The lads over at Academy of Ideas, a great website and Youtube channel, posit in their video ‘Escape boredom: Leonardo DaVinci and a Guide to the Good Life’, that the means by which we can escape boredom is simple: it is done through relentless rigour.
They quote DaVinci; “Just as a well-filled day brings blessed sleep, so a well-employed life brings a blessed death” and define a ‘well employed life’ as one which is dedicated to projects – as one dedicated to the mastery of a skill or creative endeavour. Such things remedy feelings of ‘stagnation’ – a root cause of human suffering.
The video quotes Tennessee Williams:
“The sort of life which I had had previous to this popular success,” he wrote “was one that required endurance, a life of clawing and scratching, but it was a good life because it was the sort of life for which the human organism is created. I was not aware of how much vital energy had gone into this struggle until the struggle was removed. This was security at last. I sat down and looked about me and was suddenly very depressed.”Tennesee Williams
This makes me think of Anthony Bourdain, who suffered from depression ever since his major success in life as an author, celebrity chef and tv show host. He would often reflect on the gruel of chef life as something he missed dearly, and wonder why it was that now that he had all that he had ever wanted, he felt worse.
This quote from William James may provide an answer:
“We measure ourselves by many standards,” wrote William James. “Our strength and our intelligence, our wealth and even our good luck, are things which warm our heart and make us feel ourselves a match for life. But deeper than all such things, and able to suffice unto itself without them, is the sense of the amount of effort which we can put forth. . . He who can make none is but a shadow; he who can make much is a hero.”William James, The Principles of Psychology
And so perhaps it is simply our nature to move forward. Perhaps, we fight this nature by allowing ourselves to stagnate or stew in our successes and this is what causes our depressions.
We should use boredom to propel us toward some new pursuit. When we experience boredom, we must view it as a call to action rather than something to be endured or alleviated with mundane or shallow distractions.
The French multi-instrumentalist FKJ wrote in an Instagram post that if it weren’t for boredom, he doubts he ever would have become a musician.
Maybe we all ought to resign ourselves to a life of relentless rigour, and accept that there is no ‘end’ to the work and that that is actually a good thing.
Great article Fergus, should we expect an album release after the lockdown?