Thursday, February 15, 2007

How to be free

Boredom was invented in 1760. That is the year, according to academic Lars Svendsen in his excellent study, 'A Philosophy of Boredom' (2005), that the word was first used in English. The other great invention of the time was the Spinning Jenny, which heralded the start of the Industrial Revolution. In other words, boredom arrives with the division of labour and the transformation of enjoyable autonomous work into tedious slave-work.

And we are very bored. Go into chat rooms and forums on the Internet between three and five in the afternoon and you will find hundreds of posts from office workers reading, 'Bored bored bored!' These pleas for help, these desperate entreaties from trapped spirits, are like messages in a bottle, sent out into the ether, into the oceans of cyberspace, in the hope that someone out there is listening and that someone out there may be able to do something to help. The odds, of course, are low.

This wonderful passage comes from Tom Hodgkinson's recent book, 'How to be free', which I have just started reading. Already, it looks like it may be as good as Hodgkinson's sublime 'How to be Idle'. Chapter titles include 'Reject Career and All Its Empty Promises', 'Stop Competing', 'Death to Shopping, or Fleeing the Prison of Consumer Desire', 'Live Mortgage-Free; Be a Happy Wanderer', and, my favourite, 'Self Important Puritans Must Die'.

3 comments:

ton amie, susan b. of philly said...

This book sounds great. I was just extolling the virtues of working part-time on Maxine's blog. Gainful employment is often boring, unless you're lucky enough to have a job doing what you *really* love (B. Appleyard comes to mind).

Gordon McCabe said...

He is a lucky buggar, isn't he? He gets to write about cosmology AND The Simpsons!

Neil Forsyth said...

Boredom can be useful sometimes. But you must go with it, wallow in it, embrace it, even. There is a morbid fear of boredom these days and there are too many easy ways out of it. If you go with boredom, give it a chance, let the mind drift, the stillness and emptiness of it can be surprisingly rewarding.