Boredom is so endemic to our culture, particularly among youth, that we imagine it to be a near-universal default state of human existence. In the absence of outside stimuli we are bored. Yet, as Ziauddin Sardar observes, boredom is virtually unique to Western culture (and by extension to the global culture it increasingly dominates). “Bedouins,” he writes, “can sit for hours in the desert, feeling the ripples of time, without being bored.”
Whence comes this feeling we call boredom, the discomfort of having nothing to occupy our minds? Boredom—nothing to do—is intolerable because it puts us face to face with the wound of separation.
Eisenstein speaks of the separation as the disease of modern (especially Western) man. We are animals and Gaia is our home. Beginning with monoculture-style agriculture, we have come to see the living Earth as commodities and resources to be exploited, “things” rather than living, feeling beings, or even parts of a living whole.
It’s not just Bedouins. Almost everyone knows how to enjoy leisure better than urban North Americans. Africans and South Americans laugh five times as often as we do. Indians, four times. Pacific Islanders, eight times.
Indulge me while I speculate, half-seriously, that bacterial life is one of near-constant bliss, akin to a perpetual state of sexual union with the universe. When we humans engage in sexual intercourse we recover, for a few moments, a state of being that was once the baseline of existence in a time of greater union and less separation. — CE