Notes on Boredom

Let’s examine a concept that even in today’s world of sensory overload still has validity, and that is ennui and its insipid brethren, boredom.

It is amusing to study the etymology of the word bore (boredom).

It seems it has only been used in English language since1852 (thanks to Charles Dickens). It would take a good little Marxist to coin such a term. Charles D and Karl M were pals, in case you didn’t know.

A malady once thought peculiar to the French, ennui, is a commonly associated and related concept, and dates to around 1766.

Can this mean life up until 1852 was so engaging for citizens of Western civilization that the need for a description of this weariness or loathsomeness was not required prior to this — or that this concept did indeed exist, but had not yet been given a name or a voice?

Many modern interpretations consist of the basic idea that boredom is “…state of weariness with, and disinterest in, life…”

One well-known source equates the Latin phrase taedium vitae (tired of living) with the idea, which is to say, “a tedious and wearisome existence that one loathes.”

I think a lot of people feel that way in America these days…

It would not be far off the mark to even employ the word disgust in describing the individual’s assessment of their life when they are utterly and completely bored.

To quote 1911 author Clara Louise Thompson, writing about the ancient Romans:

“The restlessness, social disorder and immorality, the extravagance and striving for new sensations recorded by the satirists and by the historians of the first century after Christ, seem to indicate a widespread temperamental disturbance of which perhaps taedium vitae is one of the natural forms of expression. The prevalence of suicide during this period is significant. It pervaded all classes. . .”

Ennui and boredom are not merely different sides of the same coin. Most definitions would tell you that ennui is a “A listlessness or melancholia caused by boredom, leading to debilitation of varying degrees.”

The word ennui, so often given the preeminent association with boredom, comes from the French enuier which stands for annoy, or annoyance.

It seems to me that something is amiss here. It strikes me that annoyance is not a passive term, but rather an active one — if you have lost all will and are so enthralled in melancholia that you are debilitated to the point of inaction in life, you would not have the slightest inclination to care and, thus, be way past the state of ennui or annoyance with your life.

If you are annoyed, you still have a chance. Assuming you vote, of course.

Thus it strikes me that ennui is — rather than a bad thing, a good thing — for within its discordant tones one sense the possibility of real change and renewal. Change and renewal that is motivated by a real annoyance with meddlesome governments that tell you they only want to help the “poor,” but in reality only want to help themselves.

Boredom is due to ignorance and ignorance leads to despair. Despair leads to desperation and loss of freedom — the individual cedes all control over their lives to external forces in the hope they can change the boredom.

So, I hope you are merely annoyed with life right now – your sense of ennui can empower you to change your life – but if you are bored to the point of taedium vitae; well, crap, there ain’t much I can do for you.

Maybe if you bought my book (www.exophobe.com) it might cheer you up. Just a thought.

Thanks !!!

E