A manifesto for the easily bored

Boredom is the root of all evil – Soren Kierkegaard

Boredom is the perception of a void of meaning. When you’re faced with something that has no meaning for you, it bores you. There are two ways this can happen. One is if someone is confronted with information he cannot comprehend. The other is if you are someone who craves meaning, and you’re confronted with something that fails to inspire you. If you crave meaning in a world of mediocrity, I feel for you.

Everyday life is a distraction from true purpose… except for the dull, for whom everyday life IS purpose. (Dull people are the Typhoid Marys of boredom. They bore because they cannot be bored.) But even average people have hobbies. Man is not meant to live only in the moment all the time.

This would all be fine if we could just walk away from the pointless. But we can’t. Life imposes tasks on us – tasks which are physically draining but not intellectually stimulating. Tasks which others insist we perform, but for which we can see no greater purpose. If we wish to be paid, we must not trouble ourselves with the bigger picture even if we strongly suspect our employers aren’t bothering with it either.

The tyranny of the merely necessary leeches our energy and diverts us from the meaningful. The here-and-now is the enemy of the long term and the big picture. An artist or intellectual will be tempted to ignore the mundane and live in the solipsism of his own lofty ideas. If you think this is a viable option, your landlord may have a different point of view.

The intelligent person knows that there is more to life than these day-to-day matters, but he doesn’t forget that these matters are part of life, and can’t be wished away. We must deal with reality at more than one level, more than one scale of time and space. The intelligent person acknowledges both levels, but he cannot love both levels.

The lofty soul cannot love the everyday, because it has no charms for him. But we must feed the beast of the urgent, or else it won’t leave us alone. We have physical needs and social responsibilities that we did not choose and can’t escape. But there’s no reason to offer your best to what is less than the best. The slave serves his master grudgingly.

If you give your best effort to the unworthy, that energy is squandered. Do you desire to be excellent? Save your effort for an excellent task. Anything you do not choose – anything that existence in this world forces upon you – give it your second or third best. Give it the minimum necessary time and energy to keep it from getting out of control. Be just good enough toward whatever you need to deal with but can not love. This is the necessary compromise with the here-and-now. Throw the moment a bone. Make enough money to live on. Signal enough status and belonging not to be a social outcast. Commit no sins you can’t get away with. Add a safety margin and leave it at that.

What about your career? Are you pursuing a career that inspires you? If so, well and good. But maybe you’ve come to discover that the BS involved in your chosen profession outweighs all the good you had hoped for from it. You’re disillusioned, burned out. I’ve been there. Working harder would be stupid. Quitting might be too risky. But if you just do a good enough job, you will have energy to spare for something more worthwhile – something that might even make money. Don’t be bucking for promotion. Be bucking for freedom.

Manage the problem’s impact by efficiency. Get the stupid distractions of life out of the way as quickly and easily as possible. I find a certain joy in constructing systems. When I construct systems to deal with routine matters, I kill two birds with one stone.

But sometimes stuff just happens. How to deal? By seeing emergencies for what they are. What we call emergencies are simply a lesser degree of ordinariness. They seem out of the ordinary at the time, but they’re not. Emergencies are recurring events. Same s**t hitting the fan, different day. Learn to deal with each common type of emergency efficiently, in order to get on with the real business of life. It’s also worthwhile to try to prevent emergencies if feasible – but only big picture thinking can prevent emergencies. If your life is full of emergencies, ask yourself why that is.

Whatever it is you sincerely desire to do – that is your life purpose. You will naturally and inevitably love it. You will want to give it your best. Many voices – some external, some internalized and some somatic – will tell you to prioritize something else instead. You can’t. You’re not built to love that which does not interest you, or to hate that which gives you fulfillment.

Feed these voices just enough to quiet them. Be their master, not their slave – and only because you can’t get them out of your life entirely.

“Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law” is not workable, if you’re absolutist about it. But if you manage the day-to-day well enough, you can gain enough freedom to approximate this.

Be excellent to yourself, and adequate to everyone else. Be excellent to what you love, and adequate to everything that is necessary.

Other takes:
Why Being Bored at Work May Be a Good Thing | Live Science
Boredom & Purpose | House of Xen