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Boredom is Good For You

Uploaded 1/29/2021, approx. 20 minute read

I'm bored. You're bored. We're all bored. It's the postmodern condition.

People complain of being bored all the time. People do not want to be bored. People think that being bored is a bad thing.

Today I'm going to discuss how boredom is actually the meaning of life. And if you want to make your life, to render your life meaningful, you should seek boredom. You should aspire to boredom. And you should make boredom your main task and going in life.

This calls for a little mental acrobatics, a little intellectual pyrotechnics, and a lot of rethinking boredom and reframing it.

Now those of you who are adept in philosophy will recognize echoes of Nietzsche, of Heidegger, of others. I'm not going to mention names in this video. I'm just going to recommend to you two books.

One is titled Boredom Studies Reader, Frameworks and Perspectives. It was edited by Michael Gardiner and Julian Jason Halladine or Halladin, published in 2017 by Rutter.

The other book I recommend is Experience WithoutQualities: Boredom and Modernity by Elizabeth Goodstein. There are other very good books about boredom. And you can find a list of relevant authors in the first book, The Boredom Studies Reader, which comes highly recommended.

Boredom is the meaning of an authentic life. It's the meaning of an authentic life. We are bored when we are hyperstimulated. When we are overstimulated, we become bored.

Consider the following.

You watch an amazing blockbuster action film. You are excited. You're thrilled. You undergo a unique experience. You forget about your boredom. Actually, technically, psychologically, you dissociate.

Now then you watch another action film and another action film and another 20 action films. By the 21st film, you will find your mind wandering away. You will find yourself being bored.

So boredom is another name for overstimulation.

But what is overstimulation? It's when you're exposed to life. Life provides you with stimuli, provides you with input. Life throws information at you. And the more information it throws at you, the more you shut it off.

Studies have concluded that we ignore, repress, deny, shut off, fend off, firewall. 95% of all the information we are exposed to, we pay attention to only 5%. And even these 5% are processed via mathematical models in the brain.

So even they don't represent reality. We are terrified of the information glut. Our brain is inundated. It's drowning. It's swamped.

And one of the main protections it has is boredom.

Boredom is a direct exposure to life. It's when you are exposed to life without any mediation, without any firewall.

And consequently, you're flooded with signals, with symbols, with information, with data. And of course, the more you're exposed to life in this way, the more dysfunctional your filters are, the more you are swamped and drown in a tsunami of bits and pieces.

Things that require your attention. One way or another, the more desensitized you become.

It's a little like addiction. When you start drinking alcohol, one glass is enough. And then one glass does nothing for you. So you progress to two glasses. And then two glasses don't do it. So you end up drinking all bottles in order to secure the same reaction that you used to have with a single glass.

It's the same with overstimulation, with exposure to life. If you allow yourself to be exposed to life as it is directly, you become desensitized. You need more and more of life just to feel alive, just to feel excited, just to feel reactive, just to feel in existence, just to experience your being. Life desensitizes you.

And your relationship with life is an addiction. Ultimately, you tune life out, attunement. You develop a mechanism to keep life away because it's too much and you require bigger and bigger dollops.

And finally, you're overwhelmed. System is a defense against being overwhelmed. But it's a defense that indicates that you are in touch with life. If you're bored, it means you are being exposed to life without censorship, without filtration, without defenses. It means you are in direct contact with life. It means there's no skin between you and life. There's no partition. There's no firewall. Nothing separates you from life.

And this, of course, creates overstimulation.

So boredom is a wonderful indicator that you are actually finally in touch with reality, in touch with the world, in touch with life itself.

Boredom is an indicator of an authentic life, a life that is not falsified, not shadowbanned, not censored, not filtered, not trimmed, not reframed, not lied about, not falsified, not fake, real life, raw life, strong life.

So when you get in touch with life this way, without anything separating you from it, you become bored because boredom is the only defense.

But boredom, therefore, is a great indicator of mental health, actually. It means you're still capable of experiencing life in your own existence and being firsthand.

Yes, you're swamped. Yes, you're overwhelmed. Yes, you're inundated. Yes, you're drowning. Yes, you're terrified. You have angst. Yes, you're anxious, maybe even depressed.

But these are good things. These are not bad things because they lead you to boredom.

And boredom tells you you're still alive in an authentic, in a correct way. You're still in direct contact with life.

But this raises the question, why should direct contact in life not result in joy? Why direct contact in life doesn't bring you happiness? Why is boredom the mood that invariably results when you interact with life directly, not via intermediaries, not via gatekeepers, not even via your unconscious and other defenses, not via your psychology?

