Sunday, September 16, 2007

Against Repetition: Meaning

Boredom is mainly . . . characterized by the present, or rather: boredom knows neither past nor future, whereas melancholy is characterized by a longing for a time that once existed (or possibly a future that is hoped for). Using Kierkegaard's terminology, we can see that the melancholic is someone who lives in the memory, i.e., someone who repeats backwards, while true repetition takes place forwards. Neither repetition backwards nor forwards is applicable to boredom, whose very nature is recurrence and not true repetition. Boredom is pure immanence, whereas genuine repetition is transcendence. This transcendence leads to happiness, Kierkegaard claims. And he even says, acutely, that if the repetition is not possible, human life dissolves into empty, meaningless noise.

(Lars Svendsen, A Philosophy of Boredom, pp. 92-93)

Kierkegaard has misled Svendsen. True repetition does not present a path out of the meaningless of boredom because repetition can only be false. Existential boredom reveals the falseness of repetition but it obscures repetition's lack of meaning within a general indifference. Meaning, according to Nancy, is an alterity (Sharing Voices). More insightfully, I think, in Being Singular Plural, he argues that meaning "is the exhibition of the foundation without foundation, which is not an abyss but simply the with of things that are, insofar as they are." The meaninglessness of boredom is precisely a withlessness. Its temporality is a withless temporality, one long, drawn moment of indifference.

Svendsen understands that moods can be shared and sees that in a certain sense a community can be defined by its shared moods. Some moods, however, like boredom, tend towards loneliness (p. 112). He says, "When one is in a mood, the world seems to be a particular field of possibilities; boredom differs from most other moods by the fact that the possibilities withdraw" (p. 113). It would be difficult for an existential phenomenology–such is Svendsen's bent–to acknowledge a mood that. rather than coloring the world, simply withdrew from the world. Phenomenology weakly grasps the withness of worlds.

Svendsen, however, does say that boredom is characterized by a loss of world (p. 128). And he says, "Boredom is mood which is reminiscent of an absence of moods. Since the mood is essential for our relation to objects, and boredom is a kind of non-mood, our relation to things also becomes a kind of non-relation" (p. 129). Does the recognition of this paradox of the mood that isn't a mood lead beyond an existential phenomenology? I'm not sure. Svendsen's critique of Heidegger, which basically amounts to substituting the concrete life for Being while acknowledging the shallowness of existential boredom, is firmly attached to the pursuit of phenomena of existential boredom. It is nevertheless, a difficulty.

Is there a phatics of boredom? ("I'm bored." "Me too.") Would saying "Let's be bored together" promise to put an end to the suffering of boredom? Would it put a dint in its indifference? I'm keen to read Svendsen's final chapter on the ethics of boredom, because I started reading from the beginning with the question in mind of how, if at all, boredom might be shared. In the mean time, I will not look towards repetition for a solution to the problem of boredom.

Labels: , , , ,

posted by Fido the Yak at 11:00 AM.


Anonymous Yusef said...

"Boredom is mood which is reminiscent of an absence of moods. Since the mood is essential for our relation to objects, and boredom is a kind of non-mood, our relation to things also becomes a kind of non-relation"

I don't at all agree that boredom is a kind of non-mood. (Although I do agree our relation to things in boredom becomes a kind of non-relation.) It is a mood where our relation to things becomes a kind of non-relation...There's no reason why this isn't a consistent way of putting matters. I don't see reasons for argument's sake why we must have boredom be a non-mood in order for our relations to become a non-relation. Baudelaire's ennui, for example. It's not nothing. It is, in my opinion, historically conditioned. It's communicated ( or maybe even communicable, as a disease ) in his poetry. I can feel some measure of Baudelaire's ennui by reading Baudelaire's poetry. The ennui and the aesthetic combine to form a terrible fate - the aesthetical comes to have some terrible relationship to non-relation - it becomes a non-relation.

September 16, 2007 9:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you guys could do with a bit of TRICKSTERISM in your lives. Lighten yourselves up a bit.

