Friday, April 27, 2012

Boredom Kills

There is something in human beings that not only allows us to be objective, but without which we could hardly be human.

Animals, for example, cannot be just -- nor can they be unjust -- because they cannot take a disinterested view of things. If my dog is eaten by a mountain lion, it may be sad, but not unjust. Conversely, it would be unjust if she were eaten by Obama.

Schuon defines objectivity as "the perfect adaptation of the intelligence to objective reality," or "conformity to the nature of things” in a manner independent "of all interference of individual tendencies or tastes." You might say that objectivity is subjectivity minus passion, desire, interest, and perspective.

But we really cannot define objectivity in isolation from subjectivity, because the two obviously co-arise and are complementary. There is also paradox here, in that only a subject may be objective.

Likewise, all objects have a degree of subjectivity (however attenuated), which is to say, "depth," but this depth only becomes self-aware, or "luminous," in human beings.

Now, science partakes of objectivity, but it cannot account for it, nor can it ever be truly (i.e., literally) objective, first, because science is the adequation of theory to phenomena (not noumenon), and second, because no scientific theory can account for the existence of the scientific subject.

Failure to appreciate this leads to the irony of a scientism which imagines it not only possible but desirable to subtract the scientist from the science, and ultimately intelligence from cosmos. Then you have a science that applies to everything but reality.

In short, the "perfect science" would exclude the scientist entirely, but this should be understood as a practical ideal, not a real possibility, for even at the level of quantum physics we know that facts are determined by perspective (e.g., the wave/particle complementarity).

To imagine we can rid ourselves of the subject is a little like turning off the light and trying to jump into bed before it gets dark.

Science simply presumes the scientist, which is fine, because it is not the role of science to penetrate to essences or to being as such. Only by collapsing this hierarchy can science presume to be an objective account of reality.

In other words, it is easy to be comprehensive if one simply omits everything one's metaphysic cannot account for. But that can hardly be called objective or disinterested.

For example, scientists who are conspicuously interested in eliminating the spiritual dimension of reality -- the atheistic evangelists -- are hardly objective.

Rather, their passion comes through loud and clear. As I said in the book, it is more interesting to ponder the source of this ironic "passion for meaninglessness" than it is to contemplate their absence of meaning.

It reminds me of something Dennis Prager said about being on a particularly boring date with a woman. In order to deal with the boredom, he would try to get to the bottom of why the person was so boring. This would generate interesting theories on the phenomenology of boredom.

Prager doesn't know it, but the phenomenology of boredom is actually conceptualized in psychoanalytic theory. In psychoanalysis, there is the "transference," which involves the patient's unconscious feelings toward the analyst, and the "counter-transference," which involves the feelings provoked in the analyst by the patient.

Some patients are flat boring. Why is this? Often it is not pathognomonic per se, just the result of, say, low intelligence, inadequate education, poor vocabulary, or undeveloped imagination.

Interestingly, these people are almost like "objects," analogous to the animals you might see grazing in a landscape. Frankly, it's like conversing with a cow, and just as edifying. (And don't pretend you don't have any bovine acquaintances.)

But there are other instances when the counter-transferential boredom is pathological. Put it this way: whenever two subjects are together, a (potentially) vibrant space is created between them.

For some patients, the transmission of boredom is a kind of preemptive attack that collapses or warps this space, so that certain areas become off-limits.

This kind of enforced boredom can have the appearance of stupidity, but it's worse than that, because it aggressively encloses you in their boring and unimaginative world. (Think of the liberal narrative, which is simultaneously tedious and obnoxious.)

In extreme cases, there is a condition called "alexithymia," which essentially involves a complete detachment of subject from object, and an inability to ascribe words to emotions.

There is clearly something analogous in the spiritual dimension. I think of someone like Schuon, who is able to make such exceedingly fine and intelligible distinctions on these planes, using language in a clear and compelling -- and objective -- manner.

Conversely, I think of a boredom-inducing troll who eliminates and deluminates this impossibly rich reality with a crude and childlike "there's no such thing!"

The other day I read something to the effect that poetry speaks of imaginary ponds with real toads. This species of toad dumps toxins into the pond, and then claims that toads don't exist.

Boredom does as boredom is. Which is to say, dead.

47 Comments:

Blogger Magister said...

I tell my children, "You're not bored right now. You're boring. Be interesting, and then you won't be so bored."

