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Meghan Dunn

I have been entertaining just what the misery is that is boredom for about a year now, in solitary meditation as well as in conversation with others. I began to wonder if it could hold a candle to fear, which I have become viscerally familiar with in such seemingly devastating forms as paranoia, hysteria, and terror. It seems obvious that these dramatically painful emotions inherent to the most unfortunate experiences had on this war-worn planet undoubtedly suck the hardest....Certainly when compared to the mild-mannered discomfort had while sitting alone in a room and pretending or trying to work, sitting in class and trying to pay attention to something, or looking in the refrigerator again blankly. Also fear situations come with the added baggage of haunting memories--each additionally rife with its own unique and additional emotional baggage such as shame, rage and any or all nervous breakdown essentials.

When brought up with others this question of which is worse, boredom or fear, most of the time the vote was unanimous for fear as the stinker. Just recently, however, I truly reached an answer with someone of which we both felt certain. Boredom is worse, because even though it is perhaps the milder misery, boredom is INVARIABLY bad! It always sucks and is uncomfortable! Fear can come in the form of anticipation, which, despite posing varying degrees of challenge for the nervous system, is undeniably excitement, and excitement is a kind of joy.

I do think that both boredom and fear, even in their most damned incarnations, can be pathways to the experience of something novel and good, thanks to Dr. Smolowe's graceful description of boredom as an element of transition into slowing down and becoming more present.

The subject of boredom certainly warrants more attention as a social ill, and indeed more illuminations of its own various forms and degrees of severity. Hallelujah there is certainly time enough to tend to it! I never thought the man sitting at the Dock of the Bay was wasting his time anyway!!

Lu Grey

Hi John, I liked what you've written about boredom, and have a few comments. My 13 yr old grandson, Justin, has become very proficient at diagnosing a situation and labeling it "boring!" This includes school, classes, tv that parents and grandparents watch, car rides, visits to grandma's (altho he is quite clear he doesn't find me boring!!) From the backseat of cars, from the red sofa in the living room he makes his pronouncements. Last fall I said that because I was a counselor and therapist I knew a lot about boredom and wondered if he was interested in how I dealth with it? He agreed to listen at least. So I told him that when sitting thru classes, lectures, meetings that I found boring, I noticed that something always jumped out at me that was interesting--so I suggested that when he was in school in a class that was boring, he might just notice when something interested him. He occasionally says that something was interesting, usually in his science class, he often tells us at dinner what interested him. However as the summer rolls on and his boredom index isn't related to school, he has taken on other interesting objects of his attention--my red sofa is boring , as he lays arouind staring at it rather than the tv we are watching (Harry Potter, whom he says is boring).

So, I don't know if we will have much of an impression on him, however he is more interested in what is not boring! Thanks for the blog. lu

Peggy Mallison

On meditation: enter the space with a Buddhist monk. It is not about you, but about being there with that person, who may be a monk, or trained by one. I have never been with a monk who is not full of good humor, comfortable in the room, accomplished at inviting everyone to join in the descent into meditation. There will certainly be sorrow, discomfort, effusive surges of disorientation, joy, and risk of being disappointed in yourself; still, when do you get a chance in life to go into something new, awkward and releasing at the same time, without that unnerving how to, didactic and formulaic of accomplishment of something. Here you are on your own with everyone else.

Boredom is just a word to assuage the discomfort, our word to eclipse intense emotions that are sure to reveal themselves in the time span of sitting. Recently I have found myself reacting to the plight of Katrina and Darfur victims in a surprising way, imagining the endless waiting in discomfort for food and help to arrive as excruciatingly boring. What would I do, I wonder, in those endless minutes and hours with nothing to do but wait for survival. How limited our language to have this word when the reality is most certainly that of being orphaned and pitched out without a line to bring you back in.

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