A Self-Inflicted Curse
[Caveat: All of my observations, or essays, however dubbed, are simply reflections on lessons that life has taught me, which I pass along to my loved ones and to any others who choose to read them. I make no claim to prescience, wisdom or mastery of any of these life-lessons. They simply reflect goals to which I still aspire.]
Now and then, I hear someone (often someone under age 30) confess of being “bored”. I’ve never understood feeling bored, much less being willing to admit it, but it is a major malaise that merits addressing.
No one better illustrated this malady than did George Sanders (1906-1972), a renowned Brit with a melodious voice, and a preeminent and ubiquitous actor of stage and film (and singer-song-writer and author, best-known for playing aristocratic polymaths and for doing roughly one film a year for four decades), whose august presence and visage made him a welcome relief from the run-of-the-mill thespians. His superb intellect and voluble vocabulary facilitated an eloquent crafting of sentences and profound thoughts that had (and still has) few peers. He simply left Hollywood’s plebeian script-writers in the turbid dust. His mellifluous dialogue was obviously of his own creation, as it followed his distinctive, articulate patterns and phrasing in all of his films. No matter what part he played or who directed or scripted the film, Sanders’ inimitable eloquence emerged like a beacon, a veritable modern-day Shakespeare in society's increasingly bourgeois midst, elevating the entire cast, production and story-line, however thin and fatuous the latter often was. (Some remember him as an ill-fated and brief husband (and cuckold) of Zsa Zsa Gabor, an itinerant Hollywood femme fatale of that era.
So what? So this: Sadly, at the age of 66, George Sanders unthinkably committed suicide, taking prodigious quantities of fatal pills. Even more appallingly, he left the following suicide note.“Dear World: I am leaving because I am bored. I have lived long enough. I am leaving you with your worries in this sweet cesspool. Good luck.”
Being one of his devoted fans, I contemplated his disquieting death note at length. How could a man of such obvious talents, intellect, worldly possessions and international esteem, so blithely abandon life, and, much worse, use “boredom” as his reason? I concentrated on that word, “boredom”. Webster’s Dictionary tells us that boredom is “a sustained lack of interest”, but it begs the question: Why?
Every person, every thing, every facet of our existence is either fascinating per se or contains elements that are fascinating at some level. If we simply look with an open mind and scan the fecund, beautifully colored landscape and everything within our view, we will be given reason to be delighted -- and intrigued. If we cannot find elements of genuine interest, it is because we simply aren’t looking, or, more aptly, we aren’t seeing. It seemed, and seems, to me that boredom can be better defined as: A feeling generated by self-obsession, by expecting others to entertain us, by failing to busy ourselves improving the circumstances of those around us. The more joy that we facilitate in others, the more joyous, and less "bored", we feel.
Boredom cannot inflict a mind already saturated with positive thoughts.
Boredom, then, is an admission of egotism, egoism and solipsism. Boredom is a self-inflicted curse, as we allow ourselves to feel it; we permit it to enter our consciousness; we patronize it. We should give boredom short shrift; we should simply reject it.
If we are bored, it is because we, ourselves, are boring. If we are bored, we are miserable – and deserve to be. If we are bored, we should be embarrassed to admit it.
Those of us, who permit ourselves to be bored (by not busying ourselves by moving life’s ball in some positive direction), bring to mind this image: A mewing infant in its crib, curled in a fetal position, sucking its thumb, intermittently baying its demands, totally dependent, totally self-absorbed. How can any of us admit to that? Can we allow it? Of course not.
Boredom is a self-inflicted curse for which there is no excuse and an embarrassing admission of mental lassitude and egoism.
Post Script: To be fair to my once hero, George Sanders, I later learned that he was beginning to show signs of early dementia, a reason for compassion, not criticism. His use of the word “boredom”, however, as the reason for his suicide, remains a classic example of allowing our negative thoughts to rule us, rather than removing and supplanting them. While Sanders may well have had a medical excuse, most of us don’t. None of this is easy, but it remains an essential key to our happiness, and to that of those around us, who often need our help, and helping someone else remains the straightest line to positive feelings within and about oneself.