On the Passing of Listeners (A Mind of Fiction)

I would ask you to forgive me as I plan to write less to you than to myself, but as it stands, I have a tendency to be disinterested in what most people have to say, and I hope that you feel very much the same way about me. If you are feeling up to it read along, I am going to let my mind wander and bleed over this page some, perhaps it will be interesting. Keep in mind that this entire account is, of course, wholly fictitious.



 

The Passing of Listeners

I used to be an exceptional listener (citation needed), and I had friends who would come to me as a first resource, as a choice vessel into which invest time and energy and words. At the time I liked it, most likely around that time when we first start to have true concepts of self, when we actually ask ourselves with great seriousness if we might be the only true living person in the world, a world filled with mirrors, robots, actors, what have you (a Google search for “am I the only real person in the world” returned 330,000,000 results). I was only going to link you to a wonderfully dull Wikipedia article on Solipsism, but instead, I will grant you this: Everyone is a Robot instead.

I will let that website sink in for a little before we continue…

Listening to someone else have troubles I could not make for myself, troubles I had not had the time nor inclination to come up with, this easily quelled such doubts in me. It is easier to make a concept of yourself and the world when you get a grasp on the lives of the people around you (I now believe it is more likely I am also one of the robots—and would it not be interesting to meet the one real person whose existence caused all of this—but that is not a thought-trail we are going to hike today).

The ensuing boredom

I do not know exactly what happened. Everybody kept having problems, and they never stopped, I doubt they ever will. They got distracted from their long-term lives with all of the small negative things that happened, and sought support from me. Soon it seemed that the only things in my life were, if we can say in all honesty, but minor nuisances, the wear and tear of teenage hearts that bled and healed back up faster than I could reflect on them. I made a point of offering no real solutions, all I would do was listen. So I had to wonder what the point was, that my friends would come to me, and I would do nothing, and they would leave—perhaps feeling better—only to return again with something equally upsetting. I got bored. If we still believed we were the only real person in the world, we should be feeling pretty depressed right about now.

Instead, let us be depressed for other reasons. At the time this was going on, I had the misfortune of being addicted to books. Fantasy, science fiction, history (the exciting ones of course), brief ventures into black humor and existentialism, I devoured it all far too greedily. I soon found myself wondering why the real problems I encountered on a daily basis were pale and lifeless in comparison to the problems of these characters, why people who no longer existed, if at all, made me feel more excited and alive than the more complex (have we decided whether or not they are robots?) people who were my friends.

The more I that my friends came to me—and please do not doubt that they were my friends, I did care very much—the more I felt that this world had nothing exceptional to offer, and I hid deeper within my readings. It took a while to finally identify this boredom correctly. I believed the world around me to be boring, something that had nothing to offer against other worlds I had found, but this was simply not true. I was the one who would sit, and let my mind wander when it grew bored. The boredom was me. By being so passive I had earned nothing in my friendships, but I had certainly earned this boredom.

I would like to direct you to this article now, if you are still reading along (you must be a good listener): http://link.springer.com.pitt.idm.oclc.org/article/10.1023%2FA%3A1022938109185#page-1

You obviously have no obligation to read that, but I will highlight some things that struck me as pretty interesting and quite possibly more factual than my story.

“As a person begins to realize the importance of [philosopher]’s admonition that boredom provides a power that is essential to a happy life, the individual is less tempted to keep stimulating oneself by creating change from boredom or by generating some form of excitement. By reframing the boredom experience as useful, and even friendly, as well as not to be resisted or gotten rid of, the response is likely to change:

If people have a sensory experience that they don’t like, what they don’t like is their response to it. One way of changing the response is to understand that the response itself is not based on what’s going on in the sensory experience. If you change what the experience means to them, the response will change. (Bandler &  Grinder, 1982, p. 7)

–Rule (Please forgive that my quote is actually a quote within a quote).

This is the curious thing I have found. To find what is interesting (and less importantly—of course—to  better help a person in need of a listening ear), you first must invest interest. Let me explain. I considered myself a listener, and this was technically not a lie. But the truth was that I was only hearing. What I heard sounded boring, but really it was me devaluing the things that were freely given to me. The article above suggests (if we can assume “[having] a sensory experience that [we] don’t like” includes boredom) that the necessary change is only really necessary within us, here on the receiving end. It was this realization that helped me to understand that it is all our little troubles, the small things we believe worth sharing and receiving that make up the greater person within. Anyone who has studied people even slightly will agree, the “greater person within” is not boring. Everything shiny and exciting that we can experience has passed through or come from one of our minds.

Let us travel to the present

Now I do not consider myself an exceptional listener. I am just a friend. If what you say still bores me, after I put in some effort, I will hear you (and say “mhm” and “yeah” and “oh shit” as all good friends do) but not truly listen, but do not take offence, it is not the easiest of things to do to change the self.

“Thus the bored individual can be justified in trying to accept the “stuck” feeling of the experience. Depending upon which direction intuitively feels right at the moment, the person can begin to move inward through either process of (1) awareness or (2) introspection.”  –Rule

These are the terms for how one can combat (or accept) the boredom one feels. However, the article continues to explain that this is (1) for awareness, paradoxically dependent on self-discipline (which I lack), and for (2) introspection, full of confusing or contradictory thoughts. Forgive me if I chose on some days to remain bored. However tedious your story might be, I assure you, I do not think it is that horrid, but my mind may simply wander a little as you speak.


 

A warning as I tie my thoughts together

I mentioned before that I was unfortunately a bit of a book worm as a child and I wish to expand upon that thought, and provide you with a small warning.

