Friday, May 5, 2017

It's quite possible that boredom is the root of all evil.

People being bored with their lives is probably behind a great deal of the woes our society faces as it continues to grow. Is it the root of all evil? Maybe, but I'm not quite ready to go that far. However, consider this: as just one example, psychologists have long suspected that boredom can lead to infidelity in relationships. One would think that boredom with one's life wouldn't be possible in a nation like the United States (with a powerful first-world work ethic and the crack of the whip across our backs to remind us of our capitalist overlords) but I'm starting to disagree. I think a huge component of our present society is bored, because 1) work is unfulfilling and 2) people are losing economic options that allow them to grow naturally. What is the opposite of growth? Stagnation. And stagnation is just another synonym for "boredom."

Of course, that's the rub, right? People just don't come out and say, "I'm bored" or express "this is boring." Most parents teach their children that expressing, "I'm bored" leads to all kinds of unpleasant chores. So boredom as a condition and a word has been reinvented to cope with this trauma that we all share from once being kids ourselves. In music, "Indy" is a label that means, "not mainstream." "Mainstream" is simply another label that means "boring because there is nothing unique about it because everyone likes it." I'm not kidding here. I know people who don't like "Game of Thrones" because it is too mainstream. Silly, right? That's just one example, and there are countless others.

Another label I can think of is "existential dread" which is bantered about by those who practice (to some extent) nihilism. If you don't know what existential dread is, the term is quite simple. It's the fear that your life, and by extension the lives of others, is in fact meaningless and serves no purpose. And what do people think of activities that are unnecessary? Well most people would tell you to get rid of them because no one wants to do it. Why? Because minutes would become hours that would become years...time would slow to a crawl, etc. It would be torture because of...wait for it...boredom. No one wants to live a boring life, right? Substitute "meaningless" with "boring" in that last sentence, and you start to realize what I'm getting at here.

When people are stagnating in their lives, the boredom and monotony becomes (for lack of a better word) painful. It's basically torture to some people, especially those who feel (and maybe always felt) that they are exceptional in some way. How do people deal with pain? Well drugs is one answer. If the drugs happen to get a person addicted, it can lead to crime to get money for drugs. Other side-effects of boredom are thrill-seeking behaviors like risky, unprotected sex, and aggressive attention-seeking. I call all of these things "the wheel" and it goes on and on. As I said in the first paragraph of this observation of mine, boredom is the source of a great many woes.That wheel I spoke of? Yeah, it rolls on crushing whomever dares to get in front of it, and it never loses momentum because it's being pushed by those who are bored with their lives.

Boredom is a terrible thing. Is it the most terrible of things? There's a good chance that it is. Consider this definition: Boredom is the empty feeling of having nothing one knows or wants to do and no ideas for changing this; or the trapped feeling of having to do things that are imposed, inescapable, and void of interest, mattering, or pleasure. There's a reason we have heard the phrase, "I am bored to death."

It worries me that people are so easily bored these days. The threshold for hitting rock bottom of boring seems so much lower. I think boredom is ruining long-term relationships, making it impossible for young people to commit to choices in their partners. Why? Because they get bored so easily and have a grass is greener philosophy due to over-stimulation and being spoiled for choice. I think people have unrealistic expectations for their lives, which again leads to boredom. I think that actual reality always moves at its own pace, and a lot of people get feelings of being trapped because they are not willing to wait things out. Everyone wants things right now, and some things just can't be rushed. No one wants to be the tortoise anymore...everyone wants to be the hare. And then of course there are societal problems which further exacerbate the feelings of being trapped. Ever hear of "income inequality?" If you haven't, it refers to a wealth gap emerging in the United States where those at the top (and who have access to practically infinite economic options) are few in number and separated by great distance from the rest of the population (who enjoy very limited economic options). The implication of growing income inequality is that a person born in a particular social class will never make it out of that social class for their entire lives. In other words, if you are born poor, you will live a life in poverty, and then die poor. You are in a sense, trapped. And as I established earlier, feelings of being trapped with no options to escape is just another definition of "boring," which is akin to being tortured to death.

