Text Patterns - by Alan Jacobs

Thursday, August 19, 2010

boredom

“The Case for Boredom” isn't really a case for boredom as such, but for pauses — for moments, especially in the lives of young people, when external stimuli cease long enough for some actual thought to arise, or contemplation to occur, or (mirabile dictu) mere silence to settle in for a time.

In Boredom: the Literary History of a State of Mind, Patricia Meyer Spacks explains that boredom as such is a relatively recent invention, from the eighteenth century at the latest. Before that we had melancholy (which was a kind of affliction of the spirit) and, further back still, acedia (which was a sin). What’s distinctive about boredom is that we don't see it as either a condition of our own selves or a sin, but rather something that just happens to us. When we’re bored, we don't think there’s anything wrong with us: we think the world is at fault. Stupid old world — it doesn't interest me. And interesting me is the world’s job.

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