Topology threads all spaces together, cave after cave, each as ludicrous as the next. No wonder people find their leisure as dull as their work — leisure is work. How times change…. Karl Marx: “The working-day contains the full 24 hours, with the deduction of the few hours of repose without which labor-power absolutely refuses its services again… Time for education, for intellectual development, for the fulfilling of social functions and for social intercourse, for the free-play of… bodily and mental activity, even the rest time of Sunday (and that in a country of Sabbatarians!) — moonshine!” But that moonshine has become legitimate business. The free time available for education, culture, sport, even faith, were once the hard-won fruits of labor’s struggle to free time from work. This free time gave rise to heterotopias of sport and art that at least held the intoxicating illusion of autonomy from the necessity of work. Now they become work, disguised as games, just as games become the disguise of work itself. The sporting metaphors and slogans migrate from leisure to work — and back again. They cease to be metaphors and become mere descriptions, in a language stripped of any terms other than those of competition. Almost every moment is swept into a relentless agon.
And as for those slack times between engagements, who knows what to do with them? You are sitting, for example, in the tasteless departure lounge of some provincial airport. It is four hours until your flight, which — of course — is delayed. The shops around are uninspiring. You do have a book in your backpack. It’s Heidegger, bought on impulse. Shall you read? No. Or think through some problem? No. Or play games on your handheld? Not even. You are unable to. You look at the departures and arrivals on the screen. You look at the clock, again. You count the chairs. You walk up and down. To pass the time you look at the stores in the airport mall, but they all seem mere clones of each other, or of stores in other chains. Look, there is even a franchise of The Cave™! You imagine the satisfaction of throwing a rock through the plate glass window. What’s the good? Martin Heidegger: “What is at issue in boredom is a while, a whiling, a peculiar remaining, enduring…. A confrontation with time.”
You are sitting, for example, at your Playstation, with a stack of games to choose from. The flight was long and tedious, and now you are home free. You put in State of Emergency, if only for the pleasure of watching the automated riot of two hundred non-player characters ransack the mall in which the game begins. You choose Chaos rather than Revolution mode, so you can trash the place without worrying about missions and objectives. While fairly agreeable beats pound, you pick up weapons, smash things, thump and are thumped by security and gang bangers, looking for the moment to toss the bomb. Still, you are bored. But this is a different kind of boredom. At the airport, it was easy to blame it on the circumstances. Now, at home where you can do whatever you like, it isn’t anything or anyone’s fault. You put the game away, and wonder why you are still, still bored. Heidegger again: “Was I what was boring myself?” Perhaps it is not things that are closed to me, but my own being.
Then again, perhaps its not things that are boring you, nor even yourself that is boring you. Perhaps there is something else. Something you can’t put your finger on. You are bored. Why fight it? Why not just declare it? Iggy Pop: “I’m the chairman of the bored!” Perhaps here one can think through everyday boredom to a boredom of Heideggerian profundity, and confront temporality itself! Boredom could be the tune to which one turns towards theory. Philosopher of boredom Lars Svendsen: “The essential difference between the bored and the ‘theoretical’ gaze is that the former is the result of an involuntary loss of meaning, while the theoretical gaze deliberately removes it.” Starting with this ever more present everyday boredom, one might follow Heidegger out of the mall and into the sacred groves of a certain brand of theory.
Pause State of Emergency and take that Heidegger book that you bought on your travels out of your backpack. Idly flipping though its pages, you find that Heidegger’s boredom, strangely enough, has levels. Thinking through from one level to the next presents, as he will say again and again, tasks, tasks, still more tasks. These tasks are organized as a maze of paths and still more paths. It’s all tasks and paths, tasks and paths. To the gimlet eye of the gamer, this theory starts to look just like another game. Level one: Newbie Boredom. Level two: More Boredom. Level three: Profound Boredom. Bonus levels: World, Finitude, Solitude. His book is a strategy guide for theory as a game of being. A game which, like any other, posits leveling up as a goal in itself, approaching the ever-receding big bad boss of time itself. A canny move for a gamer theory is always to refuse any such game which claims to transcend gamespace. Step outside The Cave™ and what do you find? Another cave, disguised as an exit. Better to return to The Cave™, play the game and try to find its form. Back to State of Emergency: it’s a boring game in many ways, but that may be its charm. One imagines Benjamin and Hannah and the other characters one so carefully cultivates in The Sims getting so bored they join the mayhem, smashing windows, looting big screen TVs.