Turning the tables like this annoys them, but they get that they have a choice, harumph away, and soon find themselves happy with something else.

"Go outside" has the same effect.

Hooray!

Is boredom a sin? I should think so.

alexithymia

Bob, that is awesome. Thanks for that!

4/27/2012 08:55:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Conversely, I think of a boredom-inducing troll who eliminates and deluminates this impossibly rich reality with a crude and childlike "there's no such thing!"

Such a willful declaration, that. As if one could close one's eyes and shut one's ears and thus make the mystery cease to exist.

4/27/2012 09:30:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

To say nothing of the fact that mysteries are a hoot, to put it bluntly. What would life be without them?

4/27/2012 09:43:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

My wife was raised mostly in the city and sees a cow. I was raised on a farm and see dairy cows, beef cows, Jerseys, Holsteins, Guernseys, Herefords, Angus, etc., plus seeing good or bad specimens of the various breeds. So, yes, the better you understand something, the more interesting it can potentially be to you.

When I hear that "familiarity breeds contempt", I think that familiarity sounds more superficial than understanding.

4/27/2012 09:47:00 AM  
Blogger Skorpion said...

Yiddish has a wonderful term for this kind of aggressive dullard: a nebbish, which literally translates as "a nobody". The best definition I've ever heard is, "When a nebbish walks into a room, it seems as if someone just left."

4/27/2012 09:53:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

@ Bob, Exactly!

How dull and, well, boring and meaningless the world would be if everything had a concrete and mundane explanation. Newtonian physics is interesting, but imagine if that really did explain everything? "Nothing else to see, folks. Go back to grazing." Which is pretty much what the troll is saying when he argues that "the science is settled" or "there ain't no such thing."

The fact that existence itself transcends scientific explanation makes the world wonderful. But to some minds, I guess that must be terrifying.

Mushroom, good point. Perhaps familiarity should only really breed contempt when the subject is genuinely contemptible.

@ Skorpion, :D

4/27/2012 09:54:00 AM  
Blogger vanderleun said...

"Dennis Prager said about being on a particularly boring date with a woman. In order to deal with the boredom, he would try to get to the bottom of why the person was so boring. "

Not to be more boring about this but I've heard this for decades. Hardly original with Prager.

4/27/2012 10:13:00 AM  
Blogger John Lien said...

"For example, scientists who are conspicuously interested in eliminating the spiritual dimension of reality -- the atheistic evangelists -- are hardly objective."

These guys have to ignore or dismiss the spiritual experiences of billions of people over thousands of years. I'll give them the fact that some/many/most "spritiual" experiences have mundane explanations but ALL of them? Just one cracks their protective, scientistic egg and, as julie mentions, that would be terrifying.

4/27/2012 10:45:00 AM  
Blogger Magister said...

I know plenty of superb scientists who go to Mass on Sunday. They know the limits of science, and the limits of theology, and as a result, they are productive, helpful, and happy.

"Good fences make good neighbors."

In fact, these neighbors talk over their fences to share problems, findings, and possible solutions. I don't see a down side to any of this, unless you're an atheist crank, an uncurious crank, or a troll.

Can any of us get out of bed, look at ourselves, and not boggle at the living fact that our very bodies are vibrations in a quantum field? I mean, how mind-blowing does reality have to be before you get your mind really blown?

It's all mind-blowing, all the way down.

You just have to ask genuine questions -- not the ones fed to you by your "betters."

4/27/2012 11:57:00 AM  
Blogger Jules said...

The visions of Akiane are definitely not boring... she paints "quantum worlds", talks of parallel universes etc. worth checking out.

http://akiane.com/home

4/28/2012 02:28:00 AM  
Blogger vogz said...

Bob,

Did you read Peggy Noonan's latest?

Sample: "And this president is always out there, talking. But—and forgive me, because what I’m about to say is rude—has anyone noticed how boring he is?"

4/28/2012 08:49:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Saw that. I'd be curious to know why she didn't know it it in 2008.

4/28/2012 08:52:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Good question. Based on no evidence (since I don't generally read her stuff), I'd probably guess that like a lot of people who might otherwise have voted Republican, she got caught up in the fantasy that electing a black man would somehow prove once and for all that white Americans aren't racists.

4/28/2012 08:56:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Jules,
Re. Akiane, I hadn't seen anything about her in a while. It's nice to see she's still painting, and hasn't burned out like a lot of child prodigies do. You're right, she's probably never bored.

