Boring! It’s the final condemnation, the complete put-down. Parents hear it after a concert or on a family vacation or in church. Actually, it’s pronounced, “Boooriing!” and it seems to emerge from the depths of disgust. It should be a four-letter word. The epithet never loses its power to terrify. Children, with blunt honesty, hurl the accusation like a hand grenade toward anything they consider undeserving of their presence, but adults, though perhaps more politely circumspect, fear it and feel it and flee it just as much.

In 1958 the American writer Barnaby Conrad was badly gored in a bullfight in Spain. Eva Gabor and Noel Coward were overheard talking about the incident in a New York restaurant. “Noel, dahling,” said Eva, “have you heard the news about poor Bahnaby? He vas terribly gored in Spain.”

“He was what?” asked Coward in alarm.

“He vas gored!”

“Thank heavens. I thought you said he was bored.”

The Boredom We Are Given

Since we all experience boredom, it’s worth thinking about. Like the gender of those who suffer it, boredom comes in two basic kinds—the boredom we choose and the boredom we are given.

What can you say about a person who is bored standing on the rim of the Grand Canyon, or bored in the presence of close friends, or bored listening to the music of Bach or Ellington, or bored watching Joe Montana complete a 30-yard pass? I suppose few would be interested in all these things. But if nothing penetrates the wall of indifference, something has died deep within. One can slumber through life without ever really waking up. Through lazy neglect, the ground of the soul can get too hardened to receive the common showers ...

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