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April 22nd, 2003

killer ennui

When I was younger, world-weariness was the rage. Bowie and Roxy Music made disaffection somehow chic, with a knowing wink. In novels in 70s vogue such as Brideshead Revisited, ennui acquired a romantic opulence--one not only wished one suffered more from it,but the charming character of Julia Flyte made one rather wish one could sleep with ennui. One wished to sleep with boredom--in the most sophisticated way. Meanwhile, closer to home, ennui was a suburban staple, much like the neighborhood cook-out.

But I've decided that ennui is a tragic luxury. Mephistopheles wins more souls with world-weariness than she ever did with promises of winning Yankees seasons. When I was younger, we disdained everything--material success, people who partied, popular people. We even disdained those who disdained. But I wonder if our ennui was not just as malignant as those things we rejected.

Yet another spouse was arraigned this week after a ghastly episode in which he is alleged to have expressed his boredom in his marriage by assasinating his wife and unborn child rather than merely setting up house with his lover. I have no idea if this set of allegations is true, although too many convictions of other miscreant spouses convince me that marital boredom is a homicidal menace. I always want to ask the dentist's spouse why running over her husband with a car multiple times seemed preferable to just suing for divorce and a favorable community property split. I blame it all on boredom--fatal boredom.

But my nightly news shows me pictures of admirable young servicemen and women, doing a duty imposed by politicians thousands of miles away, trying desperately to win a peace after winning a war. A child handed four of them an explosive device last week. My newspaper tells me of Iraqi children who pick up souvenirs of war, only to find out that they are cluster bomblets. My radio tells me tales of looters who denude priceless treasures, and ship them to Europe and the United States. As the water and electricity are being restored in a foreign capital, the local economy remains in collapse. There is no time for boredom there. There is only the moment to be lived.

I wonder if real living really requires a tragedy, though. Perhaps ennui is like the SARS virus in the news. It kills for reasons I do not understand. All I know is that it must be quarantined, and it will pass. I am bored of boredom--of world weariness. There's just too much to do in this world to be so consistently tired of it. My first draft of this post dissolved in the ether, and I almost said "I'm too tired to write it all again". But is everything in my life going to be done only if it is easy to do? I hope not. I got my "ennui ya ya's" out. Now, I wish to do, and not be bored of the unspent effort of possible deeds.