Beginning with a series of posts about how to face your boredom and make it work for you, we travel back to basics and take a quick look at some fundamental concepts.
Boredom is a sneaky complex subject, stuffed with illusions and misconceptions. Hence, before facing the task, clarifying some basic concepts from the beginning will help us to avoid undesired time-wasting distractions.
This post is about the first basic concept in this list, which is a rather polemic one. Going “Back to Basic” (this blog main purpose) doesn’t mean avoiding the difficulties, in fact, dealing with the basic facts might be hard sometimes. In this sense, we take very seriously what Albert Einstein once said:
The polemic statement goes like this: having fun (as opposite to boredom) is not the same that happiness. Although often confused, they are two completely different things.
I remember being very young when I discovered this fact, It really shocked me, but I did not considered it polemic then, until a couple of weeks ago when I read a Raptitude post, where blogger David Cain wrote a provocative and very well written article called “Good News: Happiness Doesn’t Exist” (You can read the post clicking in the hypertext).
In his post, David puts in order a set of ideas to state (among many other remarks) that happiness is too easily confused with gratification, and that we tend to think of happiness as something “out there” when actually happiness, as we conceive of it, doesn’t really exist — at least not in the same way suffering does. What we refer to as happiness is really just what the absence of suffering feels like.
Happiness isn’t “something”. Happiness is the absence of unhappiness; just as health is the absence of sickness.
David’s post produced a lot of noise and it really amazed me the amount and diversity of opinions that the readers (myself included) posted as comments, and the passionate responses against and in favor of its main ideas.
If you find yourself in a situation where you feel excited about your career achievements or your romantic relationship, or you feel thrilled about a travel or a new project. Is that happiness or gratification?
Some of David’s readers were firmly not willing to accept it as mere gratification. They argued that they deserved to feel happy about a success obtained through a hard work, and I agree: they do deserve it. Unfortunately, it is not about deserving; it’s about honestly asking yourself what happens when the excitement is gone.
The annoying truth is that the good feelings we have, caused by our moments of glory, never last long. Most of the time, they last even a shorter time than what they should. Usually, after a while of feeling thrilled about our achievements, weariness takes place.
Some other times they don’t disappear, and then it’s even worse, because we begin to fear the possibility of loosing the cause of our happy feelings (the job, the relationship, the new home). And we cannot be happy and afraid at the same time.
There’s no business like show business.
Entertainment gives us kicks, but it doesn’t make us happy, at least not for too long. Having fun can make us feel good for a very small time; but, when the show is over, we start to notice that something is missing inside of us.
We call that emptiness: Boredom.
That’s when we say to ourselves: “¡man, I’m bored!” and we desperately run to the streets and try to find another form of entertainment that will allow us to avoid that emptiness.
And when the second one ends, we rush to find a third one, or a fourth one, or something to replace them: a crowed place, a party, a new love, anything new will do… at least for a while.
Okay, maybe I’m dramatizing a bit here. Most of the time, boredom is more like spending Sunday morning over Auntie’s; but, when we it gets out of control, it can indeed turn very nasty, and the worse part is that we might be unaware of it.
And this is important to notice. If you are the kind of person that needs to do something, anything to escape from solitude, boredom or emptiness, you better stop and face that fear; otherwise, the running will never end. You will never loose your hunter because the thing you are running away from is inside of you.
Never be afraid of boredom. Stop and take a look inside of you. You might find surprises there. For instance: you may find out that the boredom, the emptiness is not even there. It’s just an illusion.
Ultimately, you will need to realize that both things: what you are running away from and what you are desperately running to, are hiding in the same place.