Reply to “Is Life Boring?

Luigi penned these thoughtful replies to my recent post about boredom in life.

”Do particular activities that were once fascinating later become boring? Yes.”

This was also explained by Schopenhauer in a letter he wrote to someone, about how the the older one becomes, the less pleasure he will take in doing things that were once exciting, etc, because the longer one lives, the less everything will have an impression on him, and the weaker these impressions become as one ages.

”Does my boredom say something about me, or does it say something about these activities? Maybe I bore easily, or perhaps these activities were not sufficiently stimulating.”

I believe the latter, in your case. You were simply trying out stuff. That can’t be a bad thing. At least early on….

”I have never ceased to find the pursuit of knowledge interesting.”.

We are lucky. Schopenhauer would have agreed with me, I am certain. He saw people with no ideas or people obsessed with worldly stuff like money, etc, as disabled people.

My thing is music, although I wish I had started learning about philosophy, much earlier on. The word ‘philosophy’ seems pompous and exaggerated in my case….I simply try to be less dumb I was a while ago. Always a worthy pursuit.

”Fortunately, some activities are more stimulating than others.”.

S explained that the ‘lower’ the activity one finds stimulating, the younger they are, or if they are no spring chickens anymore, the more dumb. He REALLY despised people who played cards 🙂 Why? Because ‘intelligent people will ask themselves how to SPEND the time, whereas the fools, how to PASS it’.

”Yes, I grew bored teaching introductory college ethics classes for the one-hundredth time—literally.”.

This, I believe, is completely normal for creative people like you. Most known famous composers, all hated teaching music…..Schubert, Chopin, you name it.

”How about people? I have known people….”. This paragraph I find magnificent. This explains why S believed that the more one is ‘people savvy’ and ‘knows the ways of the world’, the more ‘vulgar’ they are. By ‘vulgar’ I believe he meant the same thing you mean as ‘boring people’.

And so, S explained, one either has to end up alone, or he’ll have to lower himself to the level of the boring people. It comes as no surprise that Wittgenstein hated talking about the weather, although I believe this is common to all philosophers.

Schopenhauer was known for being the ‘black sheep’ in the ridiculous social circles which he mockingly dubbed ‘the bon ton society’. Don’t talk about death, talk about the weather! Ha ha….who can blame S ?

”Here’s my advice. If you are almost always bored and you find your friends or lovers boring, it’s probably your problem.”.

I completely agree. It is unfair to blame others for our own poverty. This was also examined by S: the more two people have in common, the more they’ll agree even on the smallest things. Conversely, the least they have in common, the least they’ll agree about anything. And since most people are shallow-minded, if you aren’t like them, you’ll end up alone. Or mostly alone.

”But we can’t walk two paths at the same time. We must choose.”. I am actually obsessed with the scope of this concept, I think about it all the time.

”Another problem is that it is impossible for us to really know ourselves; for we are too close to ourselves.”.

Regardless: it is our job. We’ll never do it perfectly, and maybe not even adequately, but so what? At least we aren’t complete idiots :). Knowing oneself is the journey of a lifetime, and the landscape is so vast that it will never completely travelled in its entirety. But as Bruce Lee said about martial arts or Jean-Philippe Rameau about music composition: ‘You’ll never understand all of it, but you must keep at it.”.

But look at how bad is the state of mind of most people……very few really understand anything about themselves, constantly spinning in a sort of hamster wheel. At least we are aware of these things.

”Should I try something or someone else? Do I deserve better? ”.

I have little compassion for people who hang with people who treat them badly. It’s very easy to leave and burn bridges. I have done it myself (both being treated badly, and burning bridges,) and I never regretted the latter.

S also addressed this problem. Most people can’t bear to be left alone, they are like children. I think I already wrote about this before, elsewhere, so there’s no need to repeat it (although I am sure I repeat things a lot, which I cannot help as I think of them all the time).

”The best thing we can do is ask others who know and love us what they think.”.

I don’t believe that, at all. This betrays, in my view, any real knowledge about ourselves, but I respect your view. Other people cannot know us, for they only see the surface. We do the opposite: we miss the details of the surface, but we know best what’s inside of us. Those capable of doing so, anyways. I am not of course saying that this is an easy or short term job, but do you really think that you, a philosopher, can know yourself less well than your wife or your sister or friend can do? I really doubt it.

