There is a Good Way to Be Bored
I think many people see boredom as a single-faceted, unpleasant phenomenon. I think many people are wrong. There is good boredom and bad boredom—constructive boredom and destructive boredom. Most people see boredom as only the latter. The difference is good boredom comes from within. It is an inner leisure where we allow ourselves to be lost in time and space so we can think and create. Bad boredom comes from outside. It is forced onto us like a young child’s dentist appointment. We dread the moments of discomfort. We experience this when we do things we do not care about and when are unable to cope with solitude. This leads to depression and anger. But instead of cultivating good and rejecting bad, we lump them together and avoid them both. We distract ourselves from ourselves in an attempt to ward off boredom. Unfortunately, we end up losing the benefits of the good along with the detriments of the bad.
One night a few years ago, I stayed up long past a reasonable bedtime. This happened (and still happens) often. Some people (my parents and maybe my school teachers) would think I was working—staying up long hours on my assignments of course. The truth is I almost never stayed up late on assignments; I never felt work was a good enough reason to skip sleep.
Instead I found most of my late nights came from my wandering mind. I would sit alone in front of my computer, reading articles and watching videos. Heading no where, probably learning something. I have a habit of wandering like this often, and because of this, my friends joke that the only addition I ever have to conversations starts with, “So I read this interesting article about…”
That night I stayed awake just like this. Wandering. Some nights (like this night I describe) I am lucky. Some nights my wandering leads me to a profundity. It is a moment of wholeness and acuity, where insight deepens and perspective comes from outside of one’s self. I like to think that Ralph Waldo Emerson was talking about this feeling when he wrote, “I become a transparent eye-ball; I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me” (Nature). I believe it is my aimlessness that occasionally leads me to this transparency.
That night, I had a moment of transparency. I watched a video titled, “A Journey Through Our Indefinitely Large Universe.” To the many I have shown it to since that night, it is nothing special, but on that night, it unlocked in me a deep acuity for the smallness of life, the insignificance of myself, and the nature of wholeness of human thought. The level of insight I felt was so great that I went to my parents room and woke them up. “The universe! It’s is infinitely large, and I am infinitely small…” I know now that I probably sounded strange (maybe crazy), but at that moment, I can still remember that it gave me solace.
I think moments like these sometimes can only come from aimlessness. When free ourselves from preoccupation, we can foster true awareness of ourselves and our world.
Didn’t You Hear? John’s Dead.
Lead poisoning can lead to mood disorders. That’s why many companies believed they had such depressed and irritable workers on the job in the 1900’s. That’s why Right Row Manufacturing Company thought of John and all 180 other ill-tempered assembly line workers between 1962 and 1977. John worked his entire life on the assembly line. Everyday, he put left legs on headless G.I. Joe dolls and ate tuna sandwiches on lunch break. John was always frustrated with something and angry at someone. He was depressed. When John eventually died of lead poisoning (ironically) in 1977, his tombstone simply read, “I did nothing with my life.”
John’s family sued Right Row Manufacturing Company shortly after for $300,000 for damages to quality of life and worker safety. The funny thing is that they sued because the lead killed John’s body, not because the work killed John’s mind.
Misery Loves Company
According to a report by the World Health Organization, “Current predictions indicate that by 2030 depression will be the leading cause of disease burden globally.” Why are we sad when we have so much to do? Or maybe we are sad because we have so much to do.
Smart Phone Battery Usage Report
Usage over 1d 3h 11m 49s
Screen 40% Energy to power screen
Cell Standby 12% 4G waiting for me to do something
Phone Idle 9% Phone waiting for me to do something
Clash of Clans 8% Checking up on my village, raiding
Voice Calls 6% *Highly unusual call to mom
Facebook 4% Checking notifications, managing groups
Twitter 4% Checking favorites, tweeting, reading
Android System 4% ??? Mystery ???
Snapchat 3% Sending and receiving ugly pictures
Messaging 3% Messaging friends & family
Lookout Security 3% Scanning for viruses
Mediaserver 2% Handling interactive media on apps
Flappy Bird 1% Half-baked attempts to beat high score
AccuWeather 1% Constantly updated temperature widget
Screen, idle time, background operations: 69%
Games and Social Media: 19%
Calls, texting, picture messaging: 12%
Cell Phone and Driving
I’m sure at this point everyone has seen or heard of a story where a teenager was killed in a car crash because either they, or someone else, was texting while driving. It’s a new and interesting problem that technology has created. Driver’s ed teachers used to have it easy: pop in a dusty VHS tape about drunk driving deaths and give a lecture about the dangers of inebriation. Texting is such a different problem because it seems so innocent. People already use their phones as extensions of themselves, so picking up the phone to make a call or a respond to a text is simply an extension of natural communication; nothing about using our cell phones makes us feel dangerous to ourselves or others.
