There is an early song by The Buzzcocks called.'Boredom'. Typical of late seventies punk, it speeds along at an insane pace through the maximum length punk tradition allowed - of well under three minutes. Poorly recorded drums and guitars crank, buzz and thrash angrily away, whilst the lead singer inflected the maximum amount of apathetic derision into the repeated words boredom, boredom, boredom. The view was that everything about contemporary Britain was geriatric and boring, with a very large capital B. Boredom became the existential pose for a whole generation of musically aware youth, including me. Punk, for a brief moment, before it became entirely a music industry product, tried to rescue a fist of self respect from out of the ailing flames of disaffected idealism. For Britain at the time ( Pre – Thatcher ) appeared to be near the point of dissolution, politically dilatory, terminally crippled by strikes, and there was a sense of traditional morals and social structures being rapidly dismantled. The latter, because of our increased wealth and the obsession with individual choice in our service based economy ( Post – Thatcher ) has continued regardless. The disaffected now look quite ordinary, these thugs have knives hidden inside their Calvin Klein underpants. Punk made teenage rebellion appear dangerous, at least for a few months. The New Romantics who followed on after, looked in the mirror once too often and became as self absorbed as fashion models. To flirt with anarchy was the indulgence of the affluent, however angry, apathetic or asexually anemic the pose. Real anarchism was far from being marketable. Rebels have now become rather predictable and boring, though perhaps that's just what you'd expect to hear from a jaded fifty year old.
So thirty years on from 1977, I'm working in a Crematorium, and all that seems a bit beside the point, and boredom is just the way life is sometimes. When I'm stood outside a chapel all day for twenty five minute intervals, whilst a service proceeds within, I get bored. When I'm inside the chapel overseeing the music, listening to a litany of Christian waffle, full of empty unsubstantiated promises from God about life, death and the possibility of heaven, I get bored. When I've cleaned every carpet, lectern, door, brass nob and catafalque for the umpteenth time this week, I get bored. One can even get bored with being around death all the time. It is, after all, not a place for lively engagement with cutting edge music, religious dialogue, political debate or the venting of existential vitriol.
My good friend Saddharaja asked me recently why I frequently felt the need, if not the urge, to design improvements or radically change things wherever I worked. What would happen if I didn't do that? What was it I was trying to avoid experiencing by this transforming activity? I could say boredom, but that would be far too easy a response. Boredom can itself be a type of evasion, the convenient arising of an alienated response to distract you from experiencing something which has much much deeper ramifications. Boredom can be a great disguise.
Stamping my presence on a situation or environment,brings me a transitory sense of being in control of meaning and purpose. This goes back to my late teens, around the time of Punk, when I was at Art College, where eventually, for a brief time once I left, I became a graphic designer. A designers whole raison d'etre is to promote the belief that a perfect well designed interior, furniture, clothes and even sanitaryware can radically transform your well being and life. I can sometimes experience the world humanity has built as an ugly travesty of nature,mostly sullied, soiled and polluted by our blind endeavour to achieve meaning through progress. I just wanted to change the way the world looked, make it clean, colourful and a bit more polished. Consequently, like a soul doctor, I only desire to bring beautiful things into it to heal the tawdry anima mundi.( world soul ) I've inherited.
Punk was essentially a movement born of nihilism, it hadn't a redemptive bone in its emaciated body. Whereas I'm quite the congenital perfectionist, I seem to want to perfect the world in general, and me specifically. This is the naïve mantle I've held crumpled to my heart for most of my adult life. The world should be perfect, a place of beauty, but it isn't. Life should be better organised, but it's a shambles most of the time. I should be perfectly happy, deeply content with all aspects of my life and experience, but I'm not. I should not be bored at work or by my life, but I often am. I appear to act as if I'm constantly having to make the best of a bad job, of the decidedly rum hand that reality has dealt me this time. As if reality has got it's own back on me for a past slight or infelicitous remark. When my pristine ideals plough straight into the shitheap of reality, I can descend into a depressed ennui for the loss of my beautiful utopia. In this I suspect, my actions are no different to those of the rest of humanity, who are likewise blind to what the purpose of it all is. So it is that we find ourselves all floundering together, creating a lot of insignificant angst and trivial froth in the process .
( See Quotation Marks No 13 )
Maybe life does have no meaning intrinsic to it whatsoever, which would quickly turn all my creative efforts into feeble attempts to paper over the widening cracks anyway. Perhaps this is what has really been driving my own pursuit of meaning, purpose and contentment all along– if life has no meaning then I must find it one - all this effort can't be allowed to go on for nothing, This is what brought me to become a Buddhist. Yet even the Buddhist- Path of Purification ,the practice of precepts , The Threefold Way etc,etc... can be easily misconstrued by me, or anyone else for that matter, as purely a path to personal perfection and self-development. In the end this path, if it's followed truly, must go beyond any sense of personal achievement, towards seeing realty and myself as they really are, however uncomfortable that may be. Whether reality or myself is perfect or imperfect would seem in the light of this, to be an irrelevant dichotomy - reality and myself might just turn out to be... boring. Transcendental Boredom!- you can see now why this idea hasn't caught on in a big way, but that paradoxically might mean that its true.
Whilst the transformation to the Enlightened state, the supreme insight into the meaninglessness and purposelessness of it all, still eludes me, I guess I'll keep finding myself devising these little stratagems and projects to engage with in it's absence - if I can't always be purposeful then at least I can be productive. Neither be a waste of space, nor lazy or indolent, but always keep busy - it's a bit of the Protestant work ethic lodged like shrapnel in my psyche, I was after all brought up a Methodist ( which is niether an excuse nor an apology, and certainly not a fatal condition). Ideally I'd find some form of contentment through activity I know to be meaningful. In the absence of that meaningful activity, I, like most people, have to make do with meaningless activity, or no activity at all. Though what happens as a result of too much meaningless activity is degenerative; it leads to mental disengagement, depressive mood fluctuations, disaffected behaviour and ultimately the caustic effects of resentful boredom.
At the moment I feel you can't really win until you're prepared to let go of winning.