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Sunday, October 18, 2009

He was bored and he was bored too

It got hold of me today at 3.45 in the main hall of the Central European University. It came suddenly and unexpectedly and I felt it like a punch in my diaphragm. L'Ennui came to pay me a visit while listening to how wonderfully corporately socially responsible Magyar Telecom is. Don't get me wrong: they are certainly doing a great job but I felt that I couldn't care less about that at that particular moment. I had to leave but before that, in a purely masochistic manner, I endured a coffee break. There is nothing worse than a coffee break when one doesn't feel like speaking.

I rushed home in the rainy streets feeling strangely weightless. I passed by a Thai Massage place which looked so boring, the castle hill view at the end of a rain-washed street was so banal, the metro - so commonplace. I knew what had happened to me as it had been there before. I came home with the firm intention to consult what some of the theorists of l'ennui familiar to me thought about that. I open 'Les Fleur du Mal' (Baudelaire) and I read in one of the poem 'Spleen' poems:

'J'ai plus de souvenir que si j'avais mille ans/I have as many memories as if I have lived 1000 years'

I think that this is one of the causes - being greedy of life experiences we end up hoarding too many and it becomes more difficult to get new, fundamentally different ones which leads to a lousy feeling of repetitiveness.

Then I continue : 'L'ennui, fruit de la morne incuriosite/l'ennui, fruit of the sad incuriosity'. I knew I would find this. It was exactly this today: I didn't care about MT and about several other things. One of the main things that makes us get up each day is the curiosity, isn't it? When I am curious I feel I wouldn't have a boredom problem if I lived a 1000 years but no: curiosity is not guaranteed at all, it seems.

By the way, I was thinking of writing about boredom since last weekend when I visited Robert Capa's exhibition and heard the following words from a Hungarian guide: ' Capa lived a good life. He stayed at expensive hotels and earned lots of money. But he wanted more, he was bored. Then he met John Steinbeck. Steinbeck was bored too. They decided to go together to the Soviet Union......' At first, I smiled at the simplistic way of describing Capa's urge to visit war zones and places like Soviet Union in the 1940s but then I thought that she was probably right.

I remembered an old theory of mine (well, it must be someone else's of course) that war is not caused by the arcane dealings of politicians but more so by the people who agree to get involved in it. And, it seems to me that war can be a desired escape from the tedium of everyday life. In fact, I think that people are perversely attracted by it as it saves them from the boredom of commonplace existence. This also reminds me of a thought of Boris Vian in this line of thinking that if each individual soldier disagreed to go to war there would be no war.

This was also confirmed by Richerd Holbrook who said about the Vietnamese war that 'the terrible truth that people do not like to admit is that the war was fun for young men, at least it was fun if they were civilians or journalists'.

L'Ennui, Sylvia Plath

Tea leaves thwart those who court catastrophe,
designing futures where nothing will occur:
cross the gypsy's palm where yawning she
will still predict no perils left to conquer.
Jeopardy is jejeune now: naive knight
finds ogres-out-of-date and dragons unheard
of, while blase princesses indict
tilts as terror as downright absurd.

The beast in Jamesian grove will never jump,
compelling hero's dull career to crisis;
and when insouciant angels play God's trump,
when bored arena crowds for once look eager,
hoping towards havoc, neither pleas nor prizes
shall coax from dooms blank door lady or tiger.


Dumdad said...

Many British civilians who endured and survived the blitz in London and soldiers that survived intact to tell the tale in WW2 often look back on those years as the best of their lives; certainly the most vivid and "alive".

But try telling that to the millions and millions who were killed or maimed...

... I'll settle for dealing with ennui!

Ruslan said...

Me too: war at no cost. There are too many other interesting things in life.

julochka said...

l'ennui sounds so much more elegant than boredom. and i'm feeling it too, tho' i think for me, it sneaked up on me, rather than hitting me all at once. i wish it would provoke deep thoughts in me, but at the moment, it's more of a numbness it creates. i'm very grateful tho', that it provokes deep thoughts and the seeking of poetry for you, because that helps.