Joy and Boredom

I was recently reminded by Tumblr that I had left a previous blog abandoned for four years now. I’m more than happy to retire that blog, but there are some posts that bring me memories of the years past that I do want to preserve here. This is one of them, written on April 10, 2012.


Boredom exists only when the mind starts coming closer and closer to enlightenment. Boredom is just the polar opposite of enlightenment. Animals cannot become enlightened, hence they cannot become bored either.

– Osho, “Joy: The Happiness That Comes From Within”

A couple of years ago, I was constantly bored with my life. To fill the void inside of me, I signed myself up for driving lessons and tap dance classes, and I announced to myself that I’d try anything once as long as it didn’t kill me. I even took up Hindi classes and went out with people I didn’t usually hang out with. I was scared of being bored, I felt I was wasting my life away.

But that void in me was insatiable. It kept wanting more. So the more I stuffed things into it, the hollower I felt. I remember once after making a pinhole camera for three hours and then stepping back to admire my creation, I broke down in tears. If a black hole could form in a human body, it must feel the way I felt at that very moment: a hollowness that keeps tearing and ripping at your body as it sucks your body inwards, until it collapses into itself.

If only I had known what Osho had to say about boredom. He believed that boredom arises from an understanding of the futility of the life that we know, the endless cycle of desire and want, action and reaction. I can see what he means. As soon as you realise that you are not experiencing true happiness, but just moving from one gratification to the next gratification, it’s hard not to feel jaded and tired about chasing after that next emotional high. But did I feel like I was closer to enlightenment? Hardly. In fact, I felt numb and powerless. It was that powerlessness that drove me to tears and made me feel everything about me was worthless.

And then, today, I read this:

Cancer has shocked and terrorized me into a wakefulness that I didn’t know existed. Now every decision, every moment feels both meaningful and fleeting.

– Suleika Jaouad, Life, Interrupted: Countdown to Day Zero

It always takes that powerlessness to make us take a good, hard look at our lives. What I had gone through is hardly anything compared to what Suleika Jaouad is going through (she’s in her twenties, she’s hardly bored, but she fears she’s running out of time), but it nevertheless made me realise that, in the grand scheme of things, many of my decisions are but a drop in the ocean. My opinions on what constitute meaningful pursuits have been reset. That’s not to say I’m going to have a “whatever” or “I don’t care” attitude towards life. Rather, I need to be more detached, and be able to enjoy the present and stop dwelling on the past or dreaming about the future.

Have you ever been unhappy here and now? Right this moment–is there any possibility of being unhappy right now? You can think about yesterday and you can become unhappy. You can think about tomorrow and you can become unhappy. But right this very moment–this throbbing, beating, real moment–can you be unhappy right now? Without any past, without any future?

– Osho, “Joy: The Happiness That Comes From Within”

I still think of the past, but I no longer want to hang on to it and show it off like my war wound. That has been the cause of my unhappiness for all these years. I’m ready to stop brandishing my sorrow as proof that I’m not completely void inside.

So, goodbye, boredom. Next stop, bliss.


Photo credit: Priscilla Westra 

4 thoughts on “Joy and Boredom

  1. E

    I’ve always felt that boredom is my biggest problem and/or excuse, although I often chalked it up to my commitment phobia and general ill discipline. And perhaps a reluctance to scrape past surfaces for fear of what I might find too…

    This morning I had a conversation about boredom, which went along similar lines. My friend felt that overstimulation led to boredom, which surprised me, because I always thought that the feeling that I couldn’t quite put my finger on was sheer exhaustion. Like when scrolling through my FB feed; I’ve tweaked it such that I only get the “best” content–the funniest or most insightful posts, the tragic stories, the heroes… But yet it doesn’t gratify.

    My friend also spoke of living in the moment and quieting the mind, in order to prevent boredom from setting in.

    I’ve never thought about detachment in relation to being present and living in the moment, but come to think of it, the moments that I’m truly enjoying, like those nights out with you, are when I’m away from kids/husband/work and I’m able to be just me… And I do forget everything else for those precious few hours. 🙂

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  2. Wow! Your comment reminds me so much of The Hours, my most favourite book!

    There are stuff in the post that I don’t quite like now. Like, the word bliss! Also, I think my view on boredom has changed a little from that time. Maybe, it warrants a second post.

    What I take away from your comment, though, is you crave depth more than breadth now. And I think that’s a lovely thing. I think we all could gain so much if we invest more time and energy getting more depth out of our experiences.

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  3. I would love to explore more things in depth (e.g. reading books instead of making do with the Brainpickings-style pastiche), but at the same time, am also craving quiet. It’s almost impossible to have an original thought anymore, don’t you think? I find that I’m always quoting someone or something I read, or citing someone else’s experience.

    Btw I need to hear more about The Hours! Why do you revisit it every year? 🙂

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    1. This reminds me of something I read before about how even conversations about things we don’t know is very much different from similar conversations in the past. Now that there’s Google, it leaves no room for imagining or thinking about stuff. We just need to Google, and that settles the conversation.

      The Hours… I love the characters in the book. The three women, how they survive (or don’t) the hours of their lives, I think they resonate deeply. I first read it during Those Troubled Years, and I think it never lost its grip on me. Now, I just find the book (the words, the emotions) really beautiful.

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