If you’d tell me that you use drugs or that you drink a lot, or that you are out of control, then I’d agree, other people can know you better than you do. Because their minds are healthier than yours (if that’d be really the case, which would have to be looked at in detail). But you are a philosopher. I am pretty sure you don’t care about drugs or getting wasted on beer :).

”but they can be more objective about us than we can—for they stand outside of our subjectivity.”.

Their ‘objectivity’ is likely to be a lot worse than your subjectivity. Almost always the things THEY see are related to conformism, i.e. if you don’t do things like the majority of them, you are ‘weird’. The likely fact is that if your subjectivity might not be 100 per cent accurate, their objectivity is as fallible as an almost blind darts player trying to win an international match.

You aren’t perfect, but you are light years beyond them. While they were wasting their time watching TV, you were learning both about yourself and others. That, I believe, is as much as anyone can possibly achieve.

”So ask those you trust, those who care about you”

My view: if they really love you, you don’t need to ask them anything. And if you did, what are they going to find out about themselves if they asked you? They would probably be horrified. Unfortunately, I know this for myself. I have some people who always loved me but I don’t really tell them what I think about them: they would be devastated, and I would regret it for the rest of my life.

For example, I have read quite a lot about the Holocaust lately (including an incredible graphic novel about Anne Frank), and when I tried to say to someone who loves me, how sad it was that entire families like ours have been done all that harm, she said: ‘Yes, but that happened so long ago.’.

That was really hurtful, I literally felt as if someone had struck me. I had spent many hours imagining what I had been reading. Had they have been someone else, I would have destroyed them, brutally, just by using logic, not insults and the like, of course.

I would have made her cry, for my arguments would have been devastating, and brutally factual, which I don’t need to go over here. For example, how selfish it is to sob and cry all your damn life about something that has happened to you, but if it has happened to someone else, we come up with stuff like ‘it happened so long ago’, the unstated conclusion being ‘why should I care?’.

Or that how Primo Levi opens one of his books with a devastating statement, which I’ll never forget, it goes somewhat like this: ‘If you are aware of the terrible things that happened during this period, and you will not care, may you and your family die.”.

It’s not that I think no other evils happened other than the Holocaust, but just that it is so widely and well documented that it is the perfect topic for understanding that really most people are too stupid to understand.

But instead I said nothing, and I have promised myself to never talk to her about this again. For this person really loves me, and I was not silent to save myself, but her. I have no problem being alone, but of course to know that some people loved you, or love you, it is heartwarming. But after all it is not absolutely necessary, except for the people Schopenhauer described in his writings, the ones who cannot bear to be left alone.

But as Schopenhauer advised: we should be tolerant with people, even with the worst types.

And I add: we should be VERY tolerant with our friends and family. Truth to be told, they might be as dumb as any other stupid person in the crowd. But this is the person I grew up with, etc. They did something nice for me, and they deserve special treatment.

Otherwise I would have been devastatingly brutal, like Levi. I understood his pain.

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4 thoughts on “Reply to “Is Life Boring?

  1. Dr Messerly,

    First of all, I am honoured that a thinker of your experience finds my little thoughts interesting at all.

    Secondly, I apologize for the defective English….I have learned mostly on my own and therefore the defects have accumulated over the years (this is an excellent example of how other people CAN know ourselves better than we do!). My writing is also messy and confused, for I write the first thing that comes to mind, and I almost never correct anything (I don’t have your writing endurance and run out of breath quickly! ).

    Lastly, with this sentence:

    ” ”The best thing we can do is ask others who know and love us what they think.”.

    I don’t believe that, at all. This betrays, in my view, any real knowledge about ourselves, but I respect your view.”

    I did not mean that YOU betray a lack of knowledge about yourself, of course, but that this would apply to the average person. Which I don’t believe you are. In your case you are admirably modest about your knowledge.

    I wish you a great week ahead,
    Luigi

  2. I learned from reading Schopenhauer, mostly about will. And what it means to accept and adhere to that serenity prayer people use when stuff gets tough. Boredom is no longer a bug bear for me. Epiphanies on life and living well come often and my own writing on philosophy improves at an acceptable pace. Mornings are the best creative time for me. Little noise;less distraction.

  3. Best to stay away from people as much as possible. “There are two escapes from the misery of life: music and cats.” —Schweitzer.

    There’re more, naturally—but two will do.

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