Saturday, September 20, 2008

Ennui, Mon Ami

A few days ago I started to write an essay on boredom. I did this as part of a greater effort towards self-realization and deeper understanding and because (apparently) I'm a dork and I like composing essays... My initial dilemma was feeling bored and noticing that the boredom was leading me to unhealthy behavior and an overall sense of disappointment in myself. Not wanting this to continue, I decided to (try) to get to the root of the issue. I researched the word itself, it's origins, boredom and depression, boredom as a theme in literature and I almost posted my findings as a blog. However, once I finished reading what I had written I realized it was boring! Why did I chose to think, read and write about boredom? Well, it's because my mind is obsessive and when an idea is rattling around in my brain (like that coin in the dryer) the only way to make it stop is to give it my full attention. Sometimes this means digging around in the socks but in this case I had to dig into the madness of my own head...

Rather than revisiting the initial impulse that drove me down this rabbit hole of research, I will, instead, share a few random realizations. I frequently go on little quests for knowledge or understanding regarding various topics and end up in a place completely different from where I began. This time no particular questions have been answered fully but there is a feeling of expansiveness and satisfaction that comes from the other things I've learned along the way. In the words of The Rolling Stones, "you can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you might just find you get what you need".

Apparently, what I needed was the realization that at this point in time (for me) relief from suffering comes in the form of reading. When something is on my mind I start to see it everywhere, like feathers in the city; I never noticed them before and now I see them on the sidewalks and streets every day! The same is true of ideas or themes in life and literature. Sometimes I get the feeling that a book finds me rather than the other way around... One of my favorite things about reading is the way it's such an intimate connection with another person. Although, seemingly one-sided, it's a connection that is able to transcend physical and spacial relationships as well as time. Coming across an idea or feeling that someone else has expressed brings about a sensation of oneness for me.

So, if I haven't bored you too much already I will return, for a moment, to that original topic and then digress a little more by way of quotes. Here are a few things that have sparked my interest lately and created a feeling of connection:

I read that Goethe referred to boredom as "the sorest evil, the heaviest disease", so we agree that it's rather a negative thing... When I was researching boredom and depression this idea of "disease" came around a few times. I found a Dostoevsky quote in an article saying that "excessive consciousness is a disease" and that its "direct inevitable product is inertia" and "boredom". This points not to the boredom but rather the consciousness itself. I feel like there's always a paradox at the bottom of everything and in this case, the idea that excessive consciousness can lead to inertia and boredom is almost depressing in and of itself! I have often thought that thinking too much can feel like a kind of torture. When becoming overwhelmed by the mind there does come a point where any kind of action starts to seem less and less possible.

All of this also brings me back to the idea of the self vs. the awareness of the self. It's something most people are familiar with, it comes up a lot in meditation and it's something I think about frequently because I'm often aware of the split between myself and my awareness. Because of this I sometimes feel like two people! As I've been reading "Tropic of Cancer" by Henry Miller I've come across this theme a few times already. I'm not finished with the book yet but what's grabbing me at the moment are the themes of aloneness and detachment as well as transcendence from [what we know as] reality, freeing oneself from the constraints of the mind and excepting the truth of basic physical activities; eating, drinking, sex, etc...

Here are some random quotes that stood out for me so far and today, that's where I'll end this. With all of this exploration I can feel myself heading towards inertia so it's time to ease up on the thinking for the moment. These words will jingle on, for now, as the pennies in the dryer of my mind:

"It is not difficult to be alone if you are poor and a failure. An artist is always alone - if he is an artist. No, what the artist needs is loneliness" p. 66

"On the meridian of time there is no injustice: there is only the poetry of motion creating the illusion of truth and drama" p. 96

"It seemed to me the great calamity had already manifested itself, that I could be no more truly alone than than at this very moment" p. 98

"I am only spiritually dead. Physically I am alive. Morally I am free. The world which I have departed is a menagerie. The dawn is breaking on a new world, a jungle world in which the lean spirits roam with sharp claws. If I am a hyena I am a lean hungry one: I go forth to fatten myself" p. 99

"It's like I'm two people, and one of them is watching me all the time. I get so goddamned mad at myself that I could kill myself... and in a way, that's what I do every time I have an orgasm. For one second like I obliterate myself" p. 130


Stephen said...

I find it interesting how social programming says that boredom is not good. That if we are bored, we must do something to get rid of it. If we work harder and longer it helps the day go by faster. And then what? What happens after the day is over? We waiting and working for the weekend? I like the quote about being an artist and being alone. It reminds me of a quote - "comfort breeds contempt". It's a little sad, looking back on it but seems to be a place that we may operate from. Inertia equals death and we don't want that.

So there.

Shikka said...

hmm...yeah, thanks for bringing up another interesting quote!

lakshmi said...

Hi Shikka! :)

I long for boredom, for the cessation of the frantic activity of my life. Because of this, I even enjoy things like going to the dentist, where I do nothing but sit and stare not even able to speak. A life like mine will do that for you. I enjoyed the quotes. I am never lonely, but ever alone in the quiet space behind it all. I like it there, in the deep recesses where the words begin.

I have also started a blog. Come by and see me there. I'm enjoying reading yours! The past arrives in the present, and here we are. I was thinking about you the other day because Lali has begun reading the American Girl books!