Friday, 3 October 2008

The Writing Life - Bathrooms, Boredom & The Business of Perception

It's a strange world.
Someone once said that we see the world not as it is, but as we are. Which is why there are more ways of seeing the world than there are people in the world (if you take into consideration the fact that we do not even remain "as we are" for long, this moment's "as we are" is not the same as the next's.)

There's another saying on the theme of "seeing" that has stuck to me ever since I first heard it:

You must not only be working; you must BE SEEN to be working (emphasis mine)
I posted a new album on facebook yesterday, titled SELF-PORTRAIT OF THE FACEBOOKER IN A SWEDISH BATHROOM. It consists of a series of photos I took of myself in my hotel room on the morning after the single night I spent in Göteborg at the Book Fair, using the bathroom mirror to make possible the self-portaiture. (My photo on this blog is a product of another session of self-portraiture, this time taken in my hotel room - my home for the 3 months - in Uppsala, not long after my arrival).

In the hours since I posted that album on facebook comments have been rolling in - which in the first place is the whole point of putting pictures on facebook. What is interesting is that all the comments have the same verdict of BOREDOM, and go ahead to sympathise with me, and kindly invite me to abandon my boredom and find my way back to Lagos. I should assume that they are all tongue-in-cheek, but for the purposes of this post :-) I have chosen not to make that assumption.

It's interesting, the human mechanism of perception. I think back to last night's US Vice-Presidential debate (the friggin' event was 3a.m. Swedish Time) (digression - someone said it was a debate for the most powerful office in America, the office of Dick Cheney), and the fact that the whole 'encounter' was constructed to operate almost solely on perception. Which is what politics is all about. It is not who I am, not even who you think I am, it is who I make you think I am, by conscious, unconscious and subconscious acts of commission & omission, delusion & deletion, elocution & evasion.

One and half hours of making you think this is what I am, and making you think this is what my oppponent is.

In a certain sense the BIG point re my Self-Portraiture is not whether I was bored or not. What does it matter? And who's to say boredom is necessarily a bad thing. An IDLE mind, not a BORED one, is the DEVIL'S WORKSHOP :-)))

The BIG(GER) point is that the act (my act) of standing in front of a mirror - which billions of people around the world do everyday - has somehow found itself (yes, the state of helplessness must be emphasized) translated, by onlookers (whose onlooking I sought in the first place, and for which I am grateful) into a 'sensing' of painful state of boredom from which I ought to be redeemed.

And this BIG(GER) point opens the door for a question, thrown out to an 'imaginary' audience - which is greater: the Boredom (1) that pushed me to take a self-portrait, or the Boredom (2) that permitted me to post the photos on Facebook (which by the way must have been envisioned by its founders as an online self-help group for persons suffering from Chronic Boredom)

We might even go ahead and throw everything open (and start from the Beginning) by asking: WHAT EXACTLY IS BOREDOM? Is it the same as IDLENESS?
I doubt.

IDLENESS is merely a state. An atmosphere. Passive. It doesn't necessarily make any demands on its object. It can exist alongside its object, placid, not altering anything. Even TVs and Computers can be IDLE.

BOREDOM on the other hand is a Burden (Burdome?), an active state, requiring a living, feeling, thinking object it can FEED on. It makes demands, it is selfish, cruel even. It asks politically and temperamentally incorrect questions, it is palpable in a way that is more than merely psychic, in a way perhaps comparable to the feeling one will experience in a rapidly-depressurising cabin (never been in one so I can only guess).

Three Points. No, Four

One. You can be idle and satisfied. You cannot be bored AND satisfied.

Two. Idleness rarely extends beyond itself to produce anything of lasting value. It is content with merely being bypassed, or avoided, or endured, or adapted to. Boredom on the other hand is a questioner, a demander, asking WHY and WHY NOT, refusing to sit still and at the same time refusing to move about. Refusing to be involved in any action that will attempt to flatten it into a stable pattern. Boredom will usually push its object out of its 'skin' and create a new object, as well as a completely new (third party) entity (this is where the inventive/entrepreneurial/creative powers of Boredom come in.

Three. Boredom, unlike idleness cannot be lost. It can only be converted from one form to another.

Four. All boredoms are equal, but certainly some must be more equal than others.


Back to where I started - the business of Perception
There is actually the possibility of things getting slightly more complicated:

I am not who I think I am.
I am not who you think I am.
I am who I think you think I am

And the Apostle Paul had the most interesting take of all on it: All things to all men.

1 comment:

Adewale Ajani said...


Wetin be all this?

I think you need to hastily get your a*s back to Lagos before these philosophical harangues and musings get the better of you.