so we decided to kill somebody.”
From a week and a half ago—
No doubt about it, we’re living in troubled times. When boredom leads three teens (three likely already troubled teens) to randomly shoot another young human being, it’s yet another example that we’re living in deeply troubled times.
Three kids bored—unproductive, likely not contributing much to society, not making much of themselves and their potentials, perhaps falling through the cracks, perhaps just trying to get by, who knows. Another person—not unproductive, but an athlete, a person trying to take care of himself and develop himself physically, out for a run, exercising, doing something productive. Shot in the back.
Out of sheer boredom.
This is the extreme to which boredom—or trying to alleviate it—can lead.
Boredom—or trying to alleviate it—is not always destructive. But in general, trying to alleviate boredom in quick-fix, not really thinking about the consequences, unconscionable ways, creates and causes all sorts of harm and damage. When our less than best self tries to alleviate boredom, trouble usually ensues—for ourselves, others, or both.
Boredom in a marriage (when combined with a lack of a functioning/developed moral compass) can lead to a wandering eye and heart and adultery.
“If you get bored with the person you married for love, there’s something wrong with you—not with that person.” – Shahrukh Rafi Khan
Whenever boredom is tempered by some semblance of a functioning moral compass, then the focus of the bored person can turned inward and begin examining what is in every conceivable likelihood a huge contributing factor to one’s boredom: oneself.
Boredom in and of itself is not always necessarily a bad thing; it’s part of life, part of the dukkha (or “unsatisfactoriness” or “suffering”) of life. Boredom—and the inner sense of dissatisfaction that it produces—can, when dealt with in a conscientious way, prompt us to improve/develop ourselves or improve the world around us (some positive innovations), develop new interests and hobbies, and even friendships.
But when boredom and the quest to alleviate it prompts us to look outside of ourselves for new forms of stimulation, titillation, excitement, thrills that involve hurting/mistreating/using/exploiting/harming others and compromising what’s best in us, then it becomes a truly tragic and hellish thing.
“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” – Blaise Pascal, “Pensées”
“A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone.” – Henry David Thoreau
Without an up and running moral center (a healthy conscience), it is difficult if not impossible to know (discern) what to let alone, what is good for us and others, and what is not good for us and others. Without the promptings of a healthy conscience, it’s difficult to learn how to sit quietly alone in a room by oneself.
Instead a person may turn to consuming and practicing some type of violence violence—either participating in it in the real world or in video games, or watching it in action movies—in an effort to alleviate feeling bored. That type of stimulation—violence—aggressiveness, destructiveness—is a lowest common denominator type response, and typically a rather male type of response. Boys tend naturally to be more aggressive. . . .
“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” – Blaise Pascal, “Pensées”
Meditation—at least certain types of meditation—can be viewed as a way of learning how alleviate boredom by befriending it, by learning how to befriend the feelings of restlessness and dissatisfaction that boredom engenders. Meditation is a nonviolent way—and an undervalued and underutilized way—of learning how to sit quietly in a room by oneself.
Personally, I’m not one much for meditation, for quieting my mind and just sitting still quietly with a very tranquil mind. Instead I prefer contemplation—reflecting, letting my mind wander, and in a probing and philosophic way. . . .
“Reading and sauntering and lounging and dosing, which I call thinking, is my supreme Happiness.” – David Hume
“I’m bored’ is a useless thing to say. I mean, you live in a great, big, vast world that you’ve seen none percent of. Even the inside of your own mind is endless; it goes on forever, inwardly, do you understand? The fact that you’re alive is amazing, so you don’t get to say ‘I’m bored’.” ― Louis CK
And when thinking and sauntering and letting my mind wander out to wrestle and wrangle with life’s big and perennial questions doesn’t work, then oftentimes I will read—something stimulating and of some degree of substance . . . a few pages from a book of poems, or something written by someone who thinks and writes in a deep and probing and contemplative way—Merton, Lewis, Thoreau, Fromm, Krishnamurti, Martin Luther King Jr., et cetera. . . .
“Don’t just read the easy stuff. You may be entertained by it, but you will never grow from it.” – Jim Rohn
“It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.” – Oscar Wilde
And it’s what we do in our free time that determines how susceptible we will be to boredom and how we each will try to alleviate our boredom—that boredom with our life and with who we are and who and what we have made of ourselves (the self that we each have become due in part to what we have done previously in our free time and what we have made of ourselves).
Part of what likely bores us when we’re bored is that we’re looking at the world in what is probably a fairly narrow way: We’re missing a lot of what is available to us perceptually.
“The only true voyage would be not to travel through a hundred different lands with the same pair of eyes, but to see the same land through a hundred different pairs of eyes.” – Proust
If we spend much or all of our free time zoning out in front of the telly or playing video games or listening to pop music or browsing facebook or twitter, then we’ll end up making very little of ourselves. Instead, what we’ll end up unwittingly making of ourselves is a rather easily bored person who requires constant stimulation and has little to no ability to sit still and concentrate. And wherever we end up going physically, we’ll end up “taking ruins to ruins” (Emerson).