In my opinion you will find more Wisdom in these two iconoclastic Trickster sites than in all of the usual dreadfully serious left-brained theological and philosophical speculations.

Please check out:


The motto or, rather wake up call of, Zippy is "are we having fun yet?"

September 16, 2007 10:02 PM  
Anonymous Yusef said...

I am Zippy the Pinhead, and you sir, are nothing like him.

September 16, 2007 11:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perhaps I am a headless pin.

September 17, 2007 2:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The process that is True Religion is based on psychic connection to Reality. There can be no True Religion without profound psychic activity. True religion expresses the inherent disposition and motive of the psyche, or the intuitive, feeling core of Man. The contemporary religion of civilized popular societies has little or no psyche remaining from its pyschic, feeling origins. Only the left brained verbal mind is permitted to priest our destiny with all the automatic nonsense of meaningless, heartless rituals and objective beliefs. Such civilized religion is not based on a sense of the invisible forces with which we each need to enter into right association in order to live well and be happy, in order not to be undone, bound up, smothered, and destroyed by the elemental movements in Nature. All True Religion and spirituality are founded in the Way of the psyche, which contains a secret Pathway beyond the Realm of Nature.

In order to live such a true religious Way of Life, individuals must enter psychically into the play of their experience in the material or "objective" universe. We must move beyond the self-bound stupidity of the left brained verbal mind, which has no sympathy, no heart, no feeling, no psyche. The usual man in our time is limited only to verbal thinking and exploitation of his physical experience. Everything else is taboo. The usual man cannot go beyond the hard-edged appearance of the physical body and the apparent objectivity of physical experience, because he is not permitted his own deep psyche. The psyche is the deep disposition of UNION with That which is Radiant and Alive. Only the unitary and self-transcending disposition of the psyche, rather than the separative and self-defining disposition of the conventional left brained mind, can provide the foundation for true religion and a true humanity.

Human beings must be permitted psychic association with the Great Universe. If such is denied them, they become crazy and dangerous. And that is exactly what has happened in these past few hundred years in which the modern and materialistic scientific point of view has gradually become dominant and emptied human culture of its higher psychic associations, aspirations, and possibilities.

True culture depends on the awakened and heartfelt disposition of the human psyche.

To "sin" is to "miss the mark", to be without a psyche, or to fail to accept the Way of the psyche, which is to be surrendered into the eternally all-pervading Life-Principle and to be identified with the inherent Radiance of Being wherein all experience and the total Realm of Nature are arising. To "sin" is to be enamored of things themselves, to have lost the psychic and feeling connection to Reality, and to be turned in on yourself wuithout free consciousness.

To be awakened from "sin" is to "meet the mark", to be awakened in your psyche, in your heart. Man must live by his psyche, his unqualified feeling nature. He must enter psychically into relationship with the powers of the world, into relationship with the ultimate Power, the absolute God of the world. If he does not, he is deluded and seems to be destroyed.

As it exists in the common world today, religion is mostly comprised of accretions of nonsense, the archaic ideas and presumptions of very ordinary people stuck in their left brained towers of babble. In effect there are six billion such towers of babble "alive" on this planet today.

September 17, 2007 3:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well thanks for that brilliant distillation of eastern wisdom + a bit of gurdjieff, carlos and the usual suspects.

It always ends up sounding a tad arrogant - something that most great teachers never really were.

I always remember a nice little line in Herbert Guenther's The tantric view of life:
'By the swindle of meditation freedom is not found'. (14th century)

September 17, 2007 7:23 AM  
Blogger Fido the Yak said...

I'm feeling kind of like Zippy the Pinhead right now.

Yusef, I agree with you about boredom being a mood. The non-mood statement came up rather suddenly after Svendsen had gone on about boredom being a mood. I doubt that he is taking non-moodiness anywhere. The non-relation of boredom is a keen insight. Svendsen's understanding of mood, though, depends on there being relations.

Anonymous, I think Paul has a point. Despite what good intentions you have, you sound a little arrogant. Count me among the six billion or so people on Earth, and don't worry about it. I don't.

September 17, 2007 8:27 AM  

Post a Comment

Fido the Yak front page