Sociology

boredom

Apparently, boredom was not even a concept before the word was invented around 1760, along with the word “interesting.” The tide of boredom that has risen ever since coincides with the progress of the Industrial Revolution, hinting at a reason why it has, until recently, been an exclusively Western phenomenon. The reality that the factory system created was a mass-produced reality, a generic reality of standardized products, standardized roles, standardized tasks, and standardized lives.

The more we came to live in that artificial reality, the more separate we became from the inherently fascinating realm of nature and community. Today, in a familiar pattern, we apply further technology to relieve the boredom that results from our immersion in a world of technology. We call it entertainment. Have you ever thought about that word? To entertain a guest means to bring him into your house; to entertain a thought means to bring it into your mind.

To be entertained means to be brought into the television, the game, the movie. It means to be removed from your self and the real world. When a television show does this successfully, we applaud it as entertaining. Our craving for entertainment points to the impoverishment of our reality.

Eisenstein, Charles. The Ascent of Humanity: Civilization and the Human Sense of Self. Berkeley: Evolver Editions, 2010.

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