Sunday, April 11, 2010

how not to be bored..,

Nothing is more common than the complaint that one's neighbors are uninteresting, boring. Such complaints, however, are unconscious confessions rather than accusations, since the truth is that we are bored or uninterested exactly at the limit of our active intelligence. Boredom begins where our mind leaves off; and to be easily or quickly bored merely means that our intelligence is either small or very idle. All people, without exception are interesting and worthwhile. Not only is there nothing else for us to know than people, the educational purpose of life being just to acquaint us with the mystery of mankind; but every individual is, as it were, an epitome of the whole human book. Who can read and understand everything about one person has the key to the knowledge of the race. Thus one person is as good as another as a subject of interest; and to be bored by anybody is to fail to look for interest in him.

This is not to say that there are not people who, in relation to ourselves, create interest, and others who do not. We can, in fact, divide all the people we know into two classes: those who, without effort on our part, interest and stimulate us, really interesting people, as we say, with whom it is always a pleasure to associate; and those who, in and of themselves, arouse and stimulate no interest and no pleasure at all—the uninteresting and dull people.

But since, as we know very well, the same people are neither interesting to everybody nor uninteresting to everybody, it cannot be the case that they are the one or the other absolutely; they are only interesting or the reverse for us.

Why is this so? ... Is it possible for us to make people interesting who are not naturally so?

Let us realize that in essence we are each of us composed of a collection of chemicals (using chemicals as a word for any particular kind of matter). As between one individual and another, not only is there a difference in the number of component chemicals, but the chemicals are not all the same, nor in the same proportions, nor in the same state of activity. This fact illustrates and explains the extra¬ordinary variety in people; no two are chemically com¬pounded exactly alike. And since we are or can manifest only what our component chemicals allow us to be or to appear, each of us may be said to be defined by the chemicals of which we are composed.

Now we know that certain chemicals are related to others by what we call affinity. They take notice of some but they are indifferent to others. With some they will enter into active relations, exchanging qualities or actually combining; with others they remain inert. It is all the same whether such chemicals are in a laboratory or in a human body; their qualities and action are the same. And thus it follows that what we call our interest in people, or their interest in us, arises from or is conditioned by, the presence in us and in them of actively related chemicals. All our relations with people, friendly, indifferent or hostile, are, at bottom, determined by the relations of the chemicals of which we and they are composed. Never-the¬less there is a difference, and a very important one between a laboratory containing chemicals and a human being containing the same chemicals. In the latter laboratory, there is a chemist. The chemicals in two neighboring laboratories will mix and combine according to their qualities; they will act and react on each other naturally.

But if there be a chemist in one of them, or, better still, a chemist in each of them, and if the chemists in both are thoroughly conversant with the laws of chemistry—then, in place of the combinations due simply to nature and circumstances, we should have a series of combinations, due to science and art—combinations improbable or impossible in ordinary circumstances.

Returning to human relations, the analogy should be clear. So long as a man simply follows his interests, that is to say, finds people interesting or boring and acts accordingly, seeking the company of the first and avoiding the company of the second, so long is he just a laboratory without a chemist. He does nothing. He simply allows his chemicals to manifest their native qualities of affinity, indifference or hostility, without attempting by science or art, to rearrange them to enable them to enter into more and more varied relation with the chemicals in his neighbor's laboratories. He is, as we say, a creature of circumstance; and it is all a matter of chance whether he finds people dull or stimulating or is himself, to other people, one or the other.

To put a chemist into our laboratory and to train him to work scientifically, is the chief object of psychology. We wish to be masters of ourselves, and to have control over all the elements of which we are made. We wish to be able to enjoy all our resources, and to combine them with elements outside ourselves and in other people exactly as we please. Each of us really desires this power over himself; it is the essential aim and function of Man. But what is this but precisely to put a chemist into our natural laboratory and to set him to work?

As it is, and simply following the line of least resistance, we are not chemists with laboratories, but laboratories without chemists, or, let us say, laboratories in which the chemists are asleep. We must wake up the chemist in ourselves.

The means are comparatively simple. First, we must give our idle chemist a motive or reason for bestirring himself. And, second, we must tell him how to begin to work.

There are abundant reasons, and among them these: We are always at the mercy of people and circumstances so long as we depend on people and circumstances to interest us of themselves; we shall never know ourselves and others more than accidently and imperfectly so long as we remain simply laboratories; we shall live and die passive and mechanical agents of processes we do not understand so long as we do not try to make combinations which are just not easy and natural. If we continue to act simply according to our natural affinities, our likes and dislikes, we shall be no more than mineral or vegetable or animal men; we shall never be human men.

How to begin. Make every encounter with people a laboratory experiment in psychology. Say to yourself in the presence of another person or persons: 'Here is a wonderful collection of chemicals of which I know only a tiny number. I wish to know and understand them all. That is my work as a human being.' In this attitude of active curiosity, it is impossible to be 'bored' by anybody in any circumstances. Your interest in people, circumstances and the like, is in yourself as a constant and increasing energy. You live ever more abundantly.

Something of this kind of alchemistry must have been implied in the promise made to the Christian disciples: 'I have come that ye might have life, and have it more abundantly.'

Page 23-27 How Not to Be Bored from The Active Mind by A.R. Orage

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