I thought today I might write a little about boredom. Schopenhauer talks about staying alive as the first task of human existence, the second being avoiding boredom. He then says amusingly: “so that the first task is to win something, and the second, after the something has been won, to forget about it, otherwise it becomes a burden.” Boredom, he says, is the feeling of the emptiness of life.
My own boredom is a desire not to think, but to remain continuously engaged, on a conveyor-belt of stimuli. Have you ever watched an entire porno? It's just a guy having sex with rows of women. You think that after a while of getting continual pleasure, he'd start feeling bored. When a masseuse throws herself at him, he'd make a hasty excuse, then go back to his Sudoku. Or blog, in fact.
No-one wants to watch an entire porno because it's repetitive (the soul of boredom). But there's a contradiction here: pleasure is the goal of existence, and yet repetitive pleasure is itself boring. So perhaps meaning is the goal of life instead. Yet I think if that were so we'd immerse ourselves in statistics, and I think that equally if life was about pleasure we'd live in high-rise brothels.
As I write this I'm starting to believe it was a bad idea comparing myself to the pornstar (on several levels). It's not about pleasure – we feel very little pleasure during each day, and even less meaning (otherwise meaning would start to become less meaningful, QED) but we are constantly switched on. What we want beneath it all is to be completely engaged, mentally, for minimum effort.
Think about what television really is. For a second you are the passive avatar of a structured narrative, you're Rambo's muscles or James Bond's dick, thoughtlessly waiting for the next sensation payload. Listen then so human consciousness is entirely concerned with wasting human consciousness. For Christ's sake, there are Nintendo DS cooking simulators.
It's simple really: there's no end to consciousness. When you tire you sit, and you feel that you sit. You never feel that you are unconscious. As far as your poor brain is concerned, life is a continuous stream of light and sound, every day a little darker, a little more confusing. Concentration is the essence of boredom: without it we can simply drift, which is after all what we want to do.
Because you see to encapsulate the two tasks in a metaphor, we're like bank robbers who've stolen immeasurable riches and are now stuck with them. And, like those robbers (because make no mistake we've cheated the food chain) we'd eschew pleasure and meaning if someone could only unburden us of really having everything we want already, and the boredom and sadness that brings.