Think of the experience of modern existence (post industrial revolution) as swinging between two poles – INTEREST on the one hand and BOREDOM on the other. Interest in this case has to do with being entertained, your attention being held by something. This is a passive state of consciousness. Boredom on the other hand is NOT being entertained, being DIS-interested.
Ok, now this is the psychological condition of our time. Think about it: advertising and commerce tends to treat us as passive consumers, whose attention needs to be commandeered in order to be sold to. We don’t notice that we are going through life in a passive state, either entertained by what is paraded in front of us or bored by it.
Now my question to you is: does this passive state constitute happiness? CAN one be happy in the process or cycle of entertainment-boredom, entertainment-boredom? Or is there something more to being human?
Here’s what I want to ask in my new book: Is there a way, through artistic appreciation and practice to go beyond this cycle?
Short answer: yes, and it has to do with arriving on the other side of boredom, to a kind of active interest, an interest that is not based on being entertained, but upon active engagement with the miracle of existence. The path, ironically, runs THROUGH boredom, to the point in which this cycle is broken. There are a lot of words for it: Transcendence, Ecstasy, Mindfulness, Meditation, Spiritual Awareness et cetera, and it’s been practiced for centuries. It is something we desperately need to recover in our generation.
Arthur Schopenhauer, a famously pessimistic philosopher writing at the dawn of the industrial revolution, posits that there is no way beyond the existence-as-suffering desire-boredom-desire cycle.
I’m here to tell you folks, there IS a path. I’m going to show you how people have been doing this in documentary film, but it applies to many other art forms.
Here’s one example of a filmmaker trying to do just what I’m talking about: imaging the nondramatic, mundane moments of life so that we might rediscover the gift of self awareness. If you watch “Hale County, This Morning, This Evening,” and find it slow, you will be tempted to think of it as boring. But are you trying to put it into that passive entertainment-boredom spectrum? Perhaps you can find a way to start actively participating in his imaging process.
I could go on and on about how all this works, but I’ll have to save it for later.