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Impressionism: The chairman of the bored

Boredom is a call to action
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Iggy Pop expressed it well, back in 70s: “I’m bored. I’m the chairman of the bored. I’m a lengthy monologue. I’m livin’ like a dog. I’m bored.”

I’ll be going along quite well — excited, engaged, sharp, alert, curious. Then it hits — utter, pervasive boredom.  

Sometimes, everything bores me, every little thing. Especially within the confines of the city.

Cities are supposed to be the most exciting of all places, constantly humming with the hippest of hip things going on. So many sounds, so many scenes, so many people, such variety.

A craft brewery opens and heads spin on their axis as though intoxicated by the thought of just how ultra cool we are. It’s kind of boring.

A builder proposes another tall new building and the plan sparks outrage and protest. It happens all the time, and it is kind of boring.

In the city where I live, in the locale where I spent my working days, there are men and women on the verge of a public meltdown walking past the window every day. They are out there on the streets screaming at their best friend or muttering to themselves.

The language is choice, a kind of potty-mouthed stream of consciousness poetry, uncensored. You hear it enough, it gets boring.

Sometimes I am bored with every little thing. I’m bored with walking on the same sidewalks, and wearing the same shoes. I’m bored with quaint limestone facades, and lunatics screaming bloody murder in the square. I’m bored with the music scene, bored with the cars people drive, bored with the birds in the sky, bored with words that are spoken.

And I am especially bored with my very own self. Perhaps that self boredom is the root of my occasional sweeping, universal boredom that loosens its grip after a day or two, although sometimes I fear it will last to the grave.

The word ‘boredom,’ I recently learned from a Smithsonian.com article on the subject, was coined by Charles Dickens, who was noted for writing extremely tedious descriptions, during a time in literature when monotony and tedium were often explored in the lives of characters dissatisfied and on the verge of poking their own eyes out from boredom.

Science first took an interest in the phenomenon of boredom back in the 1930s, studying bored factory workers who coped with their boredom with caffeine, amphetamines and other stimulants.

I drink enough coffee everyday to kill a horse. That is definitely my stimulant of choice, whether I’m bored or not.  

The field of psychology, like every other field, embraces theories and explanations that are rough estimates disguised as concrete facts - theoretical constructs for very complex conditions, conditions that are never fully understood and always changing. (Just writing this idea bored me).

In more recent times, boredom has been linked to mental illness, a sign of depression or anxiety, a kind of absence of enthusiasm or excitement due to a tipping of the body chemistry scale. The playing of the mental illness card is getting a bit boring.

I don’t necessarily subscribe to the mental illness argument when it comes to boredom, unless one is so absolutely bored that they are rendered comatose.

Simply because I am bored does not mean I am depressed. And even when I am depressed, I am not necessarily bored. I can get a lot of interesting things done when I’m depressed. I can also get quite a lot of interesting things done when I’m bored.

There are more creative ways to look at boredom, more holistic and imaginative. Boredom might actually be quite necessary, an igniter of change. It means you want something more, something different. It means you need to push yourself, will, brain, and body.

Boredom may simply be a feeling of pointlessness and lethargy that is trying to tell you to change, turn things upside down and around. There is a choice to be made: Do things differently or wallow in boredom, give up and wither away.

I asked a young 20-something barista the other day if she ever gets bored. She said she gets horribly bored sometimes. And how does she deal with it, I asked. Through learning something new, she said.

Now that sounds like an approach that is anything but boring.



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Rob O'Flanagan

About the Author: Rob O'Flanagan

Rob O’Flanagan has been a newspaper reporter, photojournalist and columnist for over twenty years. He has won numerous Ontario Newspaper Awards and a National Newspaper Award.
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