Against boredom (and the boring, and that thing called ennui)


The more risk-averse a person is, the more boring that person seems to be, too.

Think about it. The most intriguing people you meet are the ones who took a chance on something. Right? And they didn’t stop trying new things, even in the face of humiliation, failure, or becoming the butt of other people’s jokes. The most important thing for them was to continue to press forward. Tenacity. Grit. It’s what you have to have, if you want to arrive at anywhere vaguely interesting.

But boring people come from that world that stays ‘safe,’ even when most of what we are scared of is inside our heads. Anxiety. Will drive you mad. It’s kind of the way it’s going, in the world, isn’t it? If we’re really honest with ourselves, the Western world seems to be heading down a long, sad road… one that leads to ‘safety,’ but is swathed in same same boringness. In other words, the status quo.

I detest boring.

Inviting the mesmerizing

PROBABLY THIS will only connect with people who are, like me, tired of the banal. It’s just to everywhere. Complacency is driving us into herd, and the herd isn’t going anywhere but to the slaughterhouse. Isn’t it? Let’s be honest, shall we? If you continue, that means you’re feeling that we should talk about things, out loud. Here, in the open. Okay. Let’s. Oft I’ve thought this: ‘Yeah. Here I am, stuck in this place, listening to someone talk about a banal, nonessential dilemma or simply complaining about life.’ I remember when I lived in a country whose people loved to one-up each other on the piling-on of how mundane and hard their lives were.

I know this is a first world problem, this thing about ennui.

Didn’t mean for it to happen, but on a whim, sometime toward the end of the summer last year in Phnom Penh, I asked a few people to meet me. To talk about it. Ennui. Five of us convened. Aside from me, they didn’t know anyone. So there we were. Total strangers, for the most part. Discussing the big question. Why do we have this angst? Where is it coming from? What can we do about it? How do we want to feel next?




Something made me invite this set of four others. Out of the blue. Something made me think, ‘Time to have a conversation salon about ennui.’ Why? OF course because I was feeling it. Personally. It happens like that. I get this idea in my head that I want to discuss something, because I have been going through some personal stuff and there’s no one to relate to about what it is. The internet is a one-Internet conversation that has nothing to do with how I feel, right here, in the space of where I am. Hyperlocal, and tightly focused—these are the important points for a conversation salon to really work. And by ‘work’ I mean to move from the space of general banter to true dialogue. Not quite intimacy, that’s a whole other level, but somewhere in between strangerness and closeness. I’ve been designing the ‘shape of space’ pieces, slowly and quietly, outside of these salons. Making notes, keeping myself posted. What works, what doesn’t. How to keep improving on the last one, in the next conversation salon.

ENNUI. Was such a fantastic event, for me. I’m so very glad I did, because we hit on something brilliant, together. In a small space of time (I like to cap these things at 2.5 hours), we got immediately past smalltalk towards the interestingness. Why do we have ennui, what is it anyway, how did it get there, what does it mean? We asked one another questions. We talked about our families, and our homes. I won’t go into the specific details, those are private and confidential for all of our events in S P A C E. But the big general idea was that we had a chance to connect, like, for real. Short and sweet, but beautiful. Art is conversation. It really is. For me, it’s beautiful when we can make the kind of space that allows for this magic to happen. The noticing of one another. The inter-relating. #relationalaesthetics

To date, it’s been in the aetherspace, me and the people I met, mostly. But I want to get offline more. I want to take it to the dimension of real life. Going slow. Small steps. It’s not easy striking up smalltalk and trying to move, quickly, to bigtalk. I have to set these things up, and that is taking time and learning, and practice. Of course. You meet new people and you talk about the weather. You talk about banalities. It gets immediately boring. I hate parties for this reason. I hate going out on Friday nights. It’s always the same thing, the same sort of conversation, the same expectation, the same frustrations that nothing interesting happened, not really, and as a direct result, increase of ennui.

What is to be done?

You know, I’ve been asking this question to myself for the time ever since this group dispersed. I wrote some thoughts up and tried to make sense of it by creating a little collaged book, with our combined writings:

The Book of Ennui. A co-creation, S. P. A. C. E., Phnom Penh 2015
The Book of Ennui. A co-creation, S. P. A. C. E., Phnom Penh 2015


I haven’t shared this publicly, nor do I plan to. I hope to distribute pieces of it to the participants, if we cross paths again. That would be cool. Mix it up, shuffle. See what new insights might come of the disruption of logic and leaving things like discovery up to games of chance. Why not? They did it with the quantum physics stuff, they got it figured out with Boltzmann’s uncertainties in the mix. Max Planck, I mean. Max Planck, who said, ‘When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.’

PROBABLY BECAUSE I CARE ABOUT mixing it up, changing how we look at things, changing what we can create, and co-create, together, I’m intrigued by the idea of making a bigger space for a dialogue. Not just about ennui. Not just about any ONE thing. And certainly not confined to one locale. Thinking about this out loud, right now, but just wondering if anyone else is reading along, if anyone else wants to connect, to talk deeply about myriad and thick topics, not just the ones designed to lampoon or roil up others, not the ones that ‘big us up,’ as NT, DK’s colleague in London, would say, but really, about how to do the big work of looking at things in complex, rotated spaces. Perspectives, shifts, discoveries, hits upon ‘a-ha.’

The artist knows this.

The innovator, too.

Where do we begin?

Many conversations are beginning. Send me a comment, if you want to connect, in S P A C E.