few days. Thank you: I had somehow almost forgotten that poetry can be an antidote for politics.
posted by UlfMagnet at 2:48 PM on February 25, 2003



As a kid I learned quickly to not mention any feeling of boredom to my mother. She had the ability to create chores out of thin air. An expression of boredom could quickly lead to fence mending, ditch digging, gutter cleaning etc.


Ah yes. The dreaded "You're bored? Why, I'll find you something to do!"

I can't WAIT to use that on my own kids. It worked so well on me--I am still never bored.
posted by padraigin at 5:32 PM on February 25, 2003


"Abbot Francis Benedict, a Catholic monk at St. Andrew's Abbey near Palmdale, adds: 'When you do the same tasks over and over, you can go beneath the surface, beyond the task itself, to the landscape of the soul.'" I use to work at a small grocery store and sometimes I would get in this wonderful trance while stocking shelves to the point where I wouldn't hear if someone asked me a question. I miss such moments at my current job. On a related note, I've always liked the following snippet of dialogue from State & Main:

"In a small town, I suppose you have to make your own fun."
"Everybody makes their own fun, if you don't make it yourself, it ain't fun, it's entertainment."
posted by snez at 6:00 PM on February 25, 2003 [1 favorite]


These days it seems there is too much to do. Sometimes it's good to be bored, because when there is nothing to do you have time to sit... and think... and ponder, and dream....

And then you're not bored any more.
posted by jazon at 7:32 PM on February 25, 2003


Boredom strikes me as a very industrialized phenomenon, and when I feel it coming on I take a moment to remember I'm lucky to live a life where boredom is an option.

Huh? Are you saying boredom is a phenomenon of affluence?

Bullshit. Have you ever been poor? Boredom is staring at the little food you've got, staring at the clock, waiting until you're really hungry because the longer you wait to eat, the longer it'll last you. Have you ever done manual labor? Boredom is bolt-tightening on a 100-foot wooden boat. There's a lot of bolts. Boredom is spending an hour checking the pockets of every piece of clothing you own, because maybe you left a dollar in one of them. Boredom is scouring your bookshelves for something to read, even though you've already read everything you own three times, because you can't pay your fine at the library. Boredom is wanting to go out with your friends — you'll nurse your one (cheap) beer, or coffee, all night, you're okay with that — but having to go home by yourself when you get there because the $5 cover seems exorbitant. Boredom is when you start counting the hours until your get paid, two days after your last paycheck. Boredom is cursing yourself for not being able to fall asleep until 2 a.m., because you can't afford to do anything between 4 and 2 except clean your apartment, and smoke, and check MetaFilter over, and over, and over, and all you want is for it to be the next morning so you can lose yourself in work. Boredom is keeping on smoking two packs a day when you can't afford it, not because you'd miss the nicotine, but because it's the only entertainment you've got, the only distraction from staring at the wall.

Fuck, yes, life is boring.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 8:05 PM on February 25, 2003


now I'm depressed...and this was berrymans affliction. My lord ishmaelgraves, you described these things perfectly...esp. checking clothes for change or the loose buck or streching that dozen eggs for a 4 days etc.

I agree with IG in that this affluence comment is bullocks.

Berryman was not "wagging ". The 'Henry' he mentions is a form of alter-ego Berryman created.
posted by clavdivs at 8:32 AM on February 26, 2003


The anthem of boredom is of course Iggy's "I'm bored"[annoying pop-up]:

I'm bored

I'm the chairman of the bored,
I'm a lengthy monologue
I'm livin' like a dog

I'm bored...

IshmaelGraves... that is one of the most insightful comments I've seen in MeFi. And one of the best written.
posted by talos at 8:56 AM on February 26, 2003


Having people in your life that you really enjoy, care about, and share exchange experiences and ideas with makes a bigger difference than anything I just mentioned. Harder, tho'.

Amen and Halleluyah, namespan. Amazing what the addition/removal of close-proximity friends and loved ones can do to ones life.



Boredom is relaxation without the motivation.
posted by chiheisen at 9:11 AM on February 26, 2003


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