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Reflections of a working writer and reader



Are You Bored?

I’d finished swimming and was sitting in the sauna. There was another man in there, up on the top shelf, while I was on the bottom. Some guy with muscles looked through the glass door at us for a moment before coming in. He went up on the top shelf also.
‘I wanted to see who was in here before I came in,’ he said. ‘Sometimes you can tell if people are going to talk or not.’
‘Do you want to talk?’ the first man asked.
‘Yes, I don’t just want to sit here in silence.’
‘You can talk to me if you like.’
‘There should be a television in here, something to stop people being bored.’
‘But some people don’t want to talk, they like being quiet. Maybe they want to meditate.’
‘Yeah. I think so.’
‘Do you want to meditate?’
‘No. But I don’t mind being quiet. I can be quiet or I can talk. I don’t mind.’
‘But you like talking, yeah?’
‘Because it stops you being bored.’
‘What about you, mate?’ He leaned over to grab my attention.
‘I wouldn’t be here if there was a television,’ I said.
‘No, I’d want a full refund.’
‘I don’t know how you stand it,’ he said. ‘I’m bored out of my skull.’


It struck me later, after he’d gone, that he might be on some kind of medication. I really have very little insight into boredom. My mind seems to be firing on several cylinders at once. I’m thinking about whatever I’m working on, or a book I’ve read, or a film I saw last week or a film I’m going to see tomorrow. I’m thinking about my kids, my friends, the political situation. I can hold these thoughts at bay if necessary, put them to one side and hone in on practical or theoretical problems, like baking bread, mending a puncture in my bike’s tyre, or sorting out which activities are regarded as sacraments.
Or I can do none of those things and try to empty my mind completely. For shorter or longer periods I can make it all still. At least relatively so.
But I don’t get bored. Ever.
Is it just me? What’s the split like? How many people get bored?

7 Responses to “Are You Bored?”

  1. Thomas says:

    Bored. Are you kidding? There are infinite things to think about. I haven’t experienced boredom since I was 7.

    jb says: You still remember it, eh?

  2. Jim Murdoch says:

    Bored? Never. Well, next to never. And what I call boredom – and what indeed feels like boredom – is not really boredom per se, it’s more akin to burnout, something I have more than a little experience of. I get to the stage that I’m incapable of thinking constructively and so I sit and watch (I use the term loosely) whatever comes on the box after the last thing that was on. It’s boring-in-extremis but it’s necessary. It’s my mind refusing to go one step further. It’s worse than common-or-garden boredom. It’s the difference between being depressed and being Depressed.

    jb says: I do that sometimes, too. It’s like living death. My eye-sockets feel as though they’re on fire eventually, and I slink away to oblivion and slowly back to life.

  3. Shawn says:

    Hi John,

    I’m with you, I’m never bored. If I’m not occupied with my own thoughts, I’m occupied by other people and what makes work, or by the thoughts of other people like yourself.

    I think what a lot of people call boredom is really the fear of being alone with their own thoughts. I think more people than we realize spend most of their waking lives avoiding any significant thoughts about themselves and their lives. The fear of not having a task or pastime to lose yourself in and being unoccupied in the presence of other people makes them feel naked in a sense.

    I guess what I would describe as boredom is a kind of ennui over having to do or sit through something that I don’t want to do, or that I see as being pointless. Maybe even a little sadness at the thought that I’m in a room full of people engaging in an activity and it feels like I’m the only one that doesn’t want to be there. Not a sadness for myself, but a feeling of sadness for the other people. Just for one example since this post is getting a bit long: I’ve definitely been that kind of bored in a church before (I had to be there for the sake of someone else, I wouldn’t recommend it otherwise).

    jb says: Yeah, that’s the place, Shawn, where I’m stuck with people who can only see, think, feel, taste and hear dark blue and I’m pining for a whole slice or orange.

  4. I’m with you too, John. Life is very short and to fritter much of it away by being bored strikes me as weird, and very sad. So much to do (so many good books to read, for a start, as well as fascinating places to go) and so little time. Far too little.

    jb says: Hi Martin. Knowing how busy you are, I’m flattered to see you here.

  5. Ann says:

    Left to myself, I’m never bored. If I’m stuck somewhere, waiting for something or someone in an unpleasant environment, especially if there is bad music to keep people from experiencing silence, that’s a different story. Also, if I’ve been latched onto by someone with a grievance… I’m not sure I want to know what the interior life is like of people who can’t stand silence.

    jb says: Someone who can’t stand silence? That must be some kind of psychosis, Ann. Perhaps someone who has a perverse character and the inability to face it?

  6. A. Galvan says:

    I am absolutely 100% with you! I don’t get bored either, but have often wondered at the people who do. It’s almost as though they can’t stand their own thoughts, like they are afraid to be in their own skin. Strange because given the option I would much rather spend the day by myself reading, writing, painting, walking my dog, and just enjoying the quiet moments.

    I remember a time in university when I flipped out on my roomates and they all thought I was crazy. We were four girls living together in New York, going to Parsons School of Design. In our appartment there was us and about 4 more girls all working on our various art projects together. They were all talking, the stereo was on loud, the TV was on too,l and then the phone started ringing…. and…well… that’s when I lost it. I just don’t get what’s so bad about silence every now and then. And quite honestly I don’t know whether I’m getting old or what, but God how I hate that blasted TV – it’s always on somewhere, even now in restaurants! I mean sure it’s good to mulit-task, but what is up with this constant need for distraction?

    Whew…. getting wound up! Time for a little silence 🙂

  7. lesley says:

    Well I’m bored out the proverbial skull, work and all its breach of promise joys and the tv which is scary and victimising, Susan Boyle with psychiatrist today because her personality cannot deal with success…didn’t they work that out before. Yet we watch, and they trawl out the same wounded ones and we watch. I don’t think we’re cruel,just bored. A bit like the colesseum really, if we watch will ‘this’ entertain us!? Maybe today, maybe there will be better tomorrow….on such measures of boredom and their cures, whole ratings are made. If anyone can distract me I ‘m up for it, the air is warm and balmy and I ‘m far from passed it yet!