Friday, 6/7/02

I'm almost... bored. It's an unfamiliar, uncomfortable feeling. Unlike those who become dependent on our society's ubiquitous indoor entertainment plumbing and then die of thirst when the faucet runs dry ("300 channels and there's nothing good on! Panic!"), I've always prided myself on the ability to distill stimulation from a variety of sources, even (or especially) condensing it out of thin air. Thus, the recognition of boredom is embarrassing and humbling, an admission of personal failure.

I've been bored before, of course, in the sense of isolated bubbles floating here and there in my typically torrid and frothy stream of consciousness. But bubbles tend to be short-lived. Piano, programming, basketball, walking, writing, reading -- there's always something to do. At the worst of times, I've even been known to turn to random Google searches or fruit juggling. And when there's nothing else, there's always the universal utilitarian time-sink: housework.

(It's not that I particularly enjoy doing housework, really. But at the end, there's an undeniably pleasurable sense of a job well done, and a feeling that the state of the world (or at least the house) is better than it was before. It's a dirty job, but someone's gotta do it. Thus, when it comes time for housecleaning, I throw myself into the task with all the fervor of a hardened Marine storming the enemy shoreline. "This is my vacuum, this is my mop! This is for sucking, this cleans up glop!" In this way, the house avoids the descent into anarchy, and we can all sleep soundly without choking to death on godless communist dustbunnies.)

Anyway, as I was saying, fleeting boredom bubbles, evanescent effervescence, this has never worried me much. But now seems different. It's not a lack of Things To Do. It's more of a general pervasive ennui. Listlessness, apathy, uninspiration, unmotivation, blah... Somewhat fittingly, I almost don't even care enough to find words to describe it. You get the idea. The river's drying up.

It's certainly possible that all this is related to my (mostly self-imposed) period of unemployment finally surpassing the one-year mark. Of the people I know who recently lost their jobs, most of them were only able to survive a few months before succumbing to stir-craziness and venturing out to seek some sort of external structure for their lives. I was immune, for the most part, because I was able to devise enough personal projects to saturate my free time, and because I have always been an advocate of the freeform, stimulus-response lifestyle. "Eat when you're hungry, sleep when you're tired, screw when you're horny, create when inspired." I didn't need structure. I had internal drive.

And that's exactly what seems to be running out. Not the stimulus, but the desire to respond. The ideas still flow, and I'll still fire up emacs or Photoshop or Cakewalk or CoolEdit, infused with the compulsion to create... and then, sickeningly, all motivation evaporates, leaving behind an overwhelming urge to be elsewhere. Even more disturbing, I find that, with respect to the verse of philosophy above, inhibition of the last pair of responses leads to substitution of the first pair. That's not healthy. Eating out of boredom eventually leads to all sorts of Bad Things, such as heart disease and wardrobe replacement and motorized shopping carts and photographs with the word "BEFORE" stamped on them.

Anyway, because of these recent feelings, I'm starting to suspect that I actually do require some structure in my life. That externally defined responsibilities are a necessary evil to balance out the internal creative pressure. Just as you can't define night without day, you can't moonlight without a day job. Pleasure contrasts pain; definition demands distinction. Yin and yang, heads and tails, Linus and Lucy, all that. Stability lies in the balance.

In retrospect, it makes sense. The happiest and most productive four years of my life were spent at the hardest school in the country. Structure.

Maybe next week I'll get a job and everything will turn around. Maybe it's just a temporary lull, independent of anything external. Maybe I've lost it for good. Who knows. But things can't be completely bad... I wrote this, didn't I?

It's been a long time since my last mlawg entry, so I hit record and told my hands to start moving, and this is what came out. It's pretty sloppy, but that just proves it's live and improvised, right?... The last one was better.

youthful exuberance (1:49, 427Kb) or hifi (747Kb)