Depths of stagnation

That human life must be some kind of mistake is sufficiently proved by the simple observation that man is a compound of needs which are hard to satisfy; that their satisfaction achieves nothing but a painless condition in which he is only given over to boredom; and that boredom is a direct proof that existence is in itself valueless, for boredom is nothing other than the sensation of the emptiness of existence. For if life, in the desire for which our essence and existence consists, possessed in itself a positive value and real content, then would be no such thing as boredom: mere existence would fulfill and satisfy us.
–Arthur Schopenhauer, “The Vanity of Existence”

Boredom is a curious emotional state. It is neither the absence or existence of a pleasure or pain, but rather it is the natural position of human perception. Much like the basic tenet of physics that states an object remains at rest unless acted upon, boredom is the state of emotion when standing still. From it arises a general sense of irritability, a lack of concentration, and a dull, persistent feeling of unrest. The immediate reaction usually entails self destructive behaviour. Often this manifests itself in provoking others with no reason, over indulging in food and vice, and an unproductive waste of time and effort. As the ancient truism goes, “idle hands are the devil’s workshop”.

The negative consequences of this emotion leave one wondering the neurological purpose for such an emotion. Purpose for humans is as important as other biological imperatives such as eating and drinking. Moments squandered through inaction are moments that could be spent preparing for survival. One must constantly be on guard to escape the clutches of ennui. If it is not fought off with careful and consistent preparation, it will catch up with you.

Like any other emotion, boredom has various states of intensity. The greater levels of boredom seem to arise in those who have a higher capacity for arousal. When one is satisfied easily with their environment, lack of stimuli seems to engender a sense of lesser boredom that is closer to relaxation than unrest. Like a high-energy system that is self contained with no outlet, those who are easily excited tend to react violently with nothing to devote their interest to.

The capacity for boredom is directly related to the scope and size of one’s appetite for excitement. As such, it functions just like hunger. When there is a lack of nourishment, those with a large stomach grown from overindulgence will feel the pangs of starvation more dramatic and more rapidly than those with more modest appetites.

Boredom also can set in through another way. If one is stressed by an unsolvable or difficult task, frustration can manifest itself as boredom. There may be is plenty in one’s surroundings to generate interest, but it can seem unimportant when compared with the subject causing him stress. The more he tries to focus on his task, the more it seems pointless. This leads him to lash out by ignoring the problem. In this sense, boredom is similar to depression in that it creeps and perverts areas that one would not assume is within its domain. This sense of powerlessness quickly becomes a no-win situation, where diversion into daydreams and secondary concerns only increases the feelings of desperation. It avoids the true source of the discomfort.

The only true solution for any cause of boredom is to attack the cause of it. One must present himself with challenges worthy of his attention. He must also remove himself from any situation that prevents him from doing so. Boredom is a warning. It cannot be ignored. A man that tries to endure boredom slowly cuts himself off from the vital process of survival. He will wither down to whatever level of decrepitude the situation allows him to be. If every environment was intrinsically satisfying, man would only need the bare necessities from cradle to grave. Boredom exists as the bitter taste left from the absence of growth.


2 responses to “Depths of stagnation

  1. Boredom…the root of all “evil”, for the truly simple and not so simple mind.

    To truly think…well, it takes effort, one can only be allotted such a strenuous task at sporadic intervals. In a “human” that is.

    Perhaps boredom can also be hypothesized to be a momentary(or in some cases a stretch) lapse of certain areas in the brain due to “improperly processed” thoughts. Unidentifiable information that cannot be “known” from the input. It stays in “boredom purgatory” until the brain can find its “purpose” or “non-purpose” and process the output. Some people create files(multitudes). Others purge great deals of information that may hold some purpose. This process being individualized , as the brain is, the mind. It is only within the frameworks of this individualized mind(brain) that one can get a sense of their own power. For thoughts are simply information…holding no necessary power. It is us who can extract meaning…or lack. The individual who knows more of themselves…senses the great task that this is…the processing of perhaps vital or very important information. Or extract (output) the nonsense that can cause mental queues(lessened brain activity).

    Boredom, its presence or lack is what may be peculiarly more interesting then defining it. When then, the individual comes into play…this is where it truly becomes interesting. One can never truly know the power contained within the mind…it is an endless puzzle, boredom may be the possible round the corner solution that just reveals the next puzzle. Perhaps boredom then, holds a special place in human existence and it is what is done with it…not the accumulation or lack, where the interest may lie.

    As you say…perhaps it arises as a warning to information that may have a purpose. Or lack of information… accumulated and waiting in the brain to be processed.

    Interesting topic…

    seems many channels within the brain are readily “inactivated” by improper use…

    • What I found most interesting about the sensation of boredom is that it manifests itself in many different. I suspect that it is really several different emotional states that we only classify as one because they produce a similar sense of listlessness in the brain.

      The most basic form of it seems to be over exposure of something through repetition. Eating the same food for every meal, no matter how well it is prepared or if all of the necessary nutrients are provided by it, simply gets “boring”.

      The mind craves things that are new and different. It might be the simplest form of the urge for exploration. It forces the searching for purpose or re-evaluation of things that have become to present, as you mentioned.

      This is might be at the heart of why utopia can never truly exist. Boredom would creep in and force a new way, even if the optimal has already been attained. Perhaps this is why decadency always leads to self-destruction in people and society. Once the “top” becomes unbearable, there is only way forward is “down”.

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