The Information Age
Commentary on a Commentary – A Look at: Postmodernity and the Routinization of Novelty: Heidegger on Boredom and Technology: IV. Boredom, Technology, and Homelessness, by Leslie Paul Thiele
In Leslie Paul Thiele’s commentary, he examines Heidegger’s and other’s views on the relationship between boredom and the modern age. Ultimately, Thiele seems he doesn’t have problem with innovation and technology, but the principle behind it of “…’enframing’ of the world under the imperial mandate of efficient exploitation” (503). Though he never says it, it seems again and again, Thiele is referring to the symptoms of capitalism on the modern world: consumerism. Though I think Thiele’s commentary reveals much about the “mood of boredom” in the modern age, it lacks by not trying to find the perpetuators of consumerism.
The closest Thiele gets to tackling the attitude of capitalistic consumerism comes when he mentions an advertisement for the Concorde: “Modern technology—chiefly displayed in the rapid production and consumption of commodities, information and media, and transportation…ensure[s] we shall not be left waiting. ‘Fly the Concorde around the World,’ an advertisement urges. ‘The future way to fly—Now. Everything else is boring’” (508). Here, it is evident that companies are well aware of the modern consumer’s appetite for everything to be immediate as we try to “conquer” space and time. How dare we allow ourselves to be bored by the old and outdated?
Thiele also touches on the effects of this technology and consumer world where “boring” might as well be a curse word. He calls on Heidegger’s observation saying, “…we are increasingly reluctant to ‘station ourselves in the storm of Being’” (504). That is to say that in the endless onslaught of distraction in the modern world, we lose our ability to think deeply and introspectively. Without space to become bored, we close ourselves off to the creativity of deep thought. Heidegger says that in place of this “storm of Being” we find a calm, “’…But this calm is not tranquility. It is only anesthesia’” (504). Unfortunately, Thiele does not suggest what this “anesthesia” may manifest itself as; perhaps this “anesthesia” comes from omnipresent devices that connect us to the world—lingering like a cloud above us, preventing us from ever truly feeling the sun.
As Thiele continues to explore this “storm of the being,” he sadly fails to facilitate the “how” by only speaking of the “how not.” That is, he comments on how technology prohibits our “storm” (this is the anesthesia metaphor); what is not obvious is how to escape this anesthesia. Here, I was drawn to Walden by Henry David Thoreau. Thoreau seems to touch on how to escape the anesthesia by saying, “Not till we are lost, in other words not till we have lost the world, do we begin to find ourselves, and realize where we are and the infinite extent of our relations.” Thoreau suggests that it is not until we allow ourselves to wander from the world’s distractions that we can find ourselves; perhaps this would have been a worthy addition to Thiele’s commentary.
Thiele continues by commenting on how this rejection (and even fear) of boredom and ourselves has impacted our attitudes towards life. He says our outlook has become nihilistic, where we think, “‘Everything is nought, indifferent, so that nothing is worthwhile—it is all alike’” (506). Thiele again does not suggest examples. Perhaps we feel this alikeness for all things because we live in an age where experience can be like a counterfeit coin. A simple trip to YouTube will do the trick. Here we can all climb the Shanghai Tower or be nearly hit by a tumbling boulder. We are suddenly free to have any pseudo-experience we wish, cheapening the true experiences we do have—dulling them until we find novelty in nothing.
In the end, Thiele concludes that technology takes away our wonder saying, “…contemporary humanity becomes bored with ‘the simple.’ The enigma of our earthly being ceases to merit reflection” (508). So it seems we are constantly stimulated to the point of becoming desensitized to experience and to ourselves. We seek technology to ward off boredom but end up warding off something much more important: the search for ourselves.
Salaries of the Entertainment Industry: Celebrities and Athletes
Floyd Mayweather Jr., Professional Boxer – $833,333 per minute in the ring
Alex Rodriquez, Professional baseball player – $1,100,000 per homerun
Kobe Bryant, Professional basketball player – $23,000,000 for a 2010 NBA championship win
Peyton Manning, Professional football player – $1,000,000 per game
Aston Kutcher, Two and a Half Men – $750,000 per episode
Mariska Hargitay, Law and Order: SVU – $500,000 per episode
Mark Wahlberg, Actor – $28,000,000 per movie
Leonardo DiCaprio, Actor – $77,000,000 per movie
 Lead was banned from paint in the US in 1977. Source: http://www.cpsc.gov/en/Recalls/1977/CPSC-Announces-Final-Ban-On-Lead-Containing-Paint/