022 | Boredom.
What boredom can teach us or not teach us — it really doesn't matter.
My name is Christian Solorzano and you’re receiving this e-mail because, at some point in time, you subscribed. If you aren’t a subscriber, you can subscribe here.
What's going on
I’d like to kick off this issue with a small update about how things are going on over here. I turned thirty last month! Oh, and I moved in mid-April of 2021 and I’ve been spending time organizing my new place. I finally upgraded and purchased a new television so, I’ve been shamelessly spending way too much time glued to the TV. I’ve been watching the Criterion Channel’s Observations in Film Art. I also watched Dave Chappelle’s latest special The Closer, which I think is a masterpiece — in this nonsensical cancel culture, it almost feels dangerous to admit to being a Dave Chappelle fan. But I am a fan.
I’ve also watched the new James Bond movie, No Time To Die, which I thought was epic. And this past Friday I watched Halloween Kills, which left me disappointed as a life-long fan of Michael Myers and the Halloween franchise. It was a bit too over the top for me and Michael Myers, I felt was portrayed as almost a caricature of himself.
I’m looking forward to seeing the Velvet Underground, documentary, the band that I think is just as important as the Beatles. I actually have a drafted newsletter issue just on Lou Reed. At some point, I’ll complete it.
In September, I hosted an event through the Chicago Graphic Design Club, where I had a conversation with the lead designer of the Chicago studio, ChiByDesign, titled Reframing Design Through Anti-Racism. You can watch it here.
But most importantly, this past week, in particular, I’ve been experiencing immense boredom, and it’s not hopeless boredom either, I think rather it’s impatient boredom. The type of boredom where you are waiting for something to happen. So I’d like to dedicate this issue to boredom.
A friend of mine once told me only boring people get bored. This is something her mother told her and now she was passing it on to me. Boring people get bored. For a while, anytime I would get bored, I thought back to what she said and felt slight shivers of guilt for letting myself get to this point. This was years ago but this past week, those feelings came back.
I’ve actually thought I had quite an amicable relationship with boredom. I don’t mind it much because I try to create moments in my life where I embody boredom and let myself just sit and watch what comes up but most of the time, this boredom is conditional — it’s boredom that I set time aside for. It’s boredom that I created and constructed. It’s the type of boredom where you say, I am going to spend an hour here doing nothing and then, I will stop. It’s boredom with an end in sight.
For example, meditation can be boring — if you’re doing it right I suppose. If you’re sitting with the intention to zen out and be chill, the opposite is likely to happen but if you’re truly focusing on the breath and the present moment, man, it can sometimes be a drag. After a while, you realize that this boredom can become cool boredom as Zen Master Chögyam Trungpa calls it. A type of boredom that is boundless, free, and spontaneous. But this cool boredom doesn’t always happen. If you want to experience cool boredom, you’re going to have to face hot boredom at some point, the boredom I’m referring to here.
So anyway, this past week, an uneventful week, a week with not much happening, I sat in my home with what felt like, too much time on my hands. I started pacing around, waiting for something to happen, an opportunity, a task, a surprise, anything!
It was a slow week at work — usually, when projects begin, there’s a moment of ambiguity, when you really don’t know where you fit or what’s coming, or what to expect. So this past week, boredom settled and it felt like having a rug slipped from beneath me and it was uncomfortable.
First of all, boredom is about being vulnerable, which can be frightening. Without much effort, questions arise such as: Who am I? Am I fulfilled? What was that mannequin doing in the gymnasium? Do I like this job? Does she have fake teeth? Why did my dad throw a box of dominos at my mom? It goes on and on. But then you catch yourself and the initial reaction is to find a soothing agent to ease the discomfort. So you pull out your phone and aimlessly scroll, watching a window to some imaginary wall.
Soon you catch yourself being distracted so you go back to the boredom. You can’t escape it. It’s there and man, it’s dreadful. So you pull out your phone again or you engage in meaningless conversation, with the impending doom of boredom waiting for you as soon as you catch yourself being distracted again.
This is what Buddhism calls Saṃsāra, aimless and directionless wandering. We all do it and it isn’t necessarily beneficial. Boredom can be both benign or malign. It depends on our attitude to it. If you look up boredom on Google, you’ll find articles that say:
Boredom can be good for your health.
Why boredom is good for you.
5 scientific reasons boredom is actually good for you
Why boredom is good for you and could make you more creative
But what about when boredom doesn’t feel good? Surely, you must be doing something wrong if the boredom doesn’t feel good, right? The problem I have with titles like the ones above is that they are misleading just like the phrase boring people get bored. Sometimes boredom doesn’t feel good for me! If boredom felt good then perhaps, boredom wouldn’t be boring. Those titles can be deceiving because they place pressure on us, to feel good, which is ironic because trying to feel good is like trying to fall asleep when you can’t sleep. In our Western society, we always want to monetize and extract value from things, even boredom. Boredom is a natural condition and it has a value that is beyond our understanding and intellect — a true enigma.
The etymology of the word bored is:
"wearied, suffering from ennui,"
Ennui means a feeling of weariness and dissatisfaction
Dissatisfaction from what? I think that’s a question to ask.
Being bored includes being okay with ambiguity and simplicity, which is what I struggled with this week but it can be frightening because it suspends our notion of reality and nullifies our identities. It can be the terror within because it is the withdrawal from our habitual fixations.
What is left when the flourishes, ornaments, and entertainment vanishes? Next time you find yourself jonesing for a fix of excitement, settle into the boredom and see what comes up.
Till next time
Oak Park, IL
Beginner’s Mind | A Playlist
If you follow the Beginner’s Mind playlist below on Spotify, every month or so, it’ll be updated with new music. I’ve also added the titles of the songs below.
Death At One’s Elbow The Smiths
Beethoven 250 A Winged Victory For The Sullen
Everyday Is Like Halloween Ministry
Spiegel im Spiegel Arvo Pärt
Lightning Over Heaven Amelie Lens, Anyma
Mary In The Morning Al Martino
The Visit T-Rex