I have admired Stephen Fry for years, first as an actor and comedian, then as a deeply reflected, outspoken, and heart-centered human being. And now, having watched his documentary The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive, as someone who publicly allows himself to be deeply honest and vulnerable.
A few weeks back, one of his Twitter followers called his tweets a bit boring, with Fry – caught in a dark mood – responding that he would retire from Twitter, and the two finally resolving it.
Our culture has certain ideas of what is good and desirable and what is not, and growing up and living within our culture, we absorb these ideas and come to take them as our own. We internalize them. As we all do, no matter which culture we were born into. Overall, it is a good thing. It is functional. It helps us function as a society.
But it can also create a good deal of distress for us. I have an idea I shouldn’t be stupid, and I end up behaving stupidly, or saying something stupid, and feel bad about it. Or I have an idea that I shouldn’t be boring, and someone says my tweets are exactly that, so I feel bad and want to quit tweeting.
We are luck living in a time where we meet people from different cultures, virtually or through travel. It shows us that our ideas about the world are culturally created and not absolutes. And that goes for things like being boring as well.
When I absorb ideas of what I should and shouldn’t be, I (usually) try to create an identity that include the shoulds and leave out the shouldn’ts. It doesn’t quite work since both will come up in my life, so I have an ambivalent relationship to the shoulnd’ts. I see they are here, but don’t want them to be here, so feel distress.
There are many ways to deal with this situation. I can tell myself those things are not really here. I can bring attention to it in others, rather than here. I can distract myself. I can include it in my identity, our of desperation, and create a rebellious identity around it.
Or, I can take an honest look at it. What is really here?
What happens when I get caught up in stories about what should and shoulnd’t be here? Who would I be without it? What are the truths in the reversals of those stories? What is more honest for me than those stories?
What happens when I allow it all to be here? When I see it. Feel it. Even live from it.
How can I bring it into my life, and live from it, in ways that are more mature, wise and kind? What are the gifts in it?
What do I find for myself when I explore ideas about being boring?
First, is it already a part of my identity? And am I OK with it?
What happens when I tell myself I shouldn’t be boring? I find that I split my life into boring and not boring. Some ways of acting is OK, and not other. I become very conscious of how others may see me. I evaluate myself according to an image of what it means to not be boring. I realize there are many different ideas of what is boring and not boring, so try to figure out what ideas the ones I am with have so I can try to live up to it. I may even seek out people who have strong ideas of about boring and not boring, so I can get confirmed that I am not boring. There is tension and stress. A slightly frantic quality. Always moving towards one thing, and away from something else, and what they both refer to (boring and not boring) are here and live their own life anyway.
Who am I without that idea? There is a deep sense of relief. Relaxation. I can bring attention to what is more interesting to me. To things that are more alive for me. I am free to be and act, whether or not it fits ideas of boring or not boring. It is recognized as an imagined boundary.
How is it true that I should be boring? What are the genuine gifts in being boring? There is a freedom there. I don’t have to live up to an idea of being not boring. It frees up attention to go elsewhere, to thing that are genuinely interesting to me. I can find friends who are OK with boring people. There is a huge relief there too. I don’t have to cencor or try to present a certain image. I can be naked with who I am. (And that is not boring at all.)
How is it true that I shouldn’t be interesting? It is a relief to not try to be interesting. I can bring attention to what is more genuinely interesting to me than trying to live up to an image. When I am not interesting, I get to see who are OK with me not being interesting. I get to see which of my friends are here not just because I am interesting.
By finding what is more honest for me – seeing it in concrete examples, feeling into it, living from it – the landscape opens up. There is a freedom to move in the landscape, free from taking the imagined boundaries of boring and not boring as substantial and real, and free from shoulds around it. My conscious identity includes both, and I am not only OK with both, but recognize the gifts of both, and especially the gifts in being free from trying to eliminate one or the other from my life.
- stephen fry, upset over his tweets called “boring”
- part of his identity + job to not be boring
- for me, not such a big deal
- functions of not wanting to be bored/boring
- bored: want stimuli, do things, learn, experience
- boring: vital, engaged, creative
- boring: vital, engaged, creative
- boring: friends, popularity, status, image, job
- can find the benefits in being boring….
- can relax, don’t have to live up to expectations, images – can focus on other, more interesting, things
- can find the interesting in the (apparently) boring
- two meanings of boring….
- what is conventionally seen as boring (depends on culture, time, place, people etc.)
- experience of boredom