Why, whenever you get in touch with life itself, whenever you become one with life in a way, whenever the interface between you and life, you and reality, you and the world, this interface is so thin, it cannot no longer be discerned. It's like you have lost your skin, dysregulated. You become dysregulated by life itself.


Why then don't you react with enormous joy, with unbridled happiness? Why do you react with boredom?

Because life is nothing. Life is empty. Life is an emptiness, not in the bad sense, not in the pathological, psychopathological sense, but emptiness in the sense that it's a huge nothingness. And it's not even huge because it has no dimensions. It's just not being, not there.

So the minute you get in touch with this nothingness, you react with nothingness. When you experience nothingness, we call it boredom. The minute you get in touch with the universe, with the world, with reality, with creation, if you're a person of faith, whenever you truly get integrated, whenever nothing separates you from your inner world and the outer world, that minute you have touched upon nothingness and you have a nothingness reaction, which we call boredom.

But, therefore, boredom is a form of being. It's the extreme, the most radical, the most pure, the most unadulterated form of self-awareness, introspection and observation. It is becoming aware of the self itself as nothing. Becoming aware of how your nothingness resonates with the nothingness out there. Becoming aware that nothingness is the principle of what we call life. That moment you become bored. Don't confuse boredom with envy. Don't confuse boredom with worthlessness. Don't confuse boredom with anything else.

Such confusion has been rampant throughout the annals of philosophy and psychology. These are mistakes.

It has been noted that boredom is often confused with anhedonia, inability to find pleasure with anything, with depression.

Boredom is not depression. It's not anhedonia.

How do I know? Because depression leads you to inaction. When you're depressed, you cannot act. You do not wish to act. You wish just to sleep. You wish just to remain inert. You don't want to move. You don't want to talk to anyone. You don't want to do anything.

Boredom is exactly the opposite. Boredom motivates you to act. Boredom pushes you to act. Boredom is the principle of life and it manifests through life.

The problem of Western civilization is that it had developed an extreme intolerance of nothingness. We reject all manifestations and proofs and evidence of nothingness. We reject death because deep inside we know that afterlife is nonsense for infantile people. We know that death is nothingness. We know that boredom is when we touch upon nothingness. It's a reaction to nothingness.

In this sense, it's the meaning of life. Because what is the meaning of life? It's to touch upon nothingness, to reach the core, to reach the cornerstone, to reach the foundation, to touch authenticity, to touch the real, to touch the uncontaminated, the unblemished, the unadulterated, the pure.

And that is nothingness. So when you touch upon it, you become bored. You have a boredom reaction and that's the meaning of life. The meaning of life is to become bored by touching upon nothingness.

And Western civilization cannot tolerate or contemplate this because it has an enormous intolerance for nothingness.

Now, it's the only civilization in human history.

If we consider the Roman Empire to be part of Western civilization, it's the only civilization in human history which had developed an intolerance for nothingness. All other civilizations had adopted nothingness as a founding principle of their ethics, philosophy, the good life, the principles of the good life, et cetera, et cetera.

Nothingness is the founding principle of most other philosophical systems.

Only in Western civilization, we are so childish, so infantile, so immature, so narcissistic that we reject life itself.

And what is at the core of life, this diamond, the diamond of life, the harsh yet brilliant cutting yet sparkling core of life, nothingness.

And the mood that it evokes via attunement, we get attuned to nothingness and we react, we boredom and Western civilization cannot countenancy, cannot countenancy.

So Western civilization had developed four defenses against boredom, the unconscious, things that are too painful, too real, too overpowering, too much to contemplate.

We repress, we deny, we bury, and we call this the unconscious.

So the unconscious is a defense against touching, reaching out with a finger and touching the core of life, like in the Sistine Chapel.

The unconscious protects us from realizing what's really happening, who we really are, and how our essence, our quiddity, which is nothing, nothingness can resonate and interact with the nothingness out there.

And so we fend off, we defend against and no wonder Freud called it defense mechanisms.

These are defenses, but you defend against something. What are you defending against?

Reality, the truth, the core, the pure, the real, that's what you're defending against.

Another way of coping with boredom, fantasy, including religion, of course, all forms of fantasy are defenses against the nothingness and the meaninglessness of life and the world.

The meaninglessness and nothingness, which we reify, which we are, because we are part of the world.

This Cartesian division, we and the world, we and nature, we as observers and the observed universe, this is idiotic. It's counterfactual. It's also seriously stupid.

We are an integral part of everything and everything is an integral part of us, not in the classical, Eastern, mystical sense.

In the physical sense, that's physics, what I just said.

So we develop fantasies, including religion, to somehow convince ourselves that there's no nothingness. Of course, it's a self-defeating statement because it's a negative statement. It's a statement about the nothingness of nothingness.

