Cat Pierro



Three photos of a hysterical woman yawning, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International, via Wikimedia Commons

I conducted a survey of one person as to the causes of boredom. He answered:

  • Boredom is caused by a lack of interesting things.
  • Boredom is caused by a lack of creativity.
  • Boredom can be caused by depression.
  • Boredom can be caused by frame of reference (as with a kid who already believes long car rides are boring).
  • Boredom can be caused by a lack of variety.

It didn’t occur to him that boredom recognizes something true about our condition.

From Pascal’s Pensées:

131. Ennui. –Rien n’est si insupportable à l’homme que d’être dans un plein repos, sans passions, sans affaire, sans divertissement, sans application. Il sent alors son néant, son abandon, son insuffisance, sa dépendance, son impuissance, son vide. Incontinent, il sortira du fond de son âme l’ennui, la noirceur, la tristesse, le chagrin, le dépit, le désespoir. 131. Boredom. –Nothing is so insufferable to man than to be in a full rest, without passions, without affair, without diversion, without application. He feels then his nothingness, his abandonment, his insufficiency, his dependence, his impotence, his emptiness. Incontinent, there will emerge from the bottom of his soul boredom, blackness, sadness, chagrin, spite, despair.

son néant / his nothingness

He is nothing. He is no one. Time lasts forever. He lasts a moment. Nature is unbounded. He is a speck. All of his efforts are vain and deceptive. They pretend to be on track toward turning him into something substantial. They are not on track toward turning him into something substantial. He exists, though. He protrudes awkwardly. He does not know what void he came from or why he is here. It was probably an accident. Soon he will vanish without leaving a trace.

In solitude he has almost no one to pretend to. It makes him suspect that all of his efforts have been pretenses. He would really like to be worth something. He has been working all his life on curating his imaginary self, stored in the museums of others’ minds. He works on it harder than he works on his actual self. This is proof of his actual nothingness. If he could remember who all his followers were, all at once, he would have no reason to post on Twitter. Only a blank multitude counts. No one reads his Twitter profile as much as he reads his Twitter profile. Yet he reads it with others in mind, imagining their impressions. But none of their impressions on its own, considered fully, could count. And piling on all these non-counting impressions can never add up to something that counts.

son abandon / his abandonment

“In seeing the blindness and the misery of man, in looking at the whole mute universe, and man without light, abandoned to himself and, as it were, lost in this corner of the universe, without knowing who put him there, what he has come to do, what he will become in dying, incapable of all knowledge, I become terrified, like a man carried in his sleep to a dreadful desert island who wakes up not knowing where he is and without means of escape. I wonder how people in so miserable a state do not fall into despair. I see other people around me of a similar nature: I ask them whether they are better informed than me; they tell me no. These miserable lost people, having looked around them and seen some pleasing objects, have given and attached themselves to them. For me, I have not been able to attach myself to them and, considering how there appears to be something else than what I see, I have examined whether this God might not have left some signs of himself.”

sa dépendance / his dependence

He is a biased animal. He is a victim of custom. Whenever he puts on lipstick he notices that everything he drinks tastes like lipstick. He wonders whether this just happens to everyone who wears lipstick, because if not, he will stop wearing lipstick. But if other people have judged it worth it to wear lipstick in spite of this taste of lipstick in their drinks then it must be worth it and he will keep wearing lipstick.

If he catches himself thinking this way he tries to snap out of it. He decides it is worth it to wear lipstick or not worth it to wear lipstick, arbitrarily. Then he tells someone his opinion, that it is worth it or not with it. Or maybe he doesn’t tell anyone. But this is no sign of his independence but rather another reaction to his dependence.

son insuffisance / his insufficiency

“It is an infinite sphere; the center is everywhere, the circumference nowhere.”
“Always distant from the extremes, what does it matter if a man has a little more knowledge of things? If he has it, he gets a little bit higher. Is he not always infinitely removed from the edge? And is not the duration of our life equally removed from eternity for living ten extra years?”

son impussiance / his impotence

“Our intellect occupies the same rank in the order of intelligibility that our body occupies in the extent of nature.” He wants to have opinions. He tries to have opinions. He has opinions. “We burn with the desire to find a firm seat, and a final consistent base to build a tower that reaches to infinity; but all our foundation cracks, and the earth opens to the abyss.” He tells himself he is trapped in his life. But he can’t make a mental map of it. “In view of these infinities, all finite things are equivalent.” He doesn’t know what his mental efforts are for. He decides that his mental efforts are futile. He keeps on making mental efforts. “All our dignity consists in thought.” He thinks about how he is going to die soon. He thinks about which egg he should take out of the egg carton. He thinks about how dull his thoughts are. He thinks about the fog on his window.

son vide / his emptiness

He gambles sometimes. Most days, in fact. Why should he be ashamed of that. He makes his money that way. It occupies his time. If we said to him, “Here is what you would earn today–take it, keep it, on the condition that you do not gamble,” we would thereby make him miserable. But if we give him the pursuit alone–if we tell him he can gamble, but not collect earnings–he would quickly get bored and stop.

(After Pensées 139)

Like a vacuum, he fills himself.

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