Boredom is a lack of interest in life or the activities that constitute life for a person. Now, that might be a poor definition, but you know what boredom means and I will try to explore the cause for boredom in this post and possibly try to find some answers in the next.

Boredom appears to be exclusive to humans. It is hard to believe that animals  experience boredom. Animals are instinctive and spend their life feeding and breeding. In circumstances that men would find the onslaught of boredom, animals would perhaps go to sleep or get some sun or chew cud without being troubled by it. Decision-making, judgment, conscience, etc. are a sequel of man possessing higher functions; however they also give him side-effects, like boredom.

Why does boredom arise? Interestingly, children rarely talk of boredom; and the younger the children are, the less likely they would complain of boredom. For kids, life is an experience of wonder as long as their basic needs are met. It is magical as they soak in all the stimuli that life throws at them. During teen years and early adulthood, the hormonal surge makes you feel invincible and you are out there to conquer the world. As we grow older, the adult way of thinking and living set in, with goals that are strived for and routines that need to be kept. And it is here that we find two important reasons for boredom.

The first is goal-oriented life. Now goals are mandatory for every person. Goals are what make man move forward in life. However, when life is restricted to a set of goals and nothing else, when achievement is the sole criterion that defines life, boredom is inevitable. Blaise Pascal writes in the Pensees,

All our life passes in this way: we seek rest by struggling against certain obstacles, and once they are overcome, rest proves intolerable because of the boredom it produces.

Elsewhere, Bertrand Russell comments,

“Unless a man has been taught what to do with success after getting it, the achievement of it must inevitably leave him a prey to boredom.”

The greater the goal, the higher the labor to achieve it and the greater the reliance on achievement, the greater will be the onslaught of boredom once the achievement is done. And so interestingly, one who never achieves his goal, has the advantage of not having to wrestle with boredom, though he sure does have to deal with other issues including frustration, despair, etc brought on by failure.

Even if man were to efficiently re-orient himself to new goals once he achieves his set goals, there is also a problem with not finding adequate satisfaction and meaningfulness in his pursuits. Solomon writes about his great projects and then concludes,

11 Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun’ (Eccl 2).

Meaninglessness compounds the problem of boredom and does diminish the drive for goal-oriented activity. Do look up my earlier post for a discussion on meaninglessness.

The other major factor that brings boredom to one’s notice is the routines that man is forced into during his life. If every day would be different with different things to do and different goals to achieve, boredom would not be such a great issue. The variability of life would sustain interest for sure and avoid boredom to some degree. I recently took my kids to watch ‘The Croods’ and it was intriguing to see a picturization of what life would be as a family of cavemen. Definitely not boring if we were to believe the story in ‘The Croods’! But in today’s mechanical, efficient world, routines are mandatory and boredom inevitable.

What do you think are the causes of boredom? Do comment unless of course this topic is a boring one!

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