And then we come up with God and other sets of symbols, like the nation state, whatever, your football club, and these are fantasies.

And the third way we cope with important is mastery. We try to master the world. We try to control the world. And we do this via action. We act in the world and we act upon the world. And as long as we are busy, keeping us busy, acting, we forget that we are bored, we suppress it, we repress it. It's still there. It's still there because it's the only way to get in touch with what is icht, what is real.

But action is a good way to camouflage boredom and nothingness, to disguise. It's a society of the spectacle. It's make-believe.

And so we act. We are addicted to acting. We can't sit one minute. We can't contemplate anything for longer than 15 seconds. We have to act. We have to drink something. We have to surf somewhere. We have to watch something. We have to act.

Because the alternative to acting is dread. Dread, angst, kekegos, kekegos, dread. And Sartre's dread. We can't tolerate this dread. The dread of existence and being is nothingness.

And so we pretend that we actually can imbue nothingness with somethingness. That's called creativity. And we pretend that we can control nothingness, harness it, like put the genie back in the bottle. Look away.

So this is action. It's a third solution against boredom.

Solution number one, the unconscious.

Solution number two, fantasy, including religion.

Solution number three, mastery, action.

Solution number four, which is becoming more and more predominant, is diversion or entertainment.

We distract ourselves. We divert our attention. We entertain ourselves.

And here is the core problem. Here is why all these four strategies are self-defeating and will never, ever work, which is the root of the existential crisis that we had found ourselves in.

Here's why these solutions are never going to work.

And here's another bit of flashing news. There are no other solutions.

Now these solutions are not going to work because remember, boredom is a reaction to overstimulation.

When life gets in touch with you, demolishes your defenses and floods you with information about nothingness in effect. When you're exposed to this plethora in panoply and tsunami and avalanche and tidal wave of life itself, you react with boredom.

Boredom is the mood which allows attunement. Boredom is the way to access unhindered in a direct and mediated way the core of life, the identity of life, what life is, its essence, its quiddity, the primal primordial substance of nothingness that it is made of.

So the process is overstimulation with signals, with symbols, with stimuli.

Boredom, that's a sequence.

But what is entertainment and diversion? Overstimulation. What is action? Overstimulation. What is fantasy? Overstimulation. What is religion? Overstimulation. What is the unconscious?

According to Freud at least.

Overstimulation. He said that the unconscious is a repository, a reservoir of pent up energy which is released in therapy in a process called abreaction. It's overstimulation but buried. Buried overstimulation. They're all overstimulation.

The four solutions we had found to cope with boredom, to mitigate boredom, to ameliorate boredom, they lead to even more, to an increased level of hyper overstimulation and therefore to even more boredom.

But there's a difference between someone who says I'm going to get in touch with life. I'm going to extend my finger and I'm going to touch life and consequently because it's nothingness I'm going to be bored and I'm going to accept my boredom. I'm going to accept my boredom and welcome my boredom because it is my boredom that will lead me to life, connect me to life and ultimately make me alive.

That's the healthy version and that's the authentic life and the bad faith life. The life that is inauthentic, fake, fraudulent life. That's a life that says I'm going to reject boredom. I'm not going to accept it. I'm going to reject it and I'm going to fight it and I'm going to use these four strategies to fight it.

The unconscious, fantasy, mastery, action, diversion. I'm going to use this to fight off boredom and of course it's not going to work because it just increases boredom. You're exposed to even more stimulation and you become bored even more.

So not only are dysfunctional strategies, they drive you away, away from life. They are what Baudrillard called simulacrum. They drive you away from life into a simulated reality where you don't need to be bored.

Why you are not bored in that simulated reality? Because it's not real, of course. It's not life. But life intrudes and the minute it does, your boredom skyrockets.

These solutions are temporary. These solutions are ephemeral. These solutions are dysfunctional. These solutions enhance boredom. They don't reduce it and they enhance the wrong kind of boredom. The wrong kind of boredom. The kind of boredom that pushes you to employ these four strategies to deploy them even more.

In other words, addictive boredom.

The boredom I'm talking about is existential boredom, profound boredom. That's the boredom you should pursue.

The minute you become profoundly existentially bored, you will suddenly see the light. You will suddenly know exactly who you are, are, in the sense of being, like Heidegger's Dasein, who you are. And by knowing who you are because you're an integral part of life, you will know what life is. And that is the fount. That is the source of enlightenment.

Again, not in the mystical sense. It's just this prevailing, prevalent certainty, prevalent sense of calm restored. You will suddenly not feel the need to act, not feel the need to pursue, not feel the need to fantasize and to deny and not feel the need to do all these things. You will just be at peace with yourself and with the world because you will have realized via your profound boredom, you will have realized that there's nothing there and there's nothing here and you're okay with it. It's no problem. There's no problem because there's nothing, including problem. There's nothing and it's fine. It's fine. It's not threatening. Nothingness is not threatening as any cursory glance at philosophy will tell you.

