Boredom is the Best Defense

Writing in the UK’s Daily Telegraph, Mark Borkowski observes that while testifying before the United States Congress, BP CEO Tony Hayward looked “like a tired undertaker who was rather bored with having to look mournful.”


Tony Hayward testifies in front of a key Congressional committee.


The history of boredom has yet to be written but here are some highlights offered in a sincere effort to contextualize  Mr. Hayward’s performance: 


Thomas Carlyle

Thomas Carlyle:

“I’ve got a great ambition to die of exhaustion rather than boredom.”


Viggo Mortensen

Viggo Mortensen:

“There’s no excuse to be bored. Sad, yes. Angry, yes. Depressed, yes. Crazy, yes. But there’s no excuse for boredom, ever.”


John Updike


John Updike:


“A healthy male adult bore consumes each year one and half times his own weight in other people’s patience.”


Mark Twain

Mark Twain:

“Let us live so that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry.”


Of course when you mix the advice of attorneys with a penchant for the appearance of upper class disinterestedness you’ve got a helluva a PR cocktail.


The best book on boredom (in my view) is Patricia Meyer Spacks’ Boredom: The Literary History of a State of Mind.

If boredom is a modern preoccupation–one that is a co-efficient of leisure and of dramatic or comic narratives (the novel) then yesterday’s performance by Mr. Hayward was an engagement in cynicism and despair. Boredom as a condition means that the bored “subject” no longer believes in the future–either his or anyone else’s. It remains to be seen whether Mr. Hayward is in this camp. But the infusion of legal discretion as a necessary dynamic of public testimony invariably must lead to a dire absence of personal narrative–and hence the hyper- cognition and soiled drama of the politicians.


Boredom for everybody!


Sic semper borianus!





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