Boredom and literature
The other day my father quoted Kafka for some reason. Must be to
kindle my interest. Someone who doesn’t talk about literature is so
boring, as for Kafka. He could not find anyone who doesn’t talk
literature not to be boring. Father offered to give me the written text.
But I politely declined that: no, thank you.
To be frank, I found the statement stupid at its utmost! Kafka is one
great writer, and I am such a big-headed dwarf compared with his service
to literature. So who am I to criticize him? Leave alone that
inferiority complex, I think I can be snobbish to find the statement
Like any other philosopher’s, this statement is also ambiguous. We
have to bend our mind to grasp what he says. Why should we? Anyway I’m
interested in two key terms: literature and boredom.
When it comes to boredom, man is the worst creature on earth. At
least that’s what I think. Okay, a dog is happy sleeping and lying still
all day without having much to do. What does a man do? These days they
have something to while away.
They don’t mind wasting one whole precious day for some
good-for-nothing highly commercialized match. And that too, leaving all
important work on the backburner. Worse still, they grumble about not
having enough time to do this and that. And if Sri Lanka loses, some
people will lose the sleep. What a crime!
All this is because the man wants change. A change from the routine
lifestyle. It means a way out of boredom. One thing we hardly know that
boredom should be cultivated. It’s a positive thing to know your
boredom, and attend to it. Can you spend one whole day without doing
usual things? Not even without a cup of tea or some literary piece at
least? No. Say you are somewhere with all this taken away. You would
spend half the day grumbling and complaining, I bet. Why? You are not
used to boredom.
So what’s the logic here? Getting used to boredom avoids
complications. It brings peace. It gradually gets filled and you become
No literature can provide you that peacefulness. Literature or any
other work is meant for entertainment and doesn’t lead you to
peacefulness. If one says so, that’s a myth. If that’s so every reader
or connoisseur should be peaceful, and the world must be such a nice
place to live in. People won’t go to monasteries or retreats for peace.
What Kafka doesn’t know – or doesn’t want to admit - is that people
who don’t talk literature are not boring. Then the question arises: what
do you mean by literature? You don’t have to think so deep into that. By
literature we simply mean novel, short story, painting or some related
work of art. Nothing else. Talking about literature, what do we do? We
argue. Argue for hours and fill our heads with piles of rubbish. That’s
not boring, because it is full of activity. It is exciting to know this
and that ism and all ‘knowledge’. We graciously call that intellectual!
But it doesn’t lead to peacefulness. I have never heard of anyone who
became enlightened merely because of reading countless literature. Only
practice leads to that.
And a part of practice means getting used to boredom. Be without
literature. Don’t read. Don’t write. No talk of literature. Can you do
If you can, then you will see boredom has more things to it: silence,
emotions fighting with each other, and many more. Watch your breath and
try to focus on that for a while. At first it won’t be a good
experience, you will have to fight with the negative side of boredom.
Boredom is there, but that will just be a lovely experience – only if
you can wait a little more. Boredom won’t be boredom anymore.
How peaceful it is not to know of Lawrence, Chaucer, Derrida,
Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Socrates and so on. How peaceful it is not to
be familiar with practical criticism, nihilism, post-modernism and so
on. These philosophies have not led a single person to peacefulness.
They only left people baffled and confused. So not to know them is not
ignorance. This is to live in what you already know – simply this
Thriving, you will start calling it names: boredom, peacefulness,
freedom and so on.
In case you get to meet Kafka – in heaven, hell or human sphere -
have this question ready. What’s best: literature or boredom?