The Decision Scene

Atomic Explosions

My favorite modern philosopher, Alain de Botton, wrote in On Love that “we are all more intelligent than we are capable, and awareness of the insanity of love has never saved anyone from the disease.”

I have never been married, but I have been in a long-term relationship that took on the features, properties, qualities, and extreme boredom that comes from wedding oneself to another. It may seem mea to use an intimate relationship as my example of boredom, but I wanted to explore the paradox of boredom-desire because it characterizes my most intense relationships to philosophy, work, and others.

I spent six years living with a man whom I loved deeply. About two years into the relationship, the sweetness of falling in love had turned into bittersweet boredom. Whereas everything he once did for and with me was exciting, now, nothing could excite me. His jokes weren’t funny. His habits—even how loud he sneezed—grated on my nerves like a thousand mental papercuts. He wasn’t nearly so smart as I’d thought he was and his friends were rather dreary. In the quicksand of routine, boredom had set in and suddenly anything out there seemed better than being stuck inside the relationship.

We eventually ended our relationship and I moved out, but strangely, over time, the intensity to return, the longing to go back grew instead of diminishing.

I tried all kinds of cures: I moved overseas to begin a new adventure. I found a new lover. I started a Ph.D. program. Took up all manner of sport. Still, the longing thickened.

In a letter to him some years ago I pined:

It’s hard to explain, but our relationship offered a primal, irreplaceable comfort. True North. A nest high in the treetops.

There it is, the answer: primal, Truth North, a nest high in the treetops. Home. I had left my Father'(s) house to go live with this man and when I left this man’s house, I was undone by the leaving, for where do we go when we cannot go home?

As I look back on this time in my life now, I realize that, again, this reflection is about place. During this time, interestingly, I was reading The Wine-Dark Sea. The author reinterpreted the tale of Odysseus, giving it modern application. It was boredom—that siren!—that called me away from home.

"I wish you well, however you do it, but if you only knew in your own heart how many hardships you were fated to undergo before getting back to your country, you would stay here with me and be the lord of this household and be an immortal, for all your longing once more to look on that wife for whom you are pining all your days here." Book Five, lines” The Odyssey 205-210.

Boredom stirs the imagination, sends dreams and machinations to our mind’s eye that make us want to search, to go, to launch into our own hero’s quest. Boredom initiates.

But, how do we harness boredom’s instigating properties without also burning down the house as we march to sea? For it is the memory and comfort of home—the nest high in the treetops—the longing to return, the ache of homesickness and the belief that we can go home that gives us the strength to meet the Cyclops and Sea Monsters.