Time & boredom

I don’t know where things like the following come from except to say it’s a reverie triggered by reading Joseph Brodsky’s essay, “Listening to Boredom” (from his commencement address at Dartmouth College, reprinted in the March 1995 Harper’s). It isn’t obviously related to what I’d like this blog to be (mostly) about: the circuitry hidden between detachment and desire where I’ve found God’s presence awhirl.  Yet somehow it is. Perhaps you will see the connection, if there is one, and help me understand it.



The passage of time is painful as the tearing off of a bandage protecting a wound you did not know you had is painful. It exposes your life, that is to say your woundedness, to the air.

Joseph Brodsky recommends (or so I infer from his essay ) that you must protest the passage of time by indulging your boredom. Watch the “monotonous splendor” of the moments remaining in your life tick by. These are windows into infinity and they hurt and make you restless and it is in the restlessness, or rather beneath it, that you might find what is wanting in the world that your life might satisfy. At this moment the window becomes a mirror and the infinity you see is in you.

The boredom passes. Something seizes your attention, takes it, and you, captive: the phone, the buzzer telling you laundry is dry, someone calling out your name, or a car running a red light in the intersection you are crossing. The driver is indulging her boredom, watching the splendor of moments. The moment before her now may be your last. Neither of you knows. It rips the bandage free and rolls it into a ball between her palms and hands it to you. It is what was wanting in the world, satisfied.

Cultivate boredom. Expose your woundedness to the stinging air.

One thought on “Time & boredom”

  1. I must be in a similar mindset today, as these piece triggered two associations. One is from the website of an artist friend, in which she speaks of how, when her husband was nearing death from brain cancer, the two of them one day spent hours watching snow fall. “I have not watched snow fall like that before or since. Time slowed down,” she wrote. (See http://www.chrisdukeart.com, under the About the Artist tab). The other association is with a poem by Marie Howe, which I also looked at this morning, called “The Meadow.” It has to do with listening and paying attention in order to find the words that are waiting to emerge and “that could change your life.” peace, Linda.

    Liked by 1 person

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