The difference between boredom and anxiety

On a more personal note than my current series on Marion, one of the reasons I’ve so enjoyed reading God Without Being is that there is so much material for someone who, like me, is in a more or less constant state of existential crisis. Along these lines, I like the distinction Marion makes between boredom and anxiety. In brief, existential anxiety is chronically worried over the source of beings. What is good? Am I living well or squandering my existence? Is this relationship “real” or founded on fantasy? In contrast, for the bored person beings are there and well-founded and actions may even be clear enough, but who really cares? Boredom is the indifference to the genuine difference that exists all around us.

Between these two, anxiety is something to attend to at least, even if it’s terrifying and debilitating, for “the claim [of…] Being silently utters. Boredom, on the contrary, can hear nothing here, not even the Nothingness/Nothing.” Marion identifies anxiety as the source of Dasein, as that which seeks to found itself on the nothing. In contrast, boredom “displaces man…outside of his status as Dasein.” This because the bored person is not being here and there: he or she is nowhere in particular, nowhere that matters.

So, now you know the difference.

2 thoughts on “The difference between boredom and anxiety

  1. Do you think it’s possible to really “be nowhere in particular” ? Do you think that it is wise to incorporate boredom into a truly meaningful discourse, a discourse that matters? When we have urgent responsibilities, when we are stressed, when we are caught up in a project, when we have done something awful, we are rarely bored. Occasionally we get caught up in self-destructive practices in these moments, partly, I think, brought on by these ties to the world. Once these ties are loosened, then boredom can set in, which might be no more than a feeling that we miss feeling bound to the world and its peoples.

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  2. “Do you think it’s possible to really “be nowhere in particular” ?” Yes. This is the experience of boredom. We see it when nothing at all interests a person. Perhaps we see it more clearly when people try to cure themselves of this condition through excessive stimulation of one kind or the other that instead of placing them “here and there” place them nowhere: binging on television (especially mindless television) that simply “takes you away”; endless scrolling through social media without reading or looking at anything; travelling the world and getting laid and trashed in a variety of nondescript hostels. I think we see a mild version of the condition in the inability of people today to settle anywhere – to have any roots, or be attached to anything. On the industry side of things, consider all of the culture-less universal resorts and media that have sprung up to take money from bored people.

    “Do you think that it is wise to incorporate boredom into a truly meaningful discourse, a discourse that matters?” I’m not sure what you’re getting at with this question. If it is part of the human experience, if it is part of what troubles humanity today, if it is perhaps one aspect of living well, then it’s probably good to talk about it.

    “When we have urgent responsibilities, when we are stressed, when we are caught up in a project, when we have done something awful, we are rarely bored.” 1. I think chronically bored people don’t have any of these – no responsibilities, nothing interesting, no guilt. 2. For the rest of us who slip in and out of boredom, that’s precisely the point: in those cases we aren’t bored, but otherwise we are, and what might it mean to be bored?

    “Once these ties are loosened, then boredom can set in, which might be no more than a feeling that we miss feeling bound to the world and its peoples.” I’m far from convinced that boredom is an exclusively negative experience, and I think this might be part of the reason why.

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