Mzangila

The writer’s curse

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Man was born to live either in the convulsions of misery, or in the lethargy of boredom. And if life, the craving for which is the very essence of our being, were possessed of any positive intrinsic value, there would be no such thing as boredom at all: mere existence would satisfy us in itself, and we should want nothing more.

The life of the creative man is lead, directed and controlled by boredom. Avoiding boredom is one of our most important purposes. Life swings like a pendulum backward and forward between pain and boredom. Boredom is the conviction that you can’t change, the shriek of unused capacities. Boredom is your window on the properties of time that one tends to ignore to the likely peril of one’s mental equilibrium. It is your window on time’s infinity. Once this window opens, don’t try to shut it; on the contrary, throw it wide open.

I think that the word bored does not get the attention it deserves. We speak of all sorts of terrible things that happen to people, but we rarely speak about one of the most terrible things of all: being bored, being bored alone and, worse than that, being bored together.

I took a few days off work and by 11 o’clock on the next morning I had drunk fourteen cups of coffee, used up all the water in my crib, read all the available newspapers in the house and then… and then what? By lunchtime I was so bored that I decided to rearrange the books on the shelves and under the tables. So, I did all that and later had to clean up the mess I had made afterwards from all the torn papers resulting from the exercise. Then I tried to fix many other things in the house that I saw or thought were broken or needed fixing but did they really?

All this was in an attempt to refuse to be bored chiefly because I do not believe myself to be boring or want to accept that I’m bored. To be boring or bored in your own company is self-insult. We humans make life so interesting that in a universe so full of wonders, we have managed to invent boredom. I would rather die of passion than of boredom.

Boredom was my bedmate and it was hogging the sheets. The days hardened with cold and dullness like last year’s loaves of bread. I began to cut them with blunt knives without appetite and with a lazy indifference. I had been bored of being at work. Bored like most people. Hence, I made myself out of that cloth a life full of complications and drama. All in the name of something must happen, and that explains most human commitments. Something must happen; loveless relationships, meaningless tasks, senseless quarrels, even war or death. It doesn’t matter what it is as long as something happens.

I abhor the idea of a perfect world. It would probably bore me to death, literally. Maybe it was the same reasoning Adam and Eve used in deciding that perpetual happiness in the Garden of Eden got so boring that eating the apple was justified.

‘I’m bored’ is a useless thing to say. I mean, we live in a great, big, vast world that you’ve seen zero percent of. Even the inside of your own mind is endless; it goes on and on forever, inwardly, do you understand? The fact that you’re alive is amazing, so nobody should ever get to say they are bored. Is life not a thousand times too short for us to bore ourselves?

I have also come to believe that introversion is my greatest strength. I have such a strong inner life that I’m hardly ever bored and only occasionally lonely. No matter what mayhem is happening around me, I know I can always turn inward. The truth is that everyone suffers the risk of being bored, and therefore devotes himself to cultivating habits as I so diligently do.

I’d really want to write about life every day and how interesting or boring or crazy days can be. I don’t think I’m quite as odd as others say or think I am. Life is intrinsically exciting, boring and dangerous at the same time. At any given moment, absurd thoughts I have sometimes, the floor may open up and swallow us all alive- I always think of God as a comedian with all sorts of tricks up His sleeve if He ever wears shirts. Of course, it almost never does; that’s what makes it so boring. Never underestimate the imagination of a kid who is time-rich and cash-poor. Or the castles he’s made in the air.

When I have neither pleasure nor pain and have been breathing for a while the lukewarm insipid air of these so called good and tolerable days, I feel so bad in my childish soul that I smash my moldering lyre of thanksgiving in the face of the slumbering god of contentment and would rather feel the very devil burn in me than this warmth of a well-heated room. A wild longing for strong emotions and sensations seethes in me, a rage against this toneless, flat, normal and sterile life. I have a mad impulse to smash someone or something, a house, perhaps, or a cathedral, or myself; to commit outrages or to pull off the wigs of a few revered idols.

To me, at least in retrospect, the really interesting question is why boredom proves to be such a powerful impediment to attention. Why we recoil from the boredom. Maybe it’s because boredom is intrinsically painful and generally makes you dull. Maybe that’s where phrases like ‘deadly dull’ or ‘excruciatingly dull’ come from. But there might be more to it. Maybe boredom or dullness is associated with psychic pain because something that’s dull or opaque fails to provide enough stimulation to distract people from some other, deeper type of pain that is always there, if only in an ambient, low-level way; and which most of us spend nearly all our time and energy trying to distract ourselves from feeling, or at least from feeling directly or with our full attention.

When hit by boredom, let yourself be crushed by it; submerge, hit rock bottom. In general, with things unpleasant, the rule is: the sooner you hit bottom, the faster you resurface. The idea here is to exact a full look at the worst. The reason boredom deserves such scrutiny is that it represents pure, undiluted time in all its repetitive, redundant, monotonous splendor.

Bliss, a second by second joy and gratitude at the gift of being alive and conscious, lies on the other side of crushing boredom. Pay close attention to the most tedious thing you can find like filling your tax returns (nobody ever feels like doing it until the last minute) or watching televised Golf (that sh*t is boring) and in waves, a boredom like you’ve never known will wash over you and just about kill you. Ride these out, and it will feel like stepping from black and white into color.; like water after days in the desert, instant bliss in every atom.

