The Advanced Curriculum

The Zen of Cosmic Boredom

Boredom is not what you think it is. It is not an absence of interesting and stimulating things to engage you. It is, instead, the inability to express what you are thinking or feeling, or to escape from situations in which you have no emotional, financial, or social interest. A kid trapped at home on a rainy day is bored because there are so many things she’d rather be doing than sitting there looking out the window. An unhappy spouse in a dead-end marriage is bored because he or she can’t get out of the box that’s been created for them. Waiting in an airport when there is no plane at the gate is boring because you don’t want to be there and you can’t leave. A welter of resentments, fears, and frustrations seethe under the surface. And yet we do nothing. And we call it boredom.

A journey into tedium can end in death-by-boredom. These things can happen, especially in a budget meeting. The sufferer, at the last limit of tolerance, simply expires when his or her heart stops beating from a profound lack of interest in continuing to do so. Along the way, at various points in the budget review, he or she can experience:

Somnolence: The meeting began with a dozy sense of comfort, with little hint of the horrors that loomed ahead.

Amusement: At this point, the group began to discuss formatting of line items, and the subject had to stifle several impulses to giggle.

Annoyance: Now really, he thought. What the hell. Couldn’t we do this whole thing in about fifteen minutes if Bob over there would stop trying to impress everybody with his goddamn thoroughness?

High impatience: At this point, the subject actually broke a pencil he had been chewing on and had to spit out several splinters and some graphite.

Anger: Boredom and anger now were present in almost equal measure. His thoughts began to turn philosophical.

Despair: He slipped into a deep funk . . .

Fear of the Abyss: . . . followed by an overwhelming dread at his own mortality and the inexorable passage of time . . .

Existential Angst: . . . followed by a deep conviction that life itself had no meaning.

Murderous Rage: Rebelling against this subtle but effective form of torture, the subject, now caught in the hypnogogic state[1] that precedes deep REM sleep, explodes in virtually uncontrollable fury that can’t be expressed.

Fright/Flight: Where can he go? What can he do?

Sleep: The subject now spirals down into the uncontrollable urge to simply shut his eyes for a few moments. When he opens them again, several people are looking at him strangely and there is drool on his chin.

Death: He is found after the meeting slumped in his chair, at peace at last.


For further information on the lessons contained here, refer to The Curriculum: Everything You Need To Know To Be A Master of Business Arts.



[1] The terms "hypnagogic" or and "hypnagogia" refers to mental phenomena that occur during the "threshold consciousness" phase that immediately precedes sleep. These may include dreams that present as reality, hallucinations, and sleep paralysis (the terrifying conviction that although one is awake, one cannot move).


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