Monday, April 17, 2006

In defense of boredom:

Augustin de la Peña is one of America's foremost authorities on boredom. A Stanford-educated psychophysiologist working at a sleep-disorders center in South Texas, de la Peña has just finished a nearly 1,000-page treatise on the subject, complete with hundreds of references and five appendices. The book took him 20 years to write. The only problem is that he can't find a publisher. "I don't know if anybody'll be interested, because boredom is such a hard sell," he says.

These are tough times for boredom. Television stalks us everywhere, from SUV back seats to elevators. We squander hours online, plunging through Internet wormholes. (Recently, I found myself at the website of the Argentine Air Force and suddenly wondered, like an awakening drunk, how did I get here? In slow moments at work, I don't lean back and contemplate the Big Picture; I check in on Gawker.) We burn time trading moronic instant messages and emails; one friend regularly sends me links to stories about misbehaving chimps. And, now, the proliferation of handheld diversions--the BlackBerry, the video iPod--is dealing a death blow to the idle moment. Especially in Washington, it has become permissible to check one's BlackBerry mid-conversation. And, just between us, I may once have glanced at mine at a urinal.

10:16 PM