Monday, February 16, 2009

Random Thought: On Art And Boredom

The one human state no art is able to capture is boredom.

Music can't do it. Notes have an intrinsic energy that's the opposite of listlessness, a kind of temporal tension: a tone has a beginning and, once begun, we wonder where it will go. Will it rise or fall, or will it simply fade back into silence?

Words, whether read or spoken, have this same energy. There's a tension between the meaning of the word and the way that meaning sits within the larger message of the thought being expressed. So writing--though capable of describing the feeling--can't actually convey it.

Similarly, color and line relate to each other through boundaries, all of which relate to the larger border of the frame (whether a rectangle of wood molding or, for a mural, say, the perimeter of a wall), which is to say nothing of the energy inherent to the pigments themselves, the gray scale included.

Boredom, as we all know, can be provoked (and here I must mention the art of theater, the ne plus ultra of such a provocateur), but it can never be artistically transmitted.

There's a saying that despair is the greatest sin against God (which we secularists do no injury by interpreting as "life"). Perhaps. But underlying such abject devastation is a longing for life as it used to be. Boredom, on the other hand, while certainly less overwhelming is actually more extreme. It is, at heart, a disinterest--a detachment--from the senses, from chronology, and so, really, a detachment from life (no matter how briefly).

Of all the social and emotional purposes the arts serve, perhaps rescuing us from boredom is the most basic.

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