Re. her paintings, last time I looked (several years ago) they were impressive, but for whatever reason left me cold. The maturity that shows in her more recent stuff gives it a lot more depth, though, to my eye at least. It'll be interesting to see what she does as an adult. Thanks for the link.

4/28/2012 09:09:00 AM  
Blogger William said...

"has anyone noticed how boring he is?"

Yes...

TPM:
'Mostly sticking to his go-to stump topics, Romney delivered a sleepy address to students at the Ohio school, some of whom seemed to struggle to stay awake. Sometimes it was a losing struggle."

4/28/2012 09:45:00 AM  
Blogger vogz said...

Bob and julie,

Here in Chicagoland, it's called hopium. Many other Republicans are afflicted with a similar malady called dopium.

4/28/2012 09:48:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Part of the problem is that Obama thinks and speaks at a sixth grade level. Which is the same reason liberals find him interesting, because it is a challenge for them to attain such a lofty level.

4/28/2012 10:07:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Which is also why his college transcripts are a state secret.

4/28/2012 10:12:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

Gagdad said " Which is the same reason liberals find him interesting, because it is a challenge for them to attain such a lofty level."

Lol.

4/28/2012 12:57:00 PM  
Blogger William said...

Tennessean:

"a physical science teacher at the school said she believed men and women came from Adam and Eve rather than evolution."

Your people... be proud. Investing in the education of America and advancing critical thinking.

4/29/2012 09:32:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

It's amazing that William can perform any music at all when he only has that one note, and it's so badly out of tune...

4/29/2012 09:37:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

This does provide the opportunity, though to once again ponder why he's so boring. What kind of mental defect causes someone to compulsively demand that one group be held accountable for the actions of a completely unrelated individual or group, whose only connection is a profession of faith?

It is as absurd as if we were to demand that he hold himself accountable for the guys who beat up random strangers in the name of Trayvon. I have no doubt that the perps, if they vote, vote Democrat. Gosh, since they're Democrats and William's a Democrat, maybe we should demand that he be held accountable. By his logic, he's responsible!

These are your people, William! Be proud! It's social justice in action!

4/29/2012 09:56:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Illiterate vs. illiterates. None of my business.

4/29/2012 09:58:00 AM  
Anonymous William said...

That's Dr. Illiterate to you, pal.

4/29/2012 10:33:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

:D

4/29/2012 10:48:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

" Which is the same reason liberals find him interesting, because it is a challenge for them to attain such a lofty level."

You got to give it to willian, he is at least able to pick the most unboring of places to spread his greyness.

4/29/2012 11:10:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

His paradise is so tedious, he comes here looking for a serpent to spice things up.

4/29/2012 11:33:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

In other words, the garden is fake but the snakes are real.

4/29/2012 11:36:00 AM  
Blogger vogz said...

Was going to call out William's posts as red herrings, but then realized that wasn't quite right. More like rotting Asian carps or something...

4/29/2012 12:00:00 PM  
Blogger William said...

Right, "pal"?

4/29/2012 01:06:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Dang phone, this is what should have pasted in my last comment for willian:

"...something that our intellectually deficient stringed instrument wrangler doesn’t seem able to grasp."

4/29/2012 01:48:00 PM  
Anonymous William said...

You folks had better stop criticizing the left, or I'll do to you what I did to Protein Wisdom -- that is, make myself look like a total ass!

4/29/2012 03:06:00 PM  
Anonymous William said...

And yeah, I squealed on Condo, but don't think you can turn me into my university due to abusive and sexually inappropriate comments, because my dean is a leftist jackass too!

4/29/2012 03:12:00 PM  
Anonymous William said...

I call it Two Pussies in Paradise.

4/29/2012 03:18:00 PM  
Anonymous William said...

Oh, I see. You don't want petty and vindictive zealots like me in charge of your healthcare, just because I have an irrational hatred of conservatives. That makes no sense.

4/29/2012 04:20:00 PM  
Anonymous William said...

Okay, I admit it. Conservatives are better informed and more open-minded than liberals. It's science!

4/29/2012 05:24:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Ha! The science is settled!

4/29/2012 06:06:00 PM  
Blogger Jim said...

Bob

Thanks for the comment moderation, starting to be boring.

4/29/2012 06:31:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Speaking of science, why do leftists hate science?!

