Monday, July 12, 2010
Pluses and Minuses
A few years ago Sixty Minutes correspondent Morley Safer labelled St. Paul, Minnesota, one of the "most boring" cities in the United States. In response, Mrs. Laudator temporarily changed our telephone answering machine message to "Hello. You have reached the most boring family in the most boring city in the United States. Leave your message at the tone." She was joking (I think).
It's a reliable rule of thumb, that only boring people are ever bored. The German philosopher Schopenhauer in his essays (translated by T. Bailey Saunders) constantly harps on this theme:
An intellectual man in complete solitude has excellent entertainment in his own thoughts and fancies, while no amount of diversity or social pleasure, theatres, excursions and amusements, can ward off boredom from a dullard. (The Wisdom of Life, chap. 1: Division of the Subject)
For in solitude, where every one is thrown upon his own resources, what a man has in himself comes to light; the fool in fine raiment groans under the burden of his miserable personality, a burden which he can never throw off, whilst the man of talent peoples the waste places with his animating thoughts. (The Wisdom of Life, chap. 2: Personality, or What a Man Is)
It is easy to see why people are so bored; and also why they are sociable, why they like to go about in crowds why mankind is so gregarious. It is the monotony of his own nature that makes a man find solitude intolerable. (Counsels and Maxims, Section 9)