Saturday, January 8, 2011

Ennui, Boredom and Having Absolutely No Time to Waste

Painting of a bored queen

Here's an inspirational post about an un-inspirational topic: Boredom. Boredom seems to be part of life. It is everywhere you go. You get bored with your job, your relationship, your holidays, your life. There is no time limit to boredom either. It can last from a minute to a lifetime.

What is boredom really? There are different types of boredom. Some of it may be dissatisfaction. You may be dissatisfied with a certain situation or outcome. You wished your job were exciting, but all you do is twiddle your thumbs all day long. It can also be disappointment. You were expecting your partner to be a stand-up comedian and amazing in bed but after a while living together you realize he or she has nothing to say, nor anything interesting up their sleeves.

Boredom is also frustration. You would like to change a situation but feel incapable of doing so for whatever reason. Or you feel stuck in an uninteresting situation like an endless family dinner with pointless discussions and little to stimulate the imagination. Or you are trapped in an activity that is all but fun or interesting. Routine may be comforting for some but can be boring for many others. It lacks originality; it is predictable; it is, in other words, boring!

Yet the most famous and most symptomatic type of boredom has the fancy French term “ennui” and has been a trademark of the bourgeoisie. The higher classes have obviously less economic woes, not having to work for their lives and as a result, they tend to have too much extra time with too little to do. Kierkegaard complained about this kind of boredom which he considered a “disease” and the "root of all evil," whereas French writer Flaubert complained about this all-engulfing sense of restless boredom, yet somehow managed to turn it into an art form. 

So is boredom any good for you? I think not. Boredom is actually, to use a tautology, a waste of time. By this I mean you are letting precious time and energy go to waste; you are throwing it all away. It is like a poison that slowly fills you up and then anything you see, taste or touch becomes bitter.

In these moments, boredom is close kin to depression. You feel unfulfilled and nothing can really fill you up. There are so many things you do not acknowledge because of your obsession with boredom itself. All the while, precious time is ticking away continuously, soundlessly, and endlessly.

The problem with this is the fact that our “stay” in this life is generally limited. It is a big portion - add to it being stuck in traffic or elevators, waiting in line and sleeping – that we are throwing to the dogs; these are potentially wonderful moments we leave unused and unattended. We need to break out of this vicious cycle, the karma of boredom and being bored.

Next time look around when you feel bored. Take a walk in the rain. Give someone close to you a hug. Stay away from boring people. Watch a movie that excites your imagination and fills you with laughter (just don't watch a boring movie!). In those moments you need to remind yourself most of what life has to offer if only you stripped yourself free from the impulse of boredom. And worse comes to worst you can always drop by and visit Arash's World to read articles that are exempt of boredom. Or so I hope!


Jimmy Clay said...

Hey Arash, that was a very good post. I had never linked boredom and depression, but you are right, they related.

Vincent said...

Someone to whom I shall be forever grateful told me that boredom is an emotion. He says the purpose of an emotion is to prompt you into action, bypassing your intellect. Fear for example prompts you to fight or flight, without weighing up the consequences like a rational person, because that takes too long and mind can deceive you.

On this basis, boredom tells you to get out of there and prompts you to delve deep within yourself: get another job, end your relationship (or adjust the expectations, whichever is more practical), break out of that routine for the sake of something more tailored to your needs.

On this basis I would say that boredom is one of the most useful emotions. It tells you stuff that you would not have allowed yourself to say. The boredom will go away when you take the appropriate action.

Arashmania said...

Thank you for your comment, Jimmy!

@Vincent: Yes! Emotions are there for a reason, whether it is anger, hatred, love, boredom etc and I think they either teach us something or point towards a necessary action. The same applies to least in theory.

When people complain about their jobs, I advise them to look for another one. When they are bored with their partner, I tell them to move on etc

Some people, however, are constantly bored with everything and complain all the time without doing anything to rectify the situation. Those are the ones who take everything they have for granted and ignore both the happiness and beauty life offers.

But there is also the boredom that gnaws away and that has no shape or reason. In fact, it is only there to upset you. It is like a cancer and one must try their best to deal with it, otherwise it will sap all the fun out of life.That is, in my opinion, the most dangerous one and is perhaps the one called ennui.

Routine is another matter and I will have a post about it in the coming weeks perhaps.

Thank you for your comments, Vincent!

Francis Hunt said...

Time is the one thing we all have the same amount of. There are things which consume our time over which we have little control; most of us, for example, have to work whether we feel like it or not. Here the way to deal with boredom is to concentrate on that which has to be done while we are doing it - losing ourselves, as it were, in the task.

For things which we do not have to do which we find boring, the solution is simple - don't do them, do something else!