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Why Harvey Danger Got it Right

By on Dec 8, 2013 in Rhetoric | 1 comment

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Recent days have seen the entire city shut down due to what has been lovingly called #Icepocalypse. The term really isn’t a misnomer. Hundreds of people are stranded at the airport, portions of highways are closed and the impending doom caused conscientious people to stockpile domestic necessities. The resounding warning from authorities has been a simple one: stay home.

Consequently, local social media feeds have been replete with icy Instagrams and images of outdoor shenanigans. And they’ve also been littered with the phrase “I’m bored.”

Now, I’ve been to Catholic mass. I’ve gone to functions where I didn’t know anyone. I’ve attended classes where I knew more than the teacher. I’ve proctored all day tests. I’ve watched countless Disney movies and Nick Jr. episodes. I’ve sat on the couch for an hour or more, literally staring at the wall. And like everyone else, I’ve been a prisoner in my home for the last three days. But I have never, in all my life, been bored.

It’s an interesting concept, boredom. What does it mean to be bored? One online dictionary defines boredom as “the state of being weary and restless through lack of interest.” This is a telling definition.

We can feel weary for a variety of reasons: long hours of manual labor, not enough sleep the previous night, incomplete sleep cycles, stressful events, etc. We can also feel restless for a variety of reasons: lack of movement, poor circulation, constant thoughts that something else needs to be done. But these are largely physical factors. Being weary and restless due to lack of interest suggests something else entirely.

Where do interests come from?

Certainly, there can be external objects that stimulate interest, but the state of being interested can only be internal. I may look at a clock in passing, but a timepiece aficionado might examine the clock for all its properties, spending 30 minutes or more absorbing its detail. He is interested. But when he steps away from the clock, will he become bored?

At the risk of sounding psychoanalytic, interests, and more importantly the rigor with which we pursue them, likely stem from our childhood. Consider what your parents allowed or encouraged, what they disallowed or discouraged, and what example they set concerning interests. Was there too much stimulation? Not enough?

It seems reasonable that not having a sufficient amount of interests should be an easy enough challenge to meet. Find a new hobby, join a social group, become more active in the community. But again, these are external and exhaustible solutions. The bigger challenge lies is maintaining an interested state without some outward stimulation.

In Harvey Danger’s “Flagpole Sitta,” one line in particular always jumps out at me: “If you’re bored, then you’re boring.” The question it begs from me is, how could someone possibly be bored?

1 Comment

  1. Boredom afficianado

    December 9, 2013

    Boredom is a state of being about which one can become interested. I, personally, make every attempt possible, marshaling all my creative forces such as they are, to achieve, during my typical day, a transcendental state of boredom. There are, according to experts in the field, seven distinct states of boredom, beginning with “merely bored,” ascending to “listlessly bored,” and then “definitely bored.” They take time to achieve. However, most people, when encountering this third state of boredom (no simple task, for a normal man or woman), discover that they can go no further. The trick here is to focus on the concept of “intentional boredom.” It is necessary when trying to achieve this to reject anything that attracts one’s attention, whether it be something external or some beguiling inner association.
    Persist, and you will encounter the state of “calmly bored” and with effort you can then ascend to the state of “most sincerely bored.” At this point there is danger, because the devil enters in, tempting you to visit porn sites on the web or simply indulge in some inner sexual imagining. Resist this at all costs or you will be lost. And if you prevail, then in less time than you imagine, you will achieve the state of “chastely bored.” Here the struggle with a sense of achievement begins, and this too must be resisted with all the force you can muster – in order to arrive at the state of “most humbly bored.”
    The final state, the state that was your hoped-for utterly uninteresting destination all along, then settles upon you. This is the mystical state of “imperceptibly bored.”
    Follow me and I’ll meet you there.

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