Beyond Boredom: Why We Crave Constant Entertainment

Boredom is a ubiquitous emotion in the human experience, and individuals frequently confront it through the pursuit of entertainment. Pascal provides vivid depictions and incisive analysis of this phenomenon.

When we are alone, devoid of occupation and purpose, we succumb to a sense of ennui. Boredom is a sentiment deeply rooted in the human condition and the fundamental circumstances of life, yet it is only revealed in these moments. Upon closer examination, within the state of boredom, there emerges a kind of trepidation in confronting oneself, a recognition of one’s emptiness and powerlessness, and a contemplation of the inevitability of death. Thus, people often seek to avoid solitude and escape the onslaught of boredom.

The most intolerable state is one of complete tranquility. We struggle against certain obstacles in pursuit of peace, but once we overcome them and attain serenity, we find that it is not necessarily a desirable state. We harbor worries, and even when our lives are secure, boredom possesses a subtle power to rise from the depths and taint our spirits. Pascal observed that to wish someone a peaceful life is to be ignorant of human nature. We require commotion and distraction to occupy ourselves. Since we cannot cure the anguish of emptiness and mortality, the best course of action is to avoid contemplating these existential concerns altogether. There is a precipice before us, and we must place something in our line of sight to obscure it, allowing us to run along the edge without worry. This “something” may be a career, ambition, faith, love, or the most common and convenient option: recreation.

Recreational activities exert an excellent diversionary effect. Regardless of one’s level of unhappiness, engaging in some form of pastime can momentarily alleviate it. The man devastated by the loss of his son could not appear to be in pain while intently observing the trail of a wild boar chased by hounds. The individual troubled by a lawsuit in the morning could set aside all unease while focused on catching and returning a ball in a game. Of all diversions, gambling is the most effective. A person who gambles regularly will never experience boredom. The essence of gambling is the interdependence of the act and the prospect of monetary gain. Deprive a gambler of the ability to wager, and you will render them miserable; conversely, deny them the opportunity to win or lose, and they will feel disinterested. The allure of gambling lies in the excitement and complete distraction it provides.

The same principle applies to the pursuit of hunting. The prey itself may not bring happiness, and one could be equally content without it. It is the thrill and bustle of the hunt that captivates the mind and provides solace. Philosophers may scoff at the absurdity of spending a day chasing a rabbit one has no intention of acquiring, unaware that the hunt, rather than the quarry, serves to obscure the specter of death.

The king, possessing all material comforts, would be miserable without diversions, and a multitude of distractions are employed to prevent him from dwelling on himself. Thus, the quest to maintain the king’s happiness through various pastimes becomes a paramount concern. Powerful individuals are often surrounded by those dedicated to ensuring they do not have even a moment to contemplate themselves, for without such diversions, they would be left to confront their own thoughts and succumb to the depths of melancholy.

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