We elect tyrants into office hoping they be ridiculous and bizarre to help us forget the tyranny of the everyday and the quotidian until one day we all realize even this “escape” has gone boring. The life of a postmodern man is that senseless attempt to escape boredom.
Today was cold. We lunched on reheated food from dishes of two nights ago. Lunch reminded me of those lunches I had back in the Philippines when I never really had to enjoy food, as the sole object of the act of eating is satiation of hunger. I didn’t feel like laughing at what would have been funny jokes. This was a slow day.
The saddest thing is when even sadness has stopped being sad and the only thing that’s worth whining about is the more tenacious feeling of boredom.
None of us, not even the most free-living of souls, would want to remain in this sorry state for good, would not want to be domesticated and be sort of pinned down to the ground. Novelty can be fatiguing at certain points. We all want to go back to a place where there is a sense of order in things, where we all feel secure and warm and feel and see the beauty behind waking up the following day and the days that follow in the same bed next to the same person.
I spent the entire morning today in front of the tube, aimlessly switching channels to recuperate from the onslaught of the previous week. I attempted to deaden my mind’s incessant worryings about the approaching week through the nefariously deadening programs on cable TV. I found the Chinese comedy shows hilariously incomprehensible, Arirang interestingly odd, the Indian soap operas alluringly ostentatious, and the American game and talk shows exasperatingly stupid.
At lunch time, instead of going to the nearest McDonald branch, I put on my aging trainers and pumped iron until around two. Feeling bored doing the routines I’ve been doing for the past two weeks, I ran back home to GA under the glaring 2pm sun.
I phoned him to check if he was already awake, but it turned out he’s still lingering in his bed recovering from last night’s outing with his friends. So I took a quick shower, went to his place, and forced him out of it. I accompanied him to the nearest supermarket to do the grocery, buy some Christmas decors, and back to his place to give his cupboards some semblance of order.
Then we heard mass.
These past months I came to realize that the entire process of domestication, the giving in to the quotidian, is not that bad after all. We all have to eventually succumb to the predictable and the known because only in this way can we give ourselves a break from the aches of the punishing what-will-bes.
When one is confronted with the commonplace and the routine, he is also faced with a blandness so trivial it discourages him from writing. Boredom dominates our existence. Only in movies does life exhibit that ‘life-likeness’; in reality life is predictable and trite.
It is not to say, however, that I have altogether stopped writing these days. As a matter of fact, the opposite is true, I am writing like a deranged man meeting impossible deadlines. Grad school eats a big chunk of my time, writing term papers, proposals, and reports. But these are texts I myself find very uninteresting to read.
The irony of my situations sticks as hard as greenish phlegm on the walls of my lungs in rainy seasons. While I tell my students to write whenever they find time to pencil their thoughts into any surface, I cannot find time to sit and meditate like a member of the bourgeois, de-synchronize myself from the neurotic pace of everything, think about existentialist ideas I pretend I have in latency, and have these reflected in a readable medium.
I have none of these luxuries.
Last night, as we are wont to do recently, we lay next to each other in a single bed, exchanging stories, laughing at each other’s jokes, talking about our past and our future, waiting for sleep to visit us. These sweeping moments are my welcome excuse from the commonplace and the routine. These sweeping moments we spend together, in tight embrace, are just a few of those very few things that I look forward to at the end of the day. Although I do not have the luxury of time that will allow me to linger on the intangibles or be saddled by the frivolity of some of my pursuits, I find myself unable to negotiate these few hours before midnight and have it exchanged for something else, because the holding of each other’s hand, hearing each other’s hushed breathing, looking at each other’s eyes, make me forget even for a sweeping moment how commonplace and routine all else are.
There are questions about life whose profundity is worth reflecting about. For instance these three questions: Where did we come from? Why are we here? Where do we go from here? are very critical questions for the spiritual survival of mankind. The attempts to find the answers to them sparked the birth of specific bodies of knowledge such as metaphysics, semiotic, and ontology that can stand on their own right as an independent branch of philosophy.
There are questions that are asked because they require practical answers which, although not philosophical in nature, are still necessary to maintain civilization. For example: If the slope of the line is the tangent of cosine b, what is the angle of the line opposite teta as it approaches the asymptote of the 4th quadrant 28 degrees east northeast of that toilet bowl to your left, granting that the formula y=mx+b is half of the diameter of that circle whose pi is not 3.1416 but 2.3X10 raised to the 23rd power of the speed of light in a vacuum?
Questions like the one before this paragraph may sound pedantic but they have actual applications in the field of civil engineering, architecture, weather reporting, space technology, communication, etc. They are not meant to be answered by laymen not because they are not capable of answering them but because there are specialized groups of people who are paid to answer them. Answers to these questions make our existence on this planet more comfortable, our lives easier, therefore allowing as to pursue the answers to questions of the first type.
There are questions that keep the society in order, at peace, and well-functioning. How are you? How’s your day? Can I call you tonight? Do you love me? Can we make love tonight? Will you marry me? Can I have a divorce? are of this kind. These questions maintain human conduct, the foundation of an urbane, civilized, humane, and cosmopolitan living. Without questions like these, we are nothing better than wild beasts or members of a barbaric tribe who are yet to be tamed by what we universally refer to as ecumenical acculturation (I am literally clueless as to the meaning of this phrase, but it sounds good so I am using it anyway).
The last kind of questions, which, I believe, is the least studied but the most interesting, is where the Why-did-the-chicken-cross-the-street? type of questions belong. These questions are devoid of any spiritual, utilitarian, or cultural significance. People who ask these questions indulge in their own frivolity and the buffoonery of the questions they ask. Mankind asks “Why did the chicken cross the street?” because of a combination of boredom and unabashed narcissism.
Different societies around the world have their versions of jokes involving the innocent chicken. This particular chicken, however, did not even think of crossing the street because, as all of us know, there’s nothing to be seen on the other side of the street that can’t be found on that side of the street the chicken is standing. But man’s prying won’t give the chicken his peace. Despite the apparent absence of any laugh-inducing tales that are truly humorous involving our chicken, mankind doesn’t stop concocting stories that explain why the chicken crossed the street (or if our chicken indeed did cross the busy street).
But it appeared that on the other side of the street, the chicken in question is staring at the entire of mankind wondering why the most advance species in the animal kingdom is wondering why the lowly avian crossed the street, which in fact he did not.
“See what boredom can do!” The chicken exclaimed.
I probably read it in one of Anton Chekov or Maxim Gorky’s works. It went something like this: it’s easier for a man to live in a revolution than to face the routine of his daily existence.
On a weekend, I stay at my younger sister’s place; she is taking her undergrad at a university in the city. And during the whole time, we do nothing but eat, sleep, and for me, workout in the gym in a nearly automatic fashion. During these two days spent in advertent indolence, I am able to reflect on thoughts as scandalous and ingrate as this.
This confrontation with the ordinary, the clichéd, the redundant, proves just too difficult for my frail human soul to endure.
Could this be the same force that drives some members of the bourgeoisie to abandon their easy, repetitive, therefore boring, existence and take arms against the status quo? This lack of anything to do is more assaulting to the spirit than the thought of an impending revolution ahead.
But being so used to a secure life, although they thought they’ve already taken part in a revolution, they would keep on reiterating an ideology they accept as universally obvious. In Brodsky’s words, “What’s wrong with discourses about the obvious is that they corrupt consciousness with their easiness, with the quickness with which they provide one with moral comfort, with the sensation of being right. And so they wallow back in banality, this time, of their own ideology.”