On the very contrary, nothingness motivates. Nothingness enriches life. Nothingness causes you to imbue everything with the meaning and the meaning is the meaning of nothingness, but it's still meaning and it's absolute.

Perhaps that's what religious people call God. I'm not sure. Although, of course, I don't think they'll be happy to describe God as nothingness. Although there are indications in the Bible that the perception of God was as a kind of nothingness. Moses and the burning bush, when God refused to materialize, he just said, the voice is me. I'm nothing. I'm nothingness.

The problem is that we have these four defenses against profound existential boredom and we convert the boredom into addictive boredom because we need more and more of these defenses and we confuse these defenses with meaning. We don't understand that to fantasize cannot be meaningful by definition. Nothing can be meaningful if it's divorced from reality. Reality is everything. Meaning cannot exist outside reality or contrary to reality.

So fantasy can never be meaningful. Action can never be meaningful. Diversions and entertainments can never be meaningful.

To confuse these defenses with meaning just leads to an infinite regression to nesting because who says that the book I had just written is meaningful? Other people say so.

But how do they know? Where do they derive their sense of meaning from? How can they judge if something is meaningful?

Then I have to accept their definition of meaning and they derive their sense of meaning from other people and there's no end to this. It's infinite regression.

Action can never lead to meaning. I repeat this. Action can never lead to meaning. Resistance is futile.

Confusing these defenses, strategies of coping with boredom, confusing them with meaning is a meaningless exercise. The only meaningful authentic life is boredom.

Boredom if it is really profound, if it's existential, if you are not afraid of it, if you let it happen and consume you and you go down deeper and deeper into what others tell you is haters, but actually it's paradise and you let yourself go and you say I'm not terrified, I'm not afraid, nothing's going to happen to me except good things.

You go through this gate, you pass this gate and there's authentic life, meaning, meaningful life at the other end because you will have established direct contact with nothingness as a form of being, as a form of self-awareness and we in Western civilization, we use these four defenses and when these defenses fail, we are bored. It's addictive boredom. It's a kind of boredom that requires you to do even more.

You want to be entertained, you want to be distracted, you have to do more and more. You want to fantasize, you have to fantasize more and more. It's diminishing returns.

And so when these defenses fail, we are bored. We are bored but you should wish for these defenses to fail and you should wish for them to fail dismally, irrevocably, powerfully because when they fail, when all of them fail, when you're no longer fantasizing, you're no longer religious, you're no longer a man of action or a woman of action, you're no longer denying what it is that you see. When you surrender, when you surrender to nothingness as a principle of reality, at that point you have reached healing, you have reached a healthy, meaningful, authentic state and ironically at that point you are suddenly capable of action.

You are even at that point capable of fantasy, you are capable of enlightenment, you're capable of anything. It is then that you become capable of anything but in a healthy way, from a position of strength, from a position of resilience, from a position of assuredness, of calm, of peace.

It's not stayed, it's not stale, it's not inert, it's not dead. It's the maximum alive. It's the exact opposite of death. It's to be maximally alive, to be maximally alive from nothingness.

When you emerge from nothingness, when you break out of nothingness, break the shackles of fantasy and action, and when you break out of nothingness, you are beholden to no one. You owe nothing to nothing. You are not imprisoned by expectations, demands, mores, accomplishments, the past, the future, narratives, defenses, mental illnesses, personality disorders, a form of narrative.

I mean you are free, you are truly, utterly liberated.

What is the source, the only source of strength?

Liberation, freedom, strength is the way people experience freedom.

Resilience is their ability to continue to experience freedom unimpeded by society, by others, by institutions and so on and so forth.

Not the malicious kind of freedom, not the freedom to destroy, not even the freedom to create. These are fantasies.

The freedom to be, the freedom to exist.

And if your existence implies action, you act. And if it doesn't, you don't.

And if your existence requires fantasy, you fantasize. And if it doesn't, you don't.

You have the choice. You have the option, option, choice.

These are synonyms of freedom. You have the freedom.

And this is the sense, this is what it means to be enlightened.

Enlightenment is not about knowledge, that's a Western concept.

Enlightenment is about the assuredness of being.

Existence is guaranteed.

Knowing that you know without knowing. Acting because you can, not because you have to.

So when the defenses fail and we become profoundly and existentially bored, that's actually a healthy state.

A healthy state.

We should seek boredom. We should aspire to boredom because it is the only way, the only path, the only dough to the enlightenment of nothingness.

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