o Succes is so boring

Succes is sooo boring
Reading this magazine might have been a bore, until now. All this repetition and sameness in describing good
luck and good experiences. I consider success, especially the success of others, as a bore. Talking and writing
about making the best wine, being the most successful entrepreneur selling cars or neckties, having found
as a tourist the seventeenth nice and beautiful church in Rome, winning some silver or gold medals at soccer
tournaments or in other sports, being a champion by drinking the most glasses of beer in your student peer
Ambition for success brings a lot of contempt and for me a lot of melancholia, apathy. Success counts for short periods and local exposure.
Success brings 15 minutes of fame. And for many, 15 minutes of fame
Boredom is the great
critique of success.
is in itself a success. Reading about successful people makes me jealous,
are tackled, boredom comes with overstimulation, as with children with
depressive and gives me a feeling of apathy. At least, most of the time
too many toys and games, whether electronic or not. Success might be
successful people show a deep need for attention (you might think of the
an overstimulation for grown-ups. And in this I would follow Lars Svend-
late and poor Amy Winehouse), and is more often than not an example
sen who wrote a wonderful book (A Philosophy of Boredom, Reaktion
of narcissism. Don’t bother me!
Books) with a profound critique about our culture.
Boredom is according to him the utmost spiritual problem of our day. “Is
For this reason I would like to explore the opposite of success, boredom.
modern life,” he asks, “first and foremost an attempt to escape boredom?”
My conclusion might be clear from the beginning, success and boredom
And following his thesis: is thriving for success in this sense the spiritual
are much more connected than most people would expect. On first sight
answer modern man gives when trying to escape boredom? With Svend-
the opposite is true: when bored, time slows drastically, the world seems
sen we can observe the modern world, in the hunt for success, having
foggy and without perspective, reality becomes vague. Success is all hap-
a destructive understanding of personal wealth, success and happiness
piness, real-time, emotion, attention and a lot more.
where biographies are mere successions of unconnected and carefree
However, in a culture like ours where most problems of mere existence
Asset Magazine
Reading about successful people
makes me jealous, depressive
and gives me a feeling of apathy.
Success is an oasis, a fata Morgana
is precision and humility. The former, it must be noted, breeds the latter.
Boredom isn’t easily defined, but I like the description of the Russian poet
compassionate you become to your likes, to the dust aswirl in a sunbeam
Joseph Brodsky: “a psychological Sahara”. And success is an oasis. Or a fata
or already immobile atop your table.”
The more you learn about your own size, the more humble and the more
Morgana, an illusion of an oasis. But against Brodsky’s metaphor I would
say that it is not the environment, outside us, but the state of our own
And out of this experience it is possible to commit yourself – irrevocably,
soul which is described. When bored we live in a condition of overpow-
if you can – to your best intentions and renew your self-command. When
ering indifference in which our existence is without necessity. In English
we give boredom some space in our lives we are giving ourselves pos-
culture we find this in the ‘dandy’, a person we might see as an intensive
sibilities – it is an invitation to reflect on what is important in life. And as
form of the natural condition of men and woman.
an example I might quote and change a little the essay by David Foster
This was one of the great lessons of Brodsky who lectured in Dartmouth
Wallace to explain what a healthier understanding of success might look
College on the subject of boredom. He told the graduates they may
like: “The really important kind of success (Freedom in his words) involves
have had some splendid samples of boredom supplied by their teachers,
attention and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly
however – these experiences would be as nothing compared with what
to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in
awaits them in the years ahead. Neither originality nor inventiveness on
myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day.”
their part will suffice to defeat the endless repetition that life will serve up
to them, as it has served up to us all. Evading boredom, he pointed out, is
Henri Geerts
a full-time job, entailing endless change – of jobs, geography, wives and
Senior staff-member Academic Forum
lovers, interests – and in the end a self-defeating one. Brodsky therefore
‘Academic Forum is a new department created by merging Studium Generale &
advises:”When hit by boredom, go for it. Let yourself be crushed by it;
Center for Science and Values’
submerge, hit bottom.”
First of all, in terms of Brodsky to the conscience that boredom is your
With help of/references:
window on the properties of time and your window on time’s infinity.”
tJoseph Epstein, Duh, Boring in: Commentary magazine june 2011
For boredom speaks the language of time, and it teaches you the most
tLars Svendsen A Philosophy of Boredom, Reaktion Books 2003 (zie ook: http://www.youtube.com/
valuable lesson of your life: the lesson of your utter insignificance. It is
valuable to you, as well as to those you are to rub shoulders with. “You
are finite,” time tells you in the voice of boredom, “and whatever you do
is, from my point of view, futile.” As music to your ears, this, of course, may
tJoseph Brodsky: Listening to Boredom (excerpt from ‘In Praise of Boredom’; adapted from Dartmouth College commencement address). Harper’s Magazine, March 1995 v290 n1738 p11(3)
tDavid Foster Wallace on life and work. The Wall Street Journal September 19, 2008
not count; yet the sense of futility, of the limited significance of even your
best, most ardent actions, is better than the illusion of their consequences
and the attendant self-aggrandizement.” In this sense, boredom is the
great critique of success…
Brodsky again: “For boredom is an invasion of time into your set of values.
It puts your existence into its proper perspective, the net result of which
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The Centre for Science and Values (CSV) explores
the limits of science: where science meets moral
issues, religious belief and social responsibility. It
challenges people to discuss cultural and religious values, personal inspiration and fundamental presuppositions by organizing conferences,
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