There are very few tasks in life as odious as loving a person who is bored with their life. You watch them try to cope with this boredom through compulsive video game playing, using recreational drugs, making risky decisions, breaking the law, or committing social violence all toward one end: to escape the experience of emptiness or entrapment the emotional disease of boredom can cause.

Why does it have to be this way? Why is boredom so bad? I think I live a boring life, and I love it. But maybe my life isn't boring because I don't feel trapped. I've learned to appreciate the walls of my cage and don't really yearn to ever escape it because it's comfortable. Maybe the secret to happiness is this one simple thing: admitting to yourself that you're as boring as everyone else and learning to be comfortable with less.


  1. I think you made a lot of valid points. Boredom is like apathy. People don't care. That does lead to evil. (What's the say? The only way for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing?)
    Today's generation is used to instant gratification. They are bored with the process and just want the results.
    As far as income equality, I was born into upper middle class and I'm still there. However, my brother was a go-getter. Probably why he now has a million dollar home and I don't.

  2. This is all so true. I have thought to myself. "You get into trouble when you're bored."
    It seems that every desk job I've ever had I end up getting bored, especially when things get slow, even though I'm good at dealing with boredom, but at work there isn't much you can do about it. It feels like such a waste of time. At home, I'm never bored because I can write, not sure what I would do if I didn't write. In general, people weren't meant to be cooped up in offices all day long.

  3. Idle hands are the devil's tools and whatnot.

  4. I've always struggled to understand people like my brothers who just show no interest in the areas that can keep one from getting bored. To me that is a love of history and culture, the arts (get into chess, acting, singing, music, writing, painting, whatever!), and sport. I have so many hobbies that I not only don't get bored but I have trouble finding the time to do everything that I want to. I think a good solution would be to start redefining work, since automation is heading down the road toward being able to produce everything for us. Start providing a good life for everyone while pushing them towards the arts/sports/leisure time activities. Build up community and family and stop the grind of dull work, while letting automation do that work for us. At least some countries are starting to have that conversation--America will ensure that we are dead last at approaching it, at least among Westernized countries.

  5. A thought-provoking post. I don't get bored too often and can usually find something productive to occupy my time. I think the path to happiness is lowering expectations. If you expect too much it's easy to become disillusioned.

  6. Boredom is a choice.

    We all want to be happy. But somehow, we've been taught that happiness exists outside ourselves. So, we strive for that one thing that's going to make us happy, whether it be that perfect job, that perfect relationship, or that perfect family.

    But happiness is a choice. And it's within us. When we disconnect from that, when we give our power to the vagaries of the world, we become hopeless. Or bored.

    I live a boring life. I like my boring life. I find joy in the things I do. (Or, at least I try to. Some days are better than others.) And this is my choice.

  7. Very thought provoking topic. When I moved to Mexico, I brought with me American way. work/stress/no rest. After five years I've learned to relax. Every time I call home or visit, I get a laundry list of people's accomplishments and excuses why they haven't done more. I think people need to learn to rest without guilt. When my kids were growing up and they came in whining that they were bored, I'd always say,"well I have a few toilets that need cleaning." I wouldn't see them again until dinner.

  8. Personally, I doubt that your life is very boring; instead it's quiet and may not have a lot of physical activity. But clearly your brain and heart are working away, and that's how you sometimes get your kicks--the intellectual way.

    This post especially rings true for my character Charity MacCay (I'll be publishing her story this month). She admits in one scene that boredom is the most dangerous state she can be in, and she proves this because she starts to play around with a gun and soon shoots someone. This is actually kinda funny 'cause she only wounds him but he deserves it and this is in 1869 in the West, where bad guys and guns were everywhere.