Considering Boredom

Considering Boredom

Someone mentioned to me what Jon Kabat-Zinn said: “When you pay attention to boredom, it gets unbelievably interesting“.

I liked the quote, tried to follow its advice, and before I knew what I was doing, I ended up investigating whatever anyone had said on the topic. Which only goes to show how much my mind really abhors being quiet and attentive. Even so, collecting all these quotes was rather an enjoyable activity, which proves Jon right: boredom is surely very interesting. 

The quotes I liked best are the ones that point out how much boredom brings us close to our intriguing relation with time. I laughed at those who profess to have such a wonderful mind that they are never bored, and look down on all the people who are boring enough to be bored. Such sayings were quite  abundant, but I’ve included only one, as being exemplary for the utter state of denial we can get into.

So, below follows my selection from the list of quotes that I found here:

Disclaimer: I haven’t yet read any of the books quoted here.

“When hit by boredom, let yourself be crushed by it; submerge, hit bottom. In general, with things unpleasant, the rule is: The sooner you hit bottom, the faster you surface. The idea here is to exact a full look at the worst. The reason boredom deserves such scrutiny is that it represents pure, undiluted time in all its repetitive, redundant, monotonous splendor.

Boredom is your window on the properties of time that one tends to ignore to the likely peril of one’s mental equilibrium. It is your window on time’s infinity. Once this window opens, don’t try to shut it; on the contrary, throw it wide open.”

Joseph Brodsky

“Boredom is therefore a vital problem for the moralist, since at least half the sins of mankind are caused by the fear of it.”

Bertrand Russell, The Conquest of Happiness

Do you realise that people die of boredom in London suburbs? It’s the second biggest cause of death amongs the English in general. Sheer boredom…

Alexander McCall Smith, Friends, Lovers, Chocolate

Boredom is the inner conflict we suffer when we lose desire, when we lack a lacking.

Robert McKee, Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting

For Heidegger, boredom is a privileged fundamental mood because it leads us directly into the very problem complex of being and time.

Lars Fr. H. Svendsen, A Philosophy of Boredom

Only boring people get bored.

Ruth Burke

Being condemned as boring is the worst thing, isn’t it? If someone calls you an arsehole you can work on being less of one. If a boring person tries to be interesting … they’re probably just being more boring

Mhairi McFarlane, You Had Me At Hello

The gods were bored so they created man. Adam was bored because he was alone, so Eve was created. From that time boredom entered the world and grew in exact proportion to the growth of population. Adam was bored alone, then Adam and Eve in union, then Adam and Eve and Cain and Abel were bored en famille, then the population increased and the peoples were bored en masse. To divert themselves they conceived the idea of building a tower so high it reached the sky. The very idea is as boring as the tower was high, and a terrible proof of how boredom had gotten the upper hand. Then the nations were scattered over the earth, just as people now travel abroad, but they continued to be bored.

Søren Kierkegaard, Either/Or, Part I

That thing some people call boredom, in the correct if elusive dosage, can be a form of inoculation against itself. Once you struffle through that swamp of monotony where time bogs down in excruciating ticks from your wristwatch, it becomes possible to break through to a state of equilibrium, to reach a kind of waiting and watching that verges on what I can only call the holy.

Philip Connors, Fire Season: Field Notes from a Wilderness Lookout

In any first-class work of art, you can find passages that in themselves are extremely boring, but try to cut them out, as they are in an abridged edition, and you lose the life of the work. Don’t think that art that is alive can remain on the same level of interest throughout — and the same is true of life.

W.H. Auden, Lectures on Shakespeare

The nature of the mind is to acquire, to absorb, is it not? Or rather the pattern it has created for itself is one of gathering in, and in that very activity the mind is preparing its own weariness, boredom. Interst, curiosity, is the beginning of acquisition, wich soon becomes boredom; and the urge to be free from boredom is another form of possession. So the mingd goes from boredom to interest to boredom again, til it is utterly weary; and these successive waves of interest and weariness are regarded as existence.

Jiddhu Krsihnamurti, Commentaries on Living, Series II

Boredom is the root of all evil. It is very curious that boredom, which itself has such a calm and sedate nature, can have such a capacity to initiate motion. The effect that boredom brings about is absolutely magical, but this effect is one not of attraction but of repulsion.

Søren Kierkegaard

If you let restlessness move you, you lose touch with who you are.

Jon Kabat-Zinn, Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life