So I warn you! Do not read any books but those that are academic in nature, or perhaps self-help books, and occasionally history if you must (but only of eras in which nothing grand happened). Do not read Camus, and have doubts, do not read Dune, and have dreams of other worlds. By all means avoid Ender’s Game, and keep your heart in its place. Shakespeare, King, Tolkien, let these gods of literature be nothing but false prophets, whose names you may know, but whose works you avoid like the devil’s. In this way you will avoid boredom. You will know our world to be the only one, and being so, it will be the best and there will be nothing to compare to, nothing to long for, and day to day you fill find yourself content.

Or you may ignore my warning. Delve into The Lies of Locke Lamora, reflect on where you would be during the events of Level 7, step boldly into the world of fiction, and within it, find that yes, perhaps our days are boring, perhaps our tasks mundane, but how horrid can it be when such beautiful things exist? Every epic hero, every grand plot and bizarre new world, they all came from the mind of a bored author. She had read too often, and somewhere in the stillness, as she listened to the world drone on, a seed of defiance planted itself in her heart. It sprouted and grew and as she listened it flourished, and its fruits were adventure and love. There was terror beyond compare, but salvation came as well. And so the listener stopped. She closed her ears for a moment, and in furious strokes of the pen unleashed everything she had never heard, that others may chose to listen and realize that the true world is boring, but that this boredom gives us true power: access to all the beauty within.


 

And a conclusion

I would like to part with you only after offering up what are now my beliefs on boredom.

1) It is okay to be bored. Do not worry about it. It does not make you a snob or a bad friend or a hopeless being lost in a recognizably wonderful world (citation needed).

2) Take a moment to analyze your boredom. If we can pull anything from the article by Rule, it is that sometimes it is up to us. We cannot demand that the world entertain us, and sometimes we have to put in a little effort to improve our view of our situation. We may find that we can eliminate our boredom by changing our perspective, and that in doing so, we become a better person (to whom, I have found, others are more likely to open up to with increasingly interesting ideas and stories).

3) I did not mean it when I warned you against books. I just wanted to paint a picture. It is true that I often find myself bored, because I compare my life as it is with the lives I have known—“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies,” wrote Georger R. R. Martin. But I find that ultimately it has always been worth it, that this view of what there could be opens our eyes not only to the boredom of our day to day lives, but also to the exceptions to this rule of thumb that we can now recognize as exciting and worth investigating.

4) It seems very easy to take note of when we are bored, especially in this day and age. We like to complain about what technology has done to us, about how life is less fulfilling now, how boredom overshadows our future. But I urge you to take note of when you are not bored. I ended my last post with a quote by Kurt Vonnegut, and I will do the same on this one. As he speaks of happiness, I urge you to think in the same way about the moments you are not bored.

“I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.'” –Kurt Vonnegut


 

Some Non-standardized Citations:

Rule, Warren R. Ph.D. Unsqueezing the Soul: Expanding Choices by Regraming and Redirecting Boredom
Journal of Contemporary Psychotherapy, Vol. 28, No. 3, 1998                http://link.springer.com.pitt.idm.oclc.org/article/10.1023%2FA%3A1022938109185#page-1

I Used to Believe, website at http://www.iusedtobelieve.com/ copyright 2002

Robinson, Ryan, Modell, Murray, Gordon. 15 Things Kurt Vonnegut Said Better Than Anyone Else Ever Has Or Will. A.V. Club. Apr 24, 2007

Article on Solipsism, Wikipedia, Online Encyclopedia

Google search results for “am I the only real person in the world

Images by Drew from toothpastefordinner

Book warning image from another blog

Armstrong, Louis “What a Wonderful World” via Youtube u/atyourserviceable

 

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3 thoughts on “On the Passing of Listeners (A Mind of Fiction)”

  1. Joel,
    One: I feel you. Two: I feel you. Three: I feel you.
    Being a bookworm myself, or a caterpillar crawling through countless pages, I find myself wrapped in a cocoon of my own creation for all of the reasons you’ve listed. “A reader lives a thousand lives” and yet the life of the reader is drab and meaningless compared to the galactic exploits of Ender, the magic of Gandalf, or even the dry, absurd ease of Camus.
    Rune’s article begins by quoting Bertrand Russell “At least half of the sins of mankind are caused by the fear of [boredom]”. In many ways I agree. Perhaps human nature is neither base nor altruistic, but simply evolutionarily prone to boredom. We lose our perspectives on desire and purpose literally overnight. We have evolved to have such capacious self awareness that we get bored upon waking up thinking that it’s all been figure out. We drive ourselves and others mad (and more than just a few have been killed) in order to find out “why” and “what” this existence and human experience are.
    Here’s another Vonnegut quote which either immediately pisses me off or solves all of my existential crises depending on the day.
    “Here we are, trapped in the amber of the moment. There is no why.”

    Through experiencing other worlds, imaginations, and consciousnesses, we discover what sets us on fire. Where our curiosity lies, where our love and truth may be found– the answers exist and wait for us to find them.

    “I have the key in my hand– all I have to find is the lock.”

  2. You have interesting things to say! I really related to this, and even if this was “wholly fictitious,” I liked the personal nature of it. The examples spoke well to your point, and by then end, I felt like I had learned something. I think the concluding section brought the whole thing together, and I definitely wasn’t depressed.

  3. Joel,

    Writing is supposed to be the expression of the soul, but school beats the soul out of writing to the point that most of us can’t properly put the soul back in when we are free from standardized essay prompts and the five paragraph essay format. There is a soul in what you write. Not just an good idea (which is half the battle) but a soul, and I think that is probably why it’s so damn good. My thoughts have completely run away from me now so I’ll stop writing. But you, don’t stop. This was excellent.

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