Boredom as chance.


My parents are gone and I'm alone.
I roam the streets,
endlessly bored.
In a park I make friends
with a group of penguins.
We look into each other's eyes.
I shiver and I laugh.

Some scattered thoughts on "Boredom as chance".

1. Learning from Bergson means learning making distinctions.

Bergson distinguishes between essential and gradual distinctions.

A memory is essentially different from a perception.

I call this distinction a pre-analytic insight.
Why pre-analytic?

First (historically), because this book appeared before Freud's "Interpretation of Dreams" (1900), which in a sense will be fundamental to what will later be called psychoanalysis.

Bergson uses a problematic concept of the "unconscious," closely linked to a philosophy of consciousness from which the discourse around the "unconscious" will later break away. The unconscious, for Bergson, is the powerless of perception for it is outside of consciousness, the experiencing and feeling agency of the living being. Powerful, for Bergson, are sensations, not the unconscious.

Pre-analytically, on the other hand (structurally), because there is a discourse that aims at distinctions and therefore recognizes as necessary in experience the interweaving/confusion of given perceptions and memories.

But because conversely the immediate indistinguishability of memory and perception does not exclude their principled distinguishability, I call Bergson's insights pre-analytic.

However, I consider pre- and post-analytic insights as gradually distinctive.

2. Bergson aims at a philosophy of experience, with intuition as its central method.

Direct experience is to be drawn, Bergson says, "above that decisive turning point at which it bends toward our usefulness, becomes human experience in the proper sense." The method of intuition does not seek experience for a predetermined use, following an intention, but wants to open the encounter with the "new": the unknown.

It is the need for immediacy and authenticity of perception that elsewhere Adorno critiques and which Bergson, in short, accuses of involuntarily restoring the lost sense of late bourgeois irrationalism with his "intuition as method." Adorno locates Bergson's method in a social context blinded by capitalism (see "Zur Metakritik der Erkenntnistheorie", Suhrkamp 1990)

3. Perception means standstill

At this point Bergson's ideas transfer into some thoughts on boredom.

Boredom is a concept that can be located in a discourse of everyday experience and associated with phenomena of disinterest, passive aggression, grief, and more, without becoming identical with them.

In contrast to the French "ennui" or the English "boredom", the German word "Langeweile" emphasizes a temporal aspect of experience. To find something boring is to spend "too much" time with something.

Boredom suggests a measurelessness in experience, something ongoing becomes tiresome, something that would be bearable or enjoyable in the right measure becomes "too much" in becoming boring and possibly incompatible with my sense of pleasure. Boredom is a "too much" of time and at the same time a "too little" of pleasure. Boredom is thus not only excess and expenditure, but represents a silent discourse of desire.

Perception, for Bergson, is a function of action, precedes it, and occupies a certain duration. Even the smallest perception takes duration - the reading of a letter, its recognition, to the act of pronunciation. More complex perceptions require a longer duration, more stillness.

When this standstill lasts too long, when the object of my perception slips away, I speak of boredom. I am confronted with the emptiness in standstill.

Paradoxically, I also have this experience of boredom in the midst of the overload of my everyday life; overloaded with information and tasks. Boredom is widespread and there are countless reactions and responses to it, not the least of which is represented by the film industry. My everyday life can be described as a system of organized responses to boredom.

Boredom, understood in the sense of the standstill that prepares the action, is a container of condensed possibilities. The hesitation, the procrastination, the stalling of speech, all these phenomena are already known from the confrontations of the possible with standstill. In boredom, however, a space for action virtualizes itself.

I propose to speak of boredom as a chance and to work with it in this sense.

The thirty-minute video is a walkthrough of a virtual mapping (mindmap) of Bergson's work "Matter and Memory" (1896).

The maps were created during the first Corona Lockdown from March to June 2020.