There are times when I feel completely, acutely bored.
There are so many episodes of The Office. I'm watching it for the same reason all my peers have watched it, the reason anyone does. It romanticizes everyday life, takes out the boredom and the chores and replaces it with sincere friendship, love, comedy, and progression. It becomes easy to forget that if The Office were real, no one would talk to one another. Pam would probably marry and divorce her fiancé. Michael would be fired for his incompetency. Life would go on. Jim would be too inundated with sales to bother with pulling a prank on Dwight—maybe he'd drift away in his boredom and picture what it would be like if he were only more confident.
This is all sad—incredibly, incredibly sad. It's only half of the truth, however. Life will never be as it is advertised on TV—one wonders how our yearn for community is harnessed by advertisers or social media organizations or even by ourselves. Life will be, however, incredibly boring and satisfying and inextricably interesting for those who are aware enough. So the world's got an urban isolation problem, and so one can only do so much to break free independently from that problem and attempt to wring out the detatchedness of others. We are in the midst of a clever paradigm shift: in education, in politics, in world affairs. Perhaps the predominant cause is the development of technologies and—more significantly—research/data in psychology/sociology/biology/anything-ology. The civilization we know, built of independent thinkers the size of ants in comparison, grows ever more self-aware and self-diagnosing.
[Bojack Horseman spoilers ahead]
Bojack Horseman is an excellent and intellectual and raw-emotion-eliciting show is because it inquires into our present culture with ineffable dramatic depth while catering to our bored, relief-seeking minds. It asks questions about sexuality, addition, Hollywood culture, abortion, gun violence, sexism, and the (post?)-postmodern search for a life of happiness. Season four explores why Bojack is the way he is—why his mother and father were so cruel, the antiquated culture of the early 1900s, the disillusioning effects of war on the American family (and the idea of the nuclear family), and the ingrained issue of masculinity that prohibits Bojack's grandfather from adequately helping Bojack's grandmother to cope with the loss of her brother. The list goes on—all of this being symbolized, or depicted, through the family's downwards spiral. Although I have not re-watched season 1, the origins of Bojack's addictive lifestyle (as most exhibited throughout season 1) become more and more clear. The season four ending, when Bojack steps back and realizes, poignantly, that he is a brother (queue: "Wake Up" by Jenny Owens Young), throttles the issue of the modern-day struggle for self-actualization by the heart. It begs us to create human connection. The entire scene, in overtly referencing his grandmother's loss of her brother (and of the nuclear family), spiritually corrects the loss of the sense of family. In essence, it comments on the importance of asking for help, and battling towards the values we must prioritize most: of family, of self-love, and of sense of community once lost.
The video clip above—of episode 2, the part where Joseph Sugarman says "there's only ghosts here"—is the moment during my viewing of season 4 that reached me most. It describes the disarray of Bojack (and symbolically the shallow emotional depth of modern TV compared to the distress of war) in his search for a way of life. Eventually, at the end of the episode, Bojack confronts the cathartic genuine pain of his neighbor. The moment is startling and stark, revealing the intense psychological pain still instilled within our modern society—hidden deep under the distractions and bustle of life. This confrontation propels Bojack back to his home, back to the world he abandoned.
I draw the parallel of Bojack Horseman's metaphor for the deeply ingrained sociological pain still reverberating throughout our society to the biologically human incapability of dealing with boredom. Seriously, without other people, without stimulation, you go crazy. But with too much—without confronting oneself, one falls flat. The will to live, learn, meet others . . weakens. David Wallace said that he remembered that "[Don] DeLillo said, 'That if serious reading disappears in this country, it will mean that whatever . . . we mean by the term identity has ceased to exist'" (Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself pg 104.) Wallace argues that the purpose of involving oneself with serious art is to confront oneself—especially the bad parts of oneself, or the painful bits—in order to heal and grow. I'm reminded that the Sanskrit word—as they say in My Dinner with Andre—for "to be" also means "to grow." So let's confront the boredom caused by having to specialize one's job in trade for efficiency by sacrificing the satisfying element of intellectual breadth and wiggle room—
Boredom takes place like an action suspended. When one pauses the moment an action takes place, and if energy frozen in time disappears, then the system breaks temporarily. Boredom occurs like this because it feels like the inertia of our lives collapsing in a vacuum, and here we are, trapped, time ticking onwards and nothing happening.
Wallace describes being able to cope in boredom, to thrive with it, as being able to "breathe in a room without air." One of his characters, after mastering this quality in the modern world of boredom and specialized jobs and consumer lives, literally begins to levitate, tranquil.
I think a part of leaning how to be bored is to find everything interesting, and being curious about the world like an infant. And then, when you reach the moment of levitative (sic) peace, you cease being bored, and you can turn it off like a light-switch. That'd be nice. But there's also a genetic reason why we become bored. A side to our animal-like brain that tells us to do things, to hunt, to look out for predators who could kill us. So when we're at our computers typing away at some drab document, and finish the document, we can't just sit there in silence—we have to play a game. A mind game, an app, a mnemonic, a memory, a computer game, communication with others even. Anything.
It's interesting—everything is made up of fractals, smaller bits of the same thing. Patterns are ubiquitous, and still we all have asymmetries. But deeper down we enjoy patterns, like how we all believe we're somehow unique, and I guess we really are, but how unique, and what matters about that? On the most base platform, we're compiled of energy. I bet transcending boredom would feel like looking into a kaleidoscope for the first time. Every connection of color both defining itself, abiding pattern, and creating the its own essence. It's strange that gravity's not an electromagnetic force, but is space itself.
There are places where I find it incredibly hard to be bored—Portland, Oregon, for instance, where Reed College has situated itself in its marvelous intellectual philosophies. Boredom is necessary for self-reflection as much as liveliness is necessary for being fulfilled. While working a 9-5 job certainly doesn't encourage a healthy dose of the latter, it's important to realize that it doesn't encourage a healthy dose of the former, either. Workers may be bored, but since they're constantly working, they never have the opportunity to reflect upon that boredom, to confront. It's more like the system has harnessed that boredom to self-perpetuate, for efficiency, for more sales. So our society can sell itself temporary relief—like treating serious trauma with a blunt after a hard day's work. The class stuff here is complex, and deep-rooted, and tough to confront. It's interesting, though. I can't tell if shows like Bojack H confront this boredom or perpetuate it—like in E Unibus Pluram—through recursively layering it in the form of a joke. I'm guessing this is the type of shit that'll really fuck me up in college. The alternative would be unfortunate—it wouldn't fuck me up at all, and I'd keep living the life of one of Bojack Horseman's metaphorical "ghosts."