Sunday, November 24, 2013

What is This Thing You Call Boredom?

One of the standard objections to mass immortality is that if we lived a long time, we’d be bored.

Obviously, I have plenty of objections to that:

1. “So – boredom is a fate worse than death?”

Flickr user Julie Edgley
2. “Seriously – you'd really rather die than be bored? Wouldn't that disqualify you from half of all jobs? Hey, if you don't want to live forever, it can only mean that someday you want to die.”

(Trigger warning for suicide)

3. “People don’t get bored because they’ve just been alive way too long, and they'd better kill themselves so they can cross 'death' off their bucket list. They get bored because they're dissatisfied with their lives at present, and it's time for a change. They usually get new jobs, meet new people or move. They don't off themselves.”

4. “Suicidal people aren't tired of living. They're hopelessly depressed and looking for some way out. They can't imagine their lives getting better or they don't want to live through it until it does. I sincerely hope that if you ever meet a suicidal person and they just say that they're bored and that they've somehow 'seen it all,' you don't take them seriously.”

5. “So – you're okay with people that have indefinite lifespans offing themselves? Really? You wouldn't get a suicidal immortal person help, because their suicide is obviously just a natural consequence of their immortal ennui? What if it wasn't? What if the immortal was suicidal for all the reasons people are actually suicidal – how would you even know? You'd be a suicide enabler?”

6. “What difference does it make if the suicidal person is 213 years old instead of 13 or 81 or 31 years old? Would you pull a double standard and say suicidal tendencies are okay past a certain age? If so – what age? Can we vote?”

7. “Well – if we live long enough, maybe we'll be able to put people in living stasis if they just get tired of living anyway, and then they can be revived and be immortal again. That's a way better deal than we have now.”

Source: Wikimedia, Tomas Castelazo

But I have to say, as a 143-year-old, my initial emotional reaction is as follows:

“What is this thing you call boredom?”

Really. If we’re talking about sustained, prolonged periods of boredom where you just don’t have a clue about what to do with yourself, everything you can think of sucks, you're tired of absolutely everything – yeah, I've never felt that.

I've had boring jobs before, sure. At those times, I was always thinking about the way to get a better job. Shockingly, I never blamed it on my supposed immortal ennui – I blamed it on the job. Being bored to death is a bad joke and a dead metaphor, not a career path.

Flickr user XPeria2Day

It's also difficult to be bored when you're always with people. Seeing as how lots of modern conversation topics didn't exist when I was younger, I sure as hell haven't heard them all. And if meeting new people could ever get boring, most people would get bored of it way before age eighty.

I've also never spent one day alone.

Some of my younger friends will talk about days they slept in when they were single or their parents were away, and they just hung around the house or apartment alone and bored out of their minds. That's literally never happened to me.

I grew up with six siblings, and we sure didn't have separate rooms. Most of my early jobs – well, suffice to say, I didn't get days off, and if I did, I spent them with family. During those years, my family barely saw each other, and we wanted something to remember us by.

Vampire life – you definitely don't get days off. Spending an entire day without some form of contact with another person would literally be a death sentence for me. And I'm alive!

That is one thing about my own version of vampire life: it is a surefire cure for boredom. How do you be bored when life never gives you any time to be?

Really though – I thought the Internet was supposed to be a mass cure for boredom. You're bored? Have you read all of this Indie author's books? Have you read all the blogs on this subject? Or the most highly recommended fanfics? Have you read every new science journal that is freely available to the public now? Have you tried this new game? You know everything there is to know about the Byzantine Empire and you couldn't read more? You've watched every video on Youtube?

You couldn't possibly have seen every cat video yet, come on.

I grew up on the frontier. I'm pretty sure the worst boredom of my life was in my preteen years, before the family moved to Chicago. I couldn't have made my hundred teens that boring if I tried.

Somehow though, immortal ennui is practically the default theme in vampire and immortal fiction, and that's with folks that are way older than I am and should know full well how lucky they are to be here.

File:Malczewski Death.jpg
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Better yet, for some mysterious reason, it's still usually the good Vampires in fiction who want mortality, and the evil ones pointing out the obvious.

Hey, even if you're a stereotypical reactionary conservative who thinks that all social and technological progress is just leading us further and further from the promised land of your youth – don't you still want to live a long time, just to see if the world goes back? It's happened before.

There's an oft-repeated saying about immortality: millions long for immortality who don't know what to do with themselves on a rainy day.

That seems like a pretty good test to me: have you ever had a moment where you didn't know what to do with yourself on a rainy day?

Me neither.

So we're fine.

Flickr user

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