“What a man (or woman) is contributes much more to his or her happiness than what he has, or how he is regarded by others. What a man is, and so what he has in his own person accompanies him always and everywhere, and gives its color to all his experiences. . . . Intellectual dullness is at the bottom of that vacuity of soul which is stamped on so many faces, a state of mind which betrays itself by a constant and lively attention to all the trivial circumstance in the external world. This is the true source of boredom—a continual panting after excitement, in order to have a pretext for giving the mind and spirits something to occupy them. . . . It is mainly because of this inner vacuity of soul that people go in quest of society, diversion, amusement, luxury of every sort. Nothing is so good a protection against such misery as inward wealth, the wealth of the mind, because the greater it grows, the less room it leaves for boredom. In solitude, everyone is thrown upon his own resources, what a man has in himself comes to light.” – Arthur Schopenhauer, “The Wisdom of Life”
Making something of yourself and your mind—developing one’s thinking, developing one’s capacity to think clearly and well and deeply, developing one’s capacity to question life, question oneself, question one’s own thinking, question other people’s thinking—is to have made of one’s mind and one’s thinking and to have created a very good travelling companion for oneself out of oneself and one’s mind.
“To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.” – Oscar Wilde
The only sure companion we have from birth to death is ourselves and our mind—our perception and our thinking. And learning how to think well and in a deep and soulful way is one of the primary ways that we demonstrate love for ourselves. To neglect learning how to think well is to neglect—and not love—ourselves. And if our parents didn’t show us love by encouraging us to develop our capacity to think deeply and widely, then not to learn how to do so for ourselves (and not to teach our children) is to unwittingly continue that legacy of neglect.
“Boredom is nothing but the experience of a paralysis of our productive powers.” – Erich Fromm, “The Sane Society”
There is only one tried and true way to alleviate boredom. And that is to become more, to develop ourselves, to become more in terms of who we are as human beings. The more we develop our minds and our thinking (including our perception and awareness), as well as the more we develop our own innate potentials and possibilities (the good and healthy and life-affirming ones), and the more athletic and physically active we become, then the less prone to boredom we each will likely be.
At bottom, boredom shows us that as we are we are not yet enough, that we are not able to find sufficient contentment within ourselves, nor are we able to calm and soothe our fears and anxiousness and restlessness.
Someone who has talents, hobbies, interests, is creative, life-affirming, curious, has a reverence for life, has a decent friend or two, is not likely one who is going to experience much boredom.
Someone who is unproductive, underdeveloped, who relies on (is dependent upon) things and people to entertain him or her, who is easily suggestible, is a surface-type person, likes to try to shop and buy and consume their way to happiness, plays a lot of video games, watches too much TV, reads gossip magazines or other nonsense, is overly social, doesn’t play sports or exercise much, doesn’t have hobbies and interests, tends to be oftentimes angry and or destructive and or ungrateful, has a chip on his or her shoulder, will be very likely get bored rather easily.
“When people are bored, it is primarily with their own selves that they are bored.” ― Eric Hoffer
“Though we all know what boredom is, most normal adults do not experience sheer boredom very often. We are stressed, rushed, and worried, but we are seldom purely bored–in part because we are so stressed, rushed, and worried. Time without anything we must attend to usually feels like a breather, not like a monotony. To get a feel for what sheer boredom is like, we must hearken back to childhood. Children and adolescents are frequently bored, so bored they can hardly even stand it. Their perfectly normal developmental need for constant stimulation, for exploring and ongoing learning, is often thwarted in a world of long trips, rainy afternoons, and study halls. In childhood, boredom can be excruciating, like a chronic spiritual headache, or a powerful thirst with no beverage to be had. It can hurt so bad that the poor kid feels like yelling out loud, or throwing something noisy at a wall.” – Martha Stout, “The Sociopath Next Door”
Hurt people hurt people. Boring undeveloped people are the ones who are most prone to get bored—and to deal with it in unproductive and even destructive ways. And people who unknowingly are addicted to trying to consume their way to happiness are the ones who will get bored most easily and often.
“The two enemies of human happiness are pain and boredom.” – Arthur Schopenhauer
“Boredom is the shriek of unused capacities, the conviction that you can’t change.” – Saul Bellow (attributed and adapted)
Boredom comes from faltering at changing yourself, at growing / developing as a person. A bored person is a person who is stagnating, who has what Fromm terms an unproductive and a consumeristic orientation psychologically (a person isn’t able to produce or make his or her own happiness, so he or she is constantly trying to purchase it and buy their way to it through more and more experiences that they have to pay for). And so such a person is driven to find contentment and or stimulation outside of him- or herself.
“Boredom is the feeling that everything is a waste of time; serenity, that nothing is.” – Thomas Szasz
“I fear the boredom that comes with not learning and not taking chances.” – Robert Fulghum
“Boredom is a vital problem for the moralist, since half the sins of mankind are caused by the fear of it.” – Bertrand Russell