Why do you feel compelled to flee boredom?
Market values have turned summer into a platform for further consumption and turned all of us into a ‘resource to be used up’
Have we had the time of our lives?
For the average worker, summer is a time of freedom. But one wonders precisely what sort of liberty is expressed by going somewhere, seeing the sights and then going home.
As creatures of habit, we tend to use the break to embrace another form of routine. We tend to the garden, have barbecues, and – for the self-improving among us – go to summer schools.
There are conventional ways of spending summer but there is also scope to ask deep questions about the nature and purpose of our existence.
Dr Felix Ó Murchadha, senior lecturer in philosophy at NUI Galway and author of The Time of Revolution: Kairos and Chronos in Heidegger, has a particular interest in exploring “ruptures in time” in both history and everyday life. He provides today’s idea: We shouldn’t run away from boredom but tackle the fundamental questions it raises.
We tend to speak about time as a ‘resource’ that’s used up over the course of our lives. Is that a mistaken view?
Felix Ó Murchadha: “Time has many aspects. We can distinguish between the inner time of consciousness, collective time of a community and astronomical time of days, seasons and years.
“To speak of time in any of these aspects as a resource to be used up seems problematic. Yet, it is instructive to look at the word ‘resource’ itself, which comes from the French resourse, meaning source in the sense of a spring, hence life-giving. Time has this life-giving aspect.
“Conception and birth are not simply events in time, but events of time. Yet, time is also death-giving. We are mortal beings and every living moment is marked with the sign of our final demise, when we do not so much run out of time as time runs out on us: in dying we leave a world, a humanity and an Earth that continues to go on, just as we are born into a time that preceded us.”
Is it wrong to ‘waste’ time, or use it unproductively?
“I would question the very concept of ‘use’ here. To use something is to employ it for an end, to bring something about. Time is the condition for such activity, not the means. Nevertheless, increasingly in our society we think of time as a condition of certain measurable, tangible outputs.
“The mechanised rhythm of production subjects us to a time which is not ours; we waste time to the extent to which we fail to live up to that rhythm. Today such ‘mechanised time’ tends increasingly to permeate all our lives, in particular our work lives.”
What does boredom tell us about ourselves? Should we always run away from it?
“The German word for boredom is Langeweile, literally meaning a long duration. Time drags on; there seems no end to the moment in which we find ourselves. For the 17th-century philosopher Blaise Pascal, we are constantly trying to avoid such deep boredom by distracting ourselves with endless entertainments. I would suggest that what we are attempting to escape is primarily the power of time. Boredom manifests a failure to transform; time goes on, we feel it to go on, but the future holds no promise and the past has no meaning.