I’m bored silly. With this site. With my boyfriend. With food. With movies. With the world.
In my twenties I used to think anyone claiming to be bored was either constitutionally weak or a dullard. There were women to be met, drugs to be taken, friends to make, music to play, a lifetime of books to read, a lifetime of movies to see, the entire world to visit. How could one possibly be bored?
Now, at my advanced age, I’ve come to empathize. But I think what I occasionally have glimpses of is less boredom than acedia. A leaching of certainty. A dearth of ambition. Is there, for instance, a point to following politics anymore? To being ground down by the ugliness of it all? To being lacerated by how many people are suffering around the world? To being outraged about injustice, cruelty, avarice? To rail against the stupidity of pop culture and cell phones, or rudeness and casual cruelty? I am no longer sure. Despite the stanching power of a diatribe over dinner, or a deft sentence on a blog, these things will continue unabated. We as a species are just as weak, selfish, and perfidious as we were during the reign of Sumeria. Neither have our principles much evolved since the dawn of the industrial revolution, dictates of conscience remaining less dictates and more obstacles around which money can be accrued. As a country we purport a superior national rectitude, mostly due to our founding documents and actions in WWII, the deposing of Hitler still the locus of our moral self-regard. And we have worn this badge over the last six decades, using it as papal dispensation for both dubious and disastrous foreign policy initiatives. But we remain the same people who dropped nuclear weapons on two fully populated cities as we are those who liberated Dachau. In other words, we are just as Tuskegee Experiment as we are Live Aid.
Yes, I too am bored. By the oppressive weight of everything I will not accomplish. I cannot read all the books I wish. And each I do leads to another five that I am desperate to. I will never see Ankor Wat or the Galapagos. I will never again be ridden by a randy coed in a messy dorm room. I will never again be giddily drunk on canned beer. In fact, my body aches, as its inner mathematical functions tell it to slowly begin shutting down. The Dust Bodega may have a few decades left, but what is twenty years in the face of all that is to come, and everything that is yet to be understood? Soon, my shelves will be bare of snack cakes and rubbers, and I will be shuttered, like all those who came before, coursing with invincibility, impossibly young and strong. Or who at least felt they once had something lasting to say. And like all of them, I will cease to say anything at all. Can it possibly matter? Can I retain my delusions of consequence while tethered to a paltry collection of articles and a few lightly read novels? Even the greatest writer’s works will fade over time. Even the greatest dozen authorial names will be irrelevant in ninety years, and the hundreds of thousands of writers who are not among them may as well have never existed. Whether in 2023, or some androidal eon beyond imagining, humanity will cease. This experiment will be over. There will be glacial silence as the planet turns, frozen, in a sepulchral orbit around a dead sun. All the things we once were and arbitrarily valued will have no meaning. If that will be true then, why is it not true now? If there is no god, and no future, and no measurable weight to our actions or totems or desires, what is there not to be bored about?
The world, therefore, can be seen as one long, beige stripe. A line up to which you may toe, but not cross, because there is no difference on either side.
For me, though, this inevitable line of inquiry always results in a stroll down to the Jewish deli on Fourth St., where I select a mammoth kosher pickle from the gamey wood barrel in back. I do this every few months. My Orthodox friends lovingly wrap the just-delivered pickle in a square of wax paper. I tote it back to my office and take tiny bites over the course of a long afternoon, eschewing all other food. By dinner, due to the wondrous properties of this sour gherkin, everything else has been re-calibrated. Suddenly, the bland seems delicious again. And even if it doesn’t, at least it tastes like something. And therefore feels like something.
It’s akin to magic. Except there are no sawed torsos, capes, or goateed legerdemain.
At bedtime my son will cry. I will hold him on my lap and push his bangs behind his ears with calloused fingers while my wife smiles from behind her book, and the remnants of my pessimism will clear away like stink over a dead horse on a brisk afternoon.
At that moment I will love life in whatever iteration it chooses, without any external need to qualify or parse.
You, Stacy, need to avail yourself of a pickle, whether it be actual or metaphorical.
Almost all truths can ultimately be fished from a leaky barrel of brine.
I love my girlfriend. I’m in a band that’s actually starting to get paid to play. All the guys are cool, even the drummer. I like my parents. We live in Memphis, which is really a great city, and have an awesome loft that is crazy cheap. Beer costs nothing here. My dog shits in the dirt lot out back, tiny contained turds that I’m not required to pick up. I ride my mountain bike through the streets at night with my headphones on, listening to our demos or maybe Charlie Parker, and pretend it’s actually the wind that is causing the tears in my eyes.
I am happy. Really happy.
What the fuck is wrong with me?
Your happiness is my happiness, and I am sincerely pleased that you took the time to send me this letter. It’s refreshing to hear from someone who is reasonably satisfied with their lot. Of course, few people tend to ask for advice on how to handle their good fortune, so it’s not surprising that my mailbox is clogged with woes and fears and blinkered disdain. But your letter was like an angioplasty, surgically clearing the cynicism which has crenellated my mailbox’s happiness valve.
You know, I was thinking of my great grandfather just yesterday. He came to America on a boat, wearing a suit with twelve dollars pinned to an inside pocket. He spoke not a word of English. He bought a bus ticket and got off when his money ran out. That bus left him in a small town in Pennsylvania. He immediately found work in a munitions factory, toiling long hours and performing incredibly dangerous tasks. At night he read voraciously, teaching himself English. Within two years, he was a foreman, and a few years later, a manager. When the factory closed he opened a furniture store, becoming a prosperous businessman mainly because he sold good merchandise at reasonable prices. He carried people on credit for years. He married, had six children, and ate a cheese and tomato sandwich for lunch every single day. He and his friends played pinochle and drank Schaeffer beer on the porch, Dean Martin dripping from the radio. He spent his declining years reading the classics in a leather Barcalounger in my Grandmother’s front parlor. His favorite book was The Brothers Karamazov. At his funeral, people stood outside the church in the hot sun because there was no room amongst the pews.
I feel a mix of pleasant warmth and melancholy when I think of him. When I imagine the hardships he endured uncomplainingly, his willingness to take risks, to work hard, to be the most ethical and honorable man he could. Then I think about my life. The ease of it. The profligacy. My whining at the most minor events or deficiencies. I think about our society, what we value, the rage we express when our every need is not immediately met. Our political system. The entitlement. The ignorance. It is perhaps a foolish nostalgia, but I do think we are in many ways a weaker and less honorable people than those who lived a few generations before us. Not because of the ease we enjoy, but the comfort we expect. And, strangely, this ease has not made us more giving and aware of the struggles of the less fortunate. It has made us harder and more entitled and more cheeseparing with our vast possessions.
My point being, Brian, I am always heartened to hear from someone who has made their way, found their calling, enjoys their family, sees the myriad possibilities in small contentments.
Not to mention the genius of Charlie Parker.
There is nothing at all wrong with you.
Extract everything you can from this moment, and strive to share it with others.
Ask Me Anything.
Talk Shit. Be Vulnerable.
Go ahead, I know it hurts.
All contact info is entirely confidential.
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