An unsung champion in our midst…

An evening meeting meant that we were out of the house until late. And by ‘late’ I mean 11:00pm, because I’m crotchety and old and it was a week night. So my 5:00am alarm came really early. It was still dark, and I forced myself upright before actually attaining wakefulness and tried to get out of bed without putting in my contacts first, only to wonder why I couldn’t see anything. 

It’s been one of those mornings. 

It’s Friday, at least. Now that I’ve had some coffee and read a chapter or two about astrophysics, I’m feeling a bit more equipped to handle the day. So far as I know, it should be a rather uneventful one, and that suits me fine. It’s reassuringly dull to have a routine and I’m not bored of it yet. 

I have to wonder: does boredom serve a purpose? If so, then what purpose does it serve? Why is boredom so unpleasant? Is it just because humans are primed to seek out novelty? Does it exist to act as a motivating force on a system that would otherwise devolve into complacency? Is novelty more valuable than constancy, or are these just the polar ends of a dynamic system that needs to be in constant motion in order to actually be stable the way it is easy to ride a bike as long as you’re moving forward? 

There is something to be said about cultivating the skills of boredom that often get overlooked in, say, academic goals. There’s no SAT metric for how well one can handle tedium (although, arguably, SAT prep courses inadvertently offer training in exactly this skill). There is no media representation of characters who are good at handling boredom, because that in itself would be boring to watch. But I think this is a pretty vital skill: being able to stay focused over long periods of repetitive, mind numbing tasks seems like a core element of pretty much any office job. It’s a skill like running or writing- nearly anybody can perform the mechanics of it, but very few people bother to master it.

I got into a facetious discussion with a friend about what Competitive Boredom would look like. I argued that there would have to be different events: paint drying, grass growing, filling out tax documents in triplicate, waiting in line at the DMV etc. My friend argued that it it would have to take place in individual elevators with various forms of muzak. We debated whether this would be a competition that anybody would watch out whether the audience would be bored while watching such a competition as a kind of mise en abyme of endless boredom. No, I argued: it could be quite thrilling for an audience to watch- after all, it’s the contestants who are expected to have a high tolerance for boredom, not the observers. It could be called Bored To The Death!!!!! and have competing athletes of lassitude (lassithetes?) balanced on, say, the pressure plate of a claymore mine, each competing against boredom itself to avoid falling asleep and blowing themselves to smithereens. It’s an endurance sport, only for the highly trained. (We later decided that these rigs should be constructed in elevators (complete with muzak) made out of blast proof glass for safety and easy cleanup, because, you know, these things are important when designing dystopian death-matches).

So I’ve probably given boredom more thought than I should have…

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~ by Gwydhar Gebien on July 28, 2017.

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