[-empyre-] All call: subscribers interested in Boredom: Labor, Use and Time

Erin Obodiac emo57 at cornell.edu
Thu May 28 08:54:10 AEST 2015

In response to Murat, concerning whether boredom is inside or outside, we might remember that Dasein, as being-in-the-world, puts into question phenomenal conceptions of spatiality: Dasein is not in the world like a thing within a box, but articulates a relational comportment, is itself “being-in-the-world.”  In his analysis of boredom, Heidegger discusses two mistaken paths—boredom as residing out there in things and boredom as residing within a psychological subject—before he launches into his explanation of profound boredom.  Also, with regard to the “being compelled to listen to what boredom has to say,” Heidegger himself notes that this means that boredom belongs to the realm of power (and politics?): I’ll elaborate on this later.
Here is a summary of the first form of boredom discussed in part one, chapter two of The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics: 

We see that “to bore” is technologically determined by the technique or tool that bores, and is, therefore, a figurative term.  An online etymology website states: “sense of ‘to be tiresome or dull’ first attested 1768, a vogue word c. 1780-81 according to Grose (1785); possibly a figurative extension of ‘to move forward slowly and persistently,’ as a boring tool does.”  We hear the drone of the boring-tool, an acoustic analogue of a slow and persistent movement forward, the movement of boredom.  There is no aleatory sidestepping here. 
In a characteristic move, Heidegger pays attention to the German and Alemanic usage of Langeweile, meaning a long while, the becoming long of time, and even homesickness, as a fundamental philosophical attunement (80).  In another characteristic move, he does not say that we can learn about boredom via time, but that we can learn about time via boredom: there is a kind of fundamental priority of boredom with the question of time.  Moreover, time is approached in his The Fundamental Questions of Metaphysics via three questions: world, finitude, and solitude.  
For Heidegger, boredom (Langeweile, meaning long while, meaning stretching) is the fundamental attunement of our contemporary situation, but it is one that “we” continually try to escape.  Although we are constantly trying to shake it off, boredom is always there.  In a peculiar personification, Heidegger suggests that boredom is vigilantly awake and staring at us: “we do not wish to let it be awake—it, this boredom which, in the end, is already awake.  With open eyes it looks into our Da-sein (albeit entirely from a distance), and with this gaze already penetrates and attunes us through and through” (79).  This outlook on boredom seems quite paranoid, projecting it outward as something that comes from the outside and bores inward.  Boredom seems to be an atmospheric monster that we are perpetually trying to run away from: “Yet to where does it escape, and from where does this insidious creature that maintains its monstrous essence in our Dasein return?” (79).
Despite this peculiar personification, in order to avoid psychologisms, Heidegger begins his discussion with boringness—that which is boring—rather than boredom.  He first considers the way that boringness might be taken as an objective characteristic of something that is “at the same time related to the subject” (84).  The subjective attunement of boredom might appear to be transferred upon things, yet Heidegger questions if it is also apprehended from the things themselves.  That which is boring means that “we are given over to it, yet not taken by it, but merely held in limbo” (86) and “it does not engross us, we are left empty” (87).  Heidegger stresses that this attunement is not a cause-effect relation, not one of transference.  He insists that boredom is not an object that can be scientifically observed, but is an attunement, one that we drive away and to which we are opposed, especially in the experience of passing the time (91).  
Heidegger begins by investigating the driving away of boredom with passing the time (vertreiben with Zeitvertreib).  To pass away time is the attempt to pass away boredom: “Passing the time is a driving away of boredom that drives time on” (93).  His example is waiting at the train station and the activities—reading, thinking, counting, pacing, doodling—that attempt and fail—looking at one’s watch—to pass the time.  This is not to say that boredom is waiting or impatience: rather, waiting can (often) be boring.  We can see that Heidegger with his attention to distinctions in attunement, mood, and feeling is somewhat of an affect theorist: “becoming bored is a being affected by time” (98).   Boredom, however, seems to be a fundamental attunement by which there is a confrontation (96) with time, the long while (Langeweile).  Heidegger ventures into a reflection on both the calculable and subjective measurement and speed of time: buried here is the insight that instruments that measure and count time share with subjectivity a variability in the speed and measurement of time.  Are time instruments forms of subjectivity?  Is subjectivity machinic?   Looking at the clock—a technical device—mediates Heidegger’s discussion of boredom: “even though we often look at the clock, we look away again just as quickly” (99).  The dragging of time belongs to boredom.  
To speed up this dragging, to pass the time, we seek to occupy ourselves with anything, “so as not to fall into this being left empty” (101).  Things are at hand in such a way that they leave us empty: this such-a-way belongs to a boring situation (102).  Heidegger then wants to connect being left empty to being in limbo as time drags: a being suspended in emptiness as time drags.  In short, boredom articulates an empty relation to world with temporal dragging, a relation of things to time.  

Erin Obodiac

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