Friday, June 10, 2011

Boredom as heroic

I've been reading David Foster Wallace's 'The Pale King'. I stumbled upon Wallace while searching for a Jonathan Franzen book. While I was reading a review of Franzen, one of the commenters said that Wallace was similar but actually loved his characters. This is true, Wallace oozed narrative compassion.
The whole theme of the book (I'm only halfway through), seems to revolve around boredom.
in the brilliant chapter 19
"Sometimes what is important is dull. Sometimes it's work. Sometimes the important things aren't for your entertainment, X."
or 21
"To experience commitment as the loss of options, a type of death, the death of childhoods limitless possibility, of the flattery of choice without duress- this will happen, mark me. Childhoods end. The first of many deaths....I wish to inform you that the accounting profession to which you aspire is, in fact, heroic...Exacting? Prosaic? Banausic to the point of drudgery? Sometimes. Often tedious? perhaps. But brave? Worthy? Fitting, sweet? Romantic? Chivalric? Heroic?... Gentlemen- by which I mean, of course, latter adolescents who aspire to manhood- gentlemen, here is a truth: Enduring tedium over real time in a confined space is what real courage is...The truth is that the heroism of your childhood entertainments was not true valour. It was theatre. The grand gesture, the moment of choice, the mortal danger, the external foe, the climactic battle whose outcome resolves all- all designed to appear heroic, to excite and gratify an audience. An Audience... Gentlemen, welcome to the world of reality- there is no audience. No one to applaud, to admire. No one to see you Do you understand? Here is the truth- actual heroism recieves no ovation, entertains no one. No one queues up to see it. No one is interested."

Boredom seems to be the unspoken topic in our churches. Should we avoid it, embrace it? Perhaps both. I still need to do some thinking on boredom, especially for young people.
This article helps

Ben Myers on a theology of boredom


tim smartt said...

Awesome post. Love DFW!! Haven't got around to 'The Pale King' yet, but really looking forward to it. Did you know DFW identified himself as a Christian? He seemed reticent to talk about it, but in a few essays in 'Consider the Lobster' he mentions it. Also, in the recently published and uncharacteristically brief 'This is Water,' he waxes inspiringly on the ol' mantra that everyone-worships-something-so-be-careful-what-you-worship.

p.s. i like your blog.

Mike W said...

Thanks Tim.
I'd never heard of DFW before, not really my scene.
I have read the water stuff in his Kenyon address and alot of this is familiar from another article he wrote on TV, with some latin title. (so you can see I've been sucked in by him too). It would surprise me if DFW was a christian, though probably first and foremost a philosopher.

thanks for liking the blog, err, I haven't been putting much up. (because most of life is boring, though in fact that boring stuff is far more interesting, see for example Akrocorinth, Spallys blog, is one of my faourites because she alks about normal things.
Enough rant from me, thanks for the comment. I'm always surprised, and slightly disturbed when I'm reminded people actually read this thing

Mike W said...

sorry, 'wouldn't surprise me'

michael jensen said...

Love DFW. Still wrestling with Infinite Jest.

Mike W said...

I've heard Infinite Jest is quite a wrestle.
Who else do you love Michael?
Just asking because I only randomly found DFW, and only two years after he died. How do you keep up with who is doing interesting thinking?

kristan s. said...

thanks mike, sounds really interesting and i want to read it now - but can't get it through amazon kindle (not available to aus customers) and it isn't in bookshops in mauritius - yet another book onto the wishlist for when we return... thanks for your blog and your thoughts (nick b pointed me to them)... love the idea that identity in Christ is the loaf and work and doing like the poppy seeds on top...