Burnout and Deep Boredom

“Every age has its signature afflictions. . .Neurological illnesses such as depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder [ADHD], borderline personality disorder (BPD), and burnout syndrome mark the landscape of pathology at the beginning of the twenty-first century. [the choice of words is careful, but what is new, the labelling or the “illnesses’] They are not infections, but infarctions; they do not follow from the negativity of what is immunologically foreign, but from an excess of positivity. Therefore, they elude all technologies and techniques that seek to combat what is alien.”

“If sleep represents the high point of mental relaxation, deep boredom is the peak of mental relaxation.”

—Byung-Chul Han, The Burnout Society (t. Erik Butler)

“[Mark] Fisher argues, to the detriment of innovation, boredom itself has been radically transformed by the advent of digital media. Today the slightest hint of restlessness or pocket of spare time tends to have us reaching for our smartphones—and yet the possibility of real boredom, and the urgent desire to escape it, has historically acted as an important cultural catalyst. For punks in the 1970s, the ‘dreary void of Sundays, the night hours after television stopped broadcasting, even the endless dragging minutes waiting in queues or for public transport” were viewed as a ‘challenge, an injunction and an opportunity’. Nowadays, ‘in the intensive, 24/7 environment of capitalist cyberspace, the brain is no longer allowed any time to idle; instead it is inundated with a seamless flow of low-level stimulus’. In compulsively engaging with frivolous online content that we recognise—even celebrate—as tedious, we sorely limit ourselves. We have arrived at a situation in which ‘no one is bored, everything is boring.'”

—From this week’s TLS, a review of Fisher’s K-Punk

And yes, there is an irony in posting these excerpts in a blog post. That ‘dreary void’ remained into the 1980s. I miss deep boredom. It is something that today must be willed and sought out. One of those days when everything one reads coalesces around a theme.

2 thoughts on “Burnout and Deep Boredom

  1. Daniel Levitin, in his book The Organized Mind, also talks about the over stimulation of the 21st Century and how it is neurologically impairing all of us. The human brain is not capable of multitasking. Instead our brains have a capacity to handle about 120 bytes of information at a time. Any additional information is filtered out subconsciously, meaning we are not even aware of what we’re not aware of or miss. Talk about the Dunning Kruger effect!


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