Your people, William. Be proud! They're investing in the education of America and advancing critical thinking. And science!

4/29/2012 07:48:00 PM  
Blogger William said...

Julie,
Thanks for comparing stupid occupy idiots and black thugs with GOP lawmakers and conservative creationist teachers. I agree, they are on the same level.

Condon,

Learn your lesson, 'pal'?

4/30/2012 06:54:00 PM  
Anonymous William said...

Or is it me who proves that leftists and creationists are on the same intellectual level... now I'm all confused.

5/01/2012 07:10:00 AM  
Blogger Cond0011 said...

@William-

"Condon, Learn your lesson, 'pal'?"

Lesson, William? Oh those words are pregnant with meanings - but not in the way you would think.

Yes, I am facing discipline. As to its severity, I know not at this time - and corrective measures are sure to follow. But one thing I DO know and that it is not due to the accusations, distortions and fabrications that you have written of my words to my superiors.

As usual your words are provocative and bullying at a blog where you are not welcome. I find it most interesting that you have deleted the vast majority of the years of your comments here, William. I find it interesting that you have one internet identity after another to do your abusive trolling commentary on one conservative blog after another.

I find it interesting that you are still here.

5/06/2012 10:34:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Cond --

If you need any testimony as to his obnoxious, abusive, insulting, inappropriate, childish, and provocative behavior, I'd be happy to provide it. He's only here to bait people like you (and him), so your only transgression is in responding in kind.

5/06/2012 11:13:00 AM  
Blogger Cond0011 said...

" He's only here to bait people like you (and him), so your only transgression is in responding in kind."

Thank you, Bob. I think your comment you supplied on Monday the 23rd did make a difference. If I need more info, I'll stop by the sacred trash-can and drop you an email.

...and yes, that really was a transgression on my part (pointless negativity with the purpose to break and not to build - 'war', but with words. 'Social Warfare' is a big no no in my book).

I noticed how you coupled him and I in the same category ("He's only here to bait people like you (and him),...") and so it begs to be questioned as to what the commonality would be (but then, I wouldn't learn as much if you simply told me instead of me sorting that one out, eh?). Commonality with ... William?! Say its not so! :)

...and thank you also, Chris and Julie for your concern.

5/06/2012 01:13:00 PM  
Blogger Cond0011 said...

" 'Social Warfare' is a big no no in my book"

Afterall, 'Social' and 'Warfare' are a contradiction in terms (lets use the terms 'Creative Construction' and 'Creative Destruction' as not all warfare is evil as evidenced with the Crusades and the fact that Jesus was NOT a Pacifist) and the practice of such inevitably creates a Non-kosher Nihilistic vacuum where all sorts of pathologies can creep in.

As a Psychologist, I am sure you've had to deal all sorts of that kind of spiritual stench.

5/06/2012 02:14:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

--"I noticed how you coupled him and I in the same category ("He's only here to bait people like you (and him),...") and so it begs to be questioned as to what the commonality would be"

Consider it a variation of the saying that "you can't cheat an honest man." Nor can one bait a dispassionate man who has no interest in demonstrating his superiority, and who understands that a leftist wouldn't be one if he weren't impervious to fact and logic, and insentient to anything transcending his terribly restricted ideology.

To put it another way, seriously responding to someone of William's intellectual and spiritual caliber is self-indulgent at best -- unless, of course, he is used as an occasion for fine insultainment, in the manner of, say, James Taranto, who is able to wittily ridicule the left without ever descending to their level.

5/06/2012 05:20:00 PM  
Blogger Cond0011 said...

"Nor can one bait a dispassionate man who has no interest in demonstrating his superiority, and who understands that a leftist wouldn't be one if he weren't impervious to fact and logic, "

I did get baited. That is true - thus breaking my rule of not going to places I am not wanted (and got some serious trouble for myself)

I never thought I was demonstrating my superiority, though - by just refuting his arguments I keep hoping for some glimmer of understanding on his part. For me, I know that there has been times where a 'liberal' would have a point I could not refute and it would sink in, thus creating a change.

I've known him for a much shorter time, Bob(albiet ~ 7 months). Also, minus the structure of your understanding of human behavior, my intuition on letting go of dealing with trolls is far more qualitative and apt for error.

I realize my mistake. At least, some of it. Thanks for the addtional thoughts.

5/06/2012 06:08:00 PM  

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