Sometimes, I sit pensively, and roll my languid eyes as I philosophize, or occasionally complain of boredom, or drink alcohol or just indulge in the stimulants I do. It’s so clear, you see, that if we’re to begin living in the present, we must first of all redeem our past and then be done with it forever. And the only way we can redeem our past is by suffering and by giving ourselves over to exceptional labor, to steadfast and endless labor.

Our labor preserves us from three great evils; weariness, vices, and wants. We all want to break our orbits, float like a satellite gone wild in space, run the risk of disintegration (snaps fingers). We all want to take our lives in our own hands and hurl them out among the stars.

Boredom comes from a boring mind. When people are bored, it is primarily with their own selves that they are bored. Boredom is a pleasing antidote for fear. It is therefore a vital problem for the moralist, since at least half the sins of mankind are caused by the fear of it. It is in such moments that I start thinking that I shouldn’t believe in an afterlife or just subscribe to atheism, so that I don’t have to spend my whole life fearing hell, or fearing heaven even more. For whatever the tortures of hell, I think the boredom of heaven would be even worse.

But that would be against all of my mother’s teachings: that every day is important for us because it is a day ordained by God. If we are bored with life there is something wrong with our concept of God and His involvement in our daily lives. Even the most dull and tedious days of our lives are ordained by God and ought to be used by us to glorify Him. Yea, that’s how religious my mother is.

I find such thoughts humorous and humor can make a serious difference. In the workplace, at home, in all areas of life, looking for a reason to laugh is necessary. A sense of humor helps us to get through the dull times, cope with the difficult times, enjoy the good times and manage the scary times. So, in moments when I think I’m bored, I activate the turbo for crazy thoughts.

At some point in life, the hatred I had was so intense that it extinguished the very love from which it was conceived. And thus, I ceased to feel. There was nothing further in which to believe that made the prospect of feeling worthwhile. Daily I woke up and cast downtrodden eyes upon the people and things around me and I would say to myself with a hint of regret at my lack of indifference, “All a dim illusion, isn’t it?”

Surely it was foolish of me to think any of this had meaning. I would then spend hours staring at the sky, wondering how best to pass the time and if everything, even the sky itself, were for naught. I arrived at the conclusion that there was no best way to pass the time. The only way to deal with the illusion of time was to endure it, knowing fully well, all the while, that one was truly enduring nothing at all. Unfortunately for me, this nihilistic resolution to dispassion didn’t suit me very well and I soon became extremely bored. Faced now with the choice between further boredom and further suffering, I impatiently chose the latter, sailing another few weeks along the coastline of boredom, and then inland, before finally dropping anchor off the shores of purpose, work and further suffering.

Extreme boredom provides its own antidote. I think boredom is the beginning of every authentic act. Boredom opens up the space for new engagements. Without boredom there would be no creativity. If you are not bored, you just stupidly enjoy the situation in which you are.

Boredom forces you to ring people you haven’t seen in years and halfway through the conversation you remember why you left it that way for so long. Boredom means you start to read not only the horoscope but also the death and funeral announcements at the back pages of newspapers to see if there might be anyone you know in that section. If you’ve never been there yet, thank the gods. Boredom gives you half a mind to text or call a girl that friend-zoned you years ago to check if the situation has changed, go berserk on her, and you know where this is going and how it always ends. Eventually, boredom means you will take up golf.

As an artist, I believe one should paint from the heart, and not always what people expect. Predictability often leads to the dullest work, in my opinion, and we have been bored stiff long enough. And in that light, I sometimes disrupt the schedule of my posts just for the fun of it. At the end of the day, a writer’s ability to connect with his readers comes down to how he or she makes them feel. I hope I make you feel good. I hope I make you laugh. I hope I inspire you. I hope I entertain you and above everything else I hope I do not ‘bore you to death’. It is the worst I can do.

Life is for living and working at. If you find anything or anybody a bore, the fault is in yourself. Monotony has nothing to do with a place or a person. Monotony, either in its sensation or its infliction, is simply the quality of a person. There are no dreary sights; there are only dreary sight seers. Nobody is bored when he is trying to make something that is beautiful, or to discover something that is true.

Doing nothing is the hardest torture that a person can put himself through. For he is always brought face to face with his own self, which demands that he gives account for the sun which he uselessly squanders, for the springs of energy in his organism and for the gold of wisdom in the mines of his brains.

It’s the way a man chooses to limit himself that determines his character. A man without habits, consistency, redundancy, and hence boredom, is not human. He’s insane. What keeps all living things busy and in motion is the striving to exist. But when existence is secured, they do not know what to do: that is why the second thing that sets them in motion is a striving to get rid of the burden of existence, not to feel it any longer, ‘to kill time’ and to escape boredom. So, it gets ironical when millions long for immortality and yet don’t know what to do with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon.

Boredom is the inner conflict we suffer when we lose desire, when we feel lacking. Every unpleasant worldly experience in life exposes our sensitive nervous systems to painful phenomena. Despite all the beer commercial advertisement slogans urging us to live with gusto and take life by the horns, life is unavoidably painful and sometimes very boring. Life is a battering ram that inflicts trauma upon human beings. People blunt the traumatic force of enduring a lifetime of pain, fearfulness, and unremitted anguish and boredom with religion, sex, booze, drugs, fantasy, and other indulgent acts and forms of escapism. I hope you find yours as I have mine.

Yours truly

©C.J. NJOROGE

There are 6 reasons that a person does anything: Love, faith, greed, boredom, fear or revenge.

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About Cooper Jose Njoroge

Writer, philosopher, painter and a student of life and politics. Follow on Twitter @cj_njoroge. Instagram @cj_njoroge

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