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Is Boredom one of the Greatest of

the Unacknowledged Evils of Human Life?

BOREDOM: the desire for desires.

Leo Tolstoy

I think that this feigning, this ceaseless pretence of interest in matters to me supremely boring [namely, school athletics], was what wore me out more than anything else. If the reader will picture himself, unarmed, shut up for thirteen weeks on end, night and day, in a society of fanatical golfers—or, if he is a golfer himself, let him substitute fishermen, theosophists, bimetallists, Baconians, or German undergraduates with a taste for autobiography—who all carry revolvers and will probably shoot him if he ever seems to lose interest in their conversation, he will have an idea of my school life... Never, except in the front line trenches (and not always there) do I remember such aching and continuous weariness as at Wyvern [his boarding school, Malvern].

C. S. Lewis

Nothing is as fatiguing as boredom.

Fulton Sheen

In the eighteenth century Coleridge, in his Biographia Literaria, had stated one human dilemma—we are naturally lazy and hate having anything to do: but we are easily bored and cannot bear having nothing to do. So we are forever inventing things to do which are equal to nothing. Coleridge notes among such no-things, reading the advertisements in railway waiting rooms, and spitting over a bridge. Everybody can make his own list—playing cards, smoking, watching television—all ways of escaping the intolerable boredom of our own company.

Frank Sheed

When people are bored, it is primarily with their own selves that they are bored.

Eric Hoffer

Among those who are rich enough to choose their way of life, the particular brand of unendurable boredom from which they suffer is due, paradoxical as this may seem, to their fear of boredom. In flying from the fructifying kind of boredom, they fall a prey to the other far worse kind. A happy life must be to a great extent a quiet life, for it is only in an atmosphere of quiet that true joy can live.

Bertrand Russell

Those who are now pursuing pleasure are not only fleeing from boredom, but are acutely suffering from it.

G. K. Chesterton

For thirty years I have not been in a church for other than architectural reasons or to witness a marriage or funeral, and it is partly because I associate them to this day with torture. In Chartres, the Sainte Chapelle, Cologne, Winchester, and the great Hindu temple in Coimbatore, I have traced a vague uneasiness to the thought that I might be trapped by Elder Slauson. To this day, I never sit down to listen to a speech or a lecture without making a mental calculation as to when it will be over. That was the question that was in one’s mind when those terrible sermons began, and one knew, despite whatever resources in optimism on which he might draw, that for all practical purposes they never would be. By half-closing my eyes during a dull lecture, I can to this day see the spare, dark and highly undistinguished features of that Dunwich Township divine. Once when I was eight or nine, my father gave me a dollar watch. According to local lore, they did not last long. For many months I kept mine in the box and carried it only once a month to church. This was not vanity. The sermon was a form of punishment beyond anything that hell had to offer. But it was heaven itself to look at the watch and learn that two or sometimes even three minutes had passed.

John Kenneth Galbraith

I am convinced that boredom is one of the greatest tortures. If I were to imagine Hell, it would be the place where you were continually bored.

Eric Fromm

A certain amount of excitement is wholesome, but, like almost everything else, the matter is quantitative. Too little may produce morbid cravings; too much will produce exhaustion. A certain power of enduring boredom is therefore essential to a happy life, and is one of the things that ought to be taught to the young.

Bertrand Russell

One must choose in life between boredom and suffering.   NEW LINK (Apr 11/23)

Mme de Staël

Thoughts on Boredom

A bore is a man who has nothing to say and says it anyway.

Bores bore each other too; but it never seems to teach them anything.

Don Marquis

A healthy male adult bore consumes each year one and a half times his own weight in other people’s patience.

John Updike

The capacity of human beings to bore one another seems to be vastly greater than that of any other animal.

H. L. Mencken

Boredom always precedes a period of great creativity.

Robert M. Pirsig

Boredom is a vital problem for the moralist since at least half the sins of mankind are caused by the fear of it.

Bertrand Russell

Idle people are often bored and bored people, unless they sleep a lot, are cruel. It is no accident that boredom and cruelty are great preoccupations in our time.

Renata Adler

A man who experiences no genuine satisfaction in life does not want peace. People court war to escape meaninglessness and boredom, to be relieved of fear and frustration.

Nels F. S. Ferre

Boredom is a common condition of school teachers as well as children.

John Taylor Gatto

If we remember that children are bored, not only when they don’t happen to be interested in the subject or when the teacher doesn’t make it interesting, but also when certain working conditions are out of focus with their basic needs, then we can realize what a great contributor to discipline problems boredom really is.

Fritz Redl

Contrary to what pacifists and other humane persons would like to believe, wars, when they break out, tend to be popular. They offer the illusion of an escape from the boredom which is the lot of, particularly, technological man.

Malcolm Muggeridge

The chief product of an automated society is a widespread and deepening sense of boredom.

C. Northcote Parkinson

It is one of the essentials of boredom that one’s faculties must not be fully occupied.

Bertrand Russell

BOREDOM: God’s way of telling you that you’re wasting time.

Nothing is worse for your health than boredom.

Mignon McLaughlin

People who bore one another should meet seldom, people who interest one another, often.

C. S. Lewis

One can only be bored if the spiritual power to be leisurely has been lost.

Josef Pieper

The enlightened person is not easily bored. Nonetheless the enlightened person knows when he or she is being bored and knows for sure when she or he is not. No amount of spectacle or surface glamour should ever persuade you that you are not being bored when, in fact, you are.

Lister Sinclair (of CBC’s Ideas)

Procrastination avoids boredom; one never has the feeling that there is nothing important to do.

Anyone can do any amount of work provided it isn’t the work he is supposed to be doing at that moment.

Robert Benchley

The two enemies of human happiness are pain and boredom.

Arthur Schopenhauer

I think that the word bored does not get the attention it deserves. We speak of all sorts of terrible things that happen to people, but we rarely speak about one of the most terrible things of all: that is, being bored, being bored alone and, worse than that, being bored together.

Erich Fromm

Uncertainty and mystery are energies of life. Don’t let them scare you unduly, for they keep boredom at bay and spark creativity.

R. I. Fitzhenry

It is the unknown that excites the ardor of scholars, who, in the known alone, would shrivel up with boredom.

Wallace Stevens

What on earth would a man do with himself, if something did not stand in his way.

H. G. Wells

Underlying my poor tolerance for boredom lies an even deeper gift or curse: a thirst for meaning. As far back as I can remember, any activity that seemed meaningless to me bored me figuratively—and sometimes even literally—to tears.

M. Scott Peck

We often forgive those who bore us, but we cannot forgive those who find us boring.

de La Rochefoucauld

Boredom, after all, is a form of criticism.

Wendell Phillips

When a thing bores you do not do it. Do not pursue a fruitless perfection.

Eugène Delacroix

A former female associate of a prestigious Manhattan law-firm had this to say about her work: “At best it’s tedious, and at worst the tedium will kill you. It deadened my senses. I’d go out at lunch and find myself envying people who scooped ice cream for a living. At least they could daydream all day.”

When I get real bored, I like to drive downtown and get a great parking spot, then sit in my car and count how many people ask me if I’m leaving.

Steven Wright

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