Thursday, August 20, 2009

on boredom

i waited for this book, A Philosophy of Boredom, to come in used at powell's for some time. i finally scored it for $12.50 and there were human bite marks in the cover. lucky for me i draw the line at saliva.

lars svendsen has won my heart with this enlightening read. i initially stumbled upon this title while beginning to research on my own piece about boredom. restlessness has always plagued me, dating back as far as i can remember (see "about me" section). i was thinking about writing a collection of anecdotes about the endless desire to fill my days with literally anything in an attempt to avoid the ailment that is boredom. as a child i felt pigeon-holed by the phrase, "You're only bored if you're boring." i knew i wasn't boring. i knew this because all of the people i knew who were boring were never bored. they were easily amused by anything. and it wasn't that i couldn't be amused as much as it was that those moments of amusement just swept boredom under the rug, they didn't cure it. i always knew it would creep back in. because my boredom wasn't just dissatisfaction with a given situation, it was dissatisfaction with everything.

svendsen defines boredom as an existential crisis that occurs when a need for meaning remains unsatisfied. boredom henceforth presupposes self-awareness, occurring only in a subject that perceives him/herself as an individual demanding a greater meaning from the world and the self. this temporarily boosted my ego, finally discrediting the above cliche that adults force-feed any child that might want/need more out of life than a t.v. twelve inches from their face.

i am only temporarily relieved, though; svendsen ultimately suggests that the search is pointless, as (he believes) there is no greater meaning to be sought. he puts simply, "an awareness of loss doesn't mean anything has actually been lost nor does it mean there is something to be won back." i suppose i have encountered this realization on smaller scales, but have yet to apply it to the grand scheme.

the only cure for boredom suggested in this far from boring study is a general acceptance. one cannot run from a boredom that infects the entire human race. for those of us who have not chosen to fill the eternal void with religion or work or babies or t.v., it is suggested that we simply succumb, that we accept boredom as a fact of life and try to develop a new configuration of self in this acceptance.

"All humans are lonely, some more than others, but no one escapes loneliness. The crucial thing is how it is encountered, whether it is encountered as a restless absence or as a possibility for serenity...In loneliness there is a possibility of being in equilibrium with oneself rather than seeking equilibrium in things and people that have such a high velocity that they constantly slip away."

i am left contemplating my sense of self, trying to make peace with my restlessness, and wondering what made the previous owner of this book bite into the cover. i wasn't at all compelled to do so. hopefully it was extreme joy.

thumbs up, svendsen.

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