I often read articles on the concept of “boredom.” They are rarely actually interesting. This one was no exception, and was obviously not from the first few paragraphs, but I read it anyway.
Everything I’ve read about boredom (including this article) focuses on the subjective feeling of boredom and discusses whether it is a good thing (gives us an opportunity to meditate!) or a bad thing (causes us, if not agony, at least mild discomfort!). Neither of these seems exactly right. I rarely move from boredom to meditation; if I ever meditate, it’s usually a result of some existential Angst, not just boredom. When I’m bored, I read a book. And we may be tempted to call boredom painful, but when we contemplate our situation and enter a state of Angst, we’re no longer bored. I usually find such states greatly interesting, though not exactly pleasant.
But in any case, I’m interested less in the state of boredom and more in the experience of becoming bored. Why is it that I find every page of Moby-Dick fascinating, but people I consider intelligent find it difficult to make it through the entire novel (which after all has less words than Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix)? And what should our reaction to a work of literature be when we get bored? The answer we often hear is “persevere.” I would say that to anyone who said they had grown bored reading Moby-Dick, and would be irked if they failed to do so. But isn’t becoming bored with a book also an indication that it is, well, bad? How do we tell the difference between a novel that is boring but a work of genius and one that is just boring and stupid?