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4.2 The Boredom Principle

A. The Craving for Diversity

We, humans, crave diversity

While the human being needs to know the Average Deviation just as much as the other animals, the human being seems to be unique in his craving for diversity. The other creatures stick with the same life style and social structure Eon upon Eon. As soon as homo sapiens sapiens came upon the scene, they began traveling, decorating, and experimenting with different social structures. We can easily assert without challenge that the earliest humans lived in a totally different social structure than do we modern humans. Not only that, we can also assert without challenge, because it is such common knowledge, that in every continent in every century that different social forms have been experimented with. Even in the millennium of the Middle Ages, which was previously called the Dark Ages, constant change and social evolution was occurring. Historians can easily mark a century by its materials, styles, and fashions. We, humans, travel extensively, decorate our environments, create literature, music, architecture, exotic foods, and fashion. Our fashions in clothes and cars change annually to keep up with our need for diversity.

Other animals don't seem to crave diversity like we do

Cats live in the same territory and hate to move away. Dogs eat the same food, day in day out. Dogs, cats, whales, porpoises, lions, ants and any other moving creatures seem to have had a very stable social structure for the tens of thousands of years before the human came along. Scientists don't study a beehive one year and then find a different social structure when they come back the next year. Scientists studying beehives in Africa find the same social structures they found last year as well as in the 1930s. Scientists don't even consider social Darwinism in relation to any animal but humans. The Neanderthals, our nearest cousins, stayed in one place, did no decoration and had the same basic social structure for tens of thousands of years.

Quote: Neanderthals vs. Homo sapiens sapiens

"Despite possessing these obvious sensibilities, however, the Neanderthals seem to have had their limitations. For instance, excavations of the places where they lived yield no evidence of any kind of decoration in the form of paintings, engravings, or jewelry. The practical applications of animal bone -- for tools -- seem to have passed them by, and they also seem to have had little interest in traveling outside their own immediate environment; the stones with which they made their tools came only from the rocks in the immediate vicinity.

Indeed, all the remarkable advances made by these earlier species fade into insignificance beside the explosions of change wrought by Homo sapiens sapiens-- the anatomically modern humans. No more than 70,000 years after the first appearance of this species in Africa (around 100,000 BC), Homo sapiens sapiens were to be found throughout virtually the entire habitable world. They had supplanted all earlier forms of human beings and colonized totally new areas such as the Americas, which Homo habilis and Homo erectus had never penetrated. By 35,000 BC, this species had entirely populated the Neanderthals' Eurasian territory." [Time-Life Books, Time Frame, The Human Dawn, page 61

B. At the root of the need for diversity is Boredom

The Potential to experience Boredom

Why do we crave diversity? What impelling mechanism motivates us to continually change and experiment? This experimenter suggests that it is the potential of homo sapiens sapiens to experience boredom that has inspired us to achieve such heights. As Andy Warhol said, "At the root of creativity is boredom."

Defining Boredom as shrinking potentials

This experimenter is defining boredom as the perceived narrowing of potentials. The Average Deviation begins shrinking and the organism feels the pain of boredom and is stimulated to move – to change – to give life to the neural network that was created to store the Average Deviation. We don't necessarily crave diversity; we just want to escape the pain of boredom. Somehow, somewhere, sometime, a pain sensor was connected to our neural networks associated with Average Deviations and the world has never been the same since.

Qualifying an experience by its opposite

Why define the craving for diversity as the potential to experience boredom? Why not define the craving in terms of itself? We crave food to nourish us. We need clothes and shelter to protect us from the elements. We don't define these in terms of their opposites. Why, though, do we crave unique food? Why do we crave seasonal fashion? Why do we redecorate our homes? Why do we constantly seek out entertainment? None of these actions are related directly to survival. Our need for diversity extends to all levels of human activity. To identify the positive roots of each need for diversity would take volumes. While if we identify the basis of the need for diversity as the potential to experience boredom then all the phenomenon are seen to stem from a common root.

C. Witness the Evolutionary potentials of Boredom

Creatures without Boredom

The creature without the Boredom Principle operating is content with existence as it is. Rocks, plants and most animals don't 'kick against the prick'; they exist, trying to make life as comfortable as possible. Adjustments are made to facilitate survival; changes occur. However most creatures don't become bored with their existence. When their needs are taken care of and there is nothing to do, most animals rest.

Quote: Witness Homo erectusÕ potential for stability.

"In tool making, the most distinctive product of Homo erectus was the hand ax. These pear-shape tools of rounded triangular profile, with a point at the top and a broad curved butt, remained one of the most important tool types in Europe, Africa, and western Asia from 1.5 million BC up to about 100,000 BC. Why they continued to be used for so many millennia is still something of a mystery, but they clearly demonstrate that Homo erectus and their immediate successors were conservative in their tool manufacturing and were content to go no creating similar shapes of stone tools for hundreds of thousands of years." Time-Life Books, Time Frame, The Human Dawn, page 54, 1990

The Creature with Boredom

Not so with Homo sapiens sapiens. Nothing stayed the same for long. As soon as there was nothing to do, they felt boredom. If they experienced the same pattern over and over again they became bored. What was the reaction to the pain of boredom? To try something new, of course. Decoration, music, fashion, ceremony have little to do with survival but have a lot to do with combating boredom.

Quote: Neanderthals are our equal in brain power

This need for diversity was not just based upon brainpower for the Neanderthals were our equals in brainpower.

"And yet, for all their rugged appearance, the Neanderthals were the match of later humans when it came to brain capacity. Whether this meant they could match them in intelligence is not certain, but what does emerge clearly from excavations of Neanderthal sites is that they took the art of tool making to new levels of refinement. Before the emergence of the Neanderthals, a tool made by any hominid -- even the talented Homo erectus -- had been a shaped stone, a rock painstakingly whittled away to produce an often-cumbersome implement." Time-Life Books, Time Frame, The Human Dawn, page 57, 1990

Experimenting with the Environment

Homo sapiens sapiens began experimenting with his environment, not to facilitate survival but to avoid the pain of boredom. His creativity was playful, rearranging the stuff of his environment. Many of his experiments were merely surface changes and had no lasting effects. Some of the early experiments however were successful and led to lasting changes. Without boredom to motivate them, Homo erectus and Homo sapiens, the Neanderthals, were content with existence as it came to them and didn't change their social structure for the 1.4 million of years that they were in existence. Homo sapiens sapiens with boredom began experimenting immediately, and soon changed the face of the planet. We are still changing it now.

The Potential to Be Bored, an Evolutionary Advantage

The early human because of his propensity for experimentation, because of his need for diversity, caused by his potential to be bored soon discovered better weapons, tools, and increased his ability to communicate. So the potential to be bored conferred Homo sapiens sapiens with a greater possibility of surviving because his successful experiments increased the yield of his hunt, and the yield of his crops. This gave him a major advantage, evolutionarily, over his predecessors.

The tried and true has its place but will be surpassed

Staying with the tried and true does have its merits. The Neanderthal and his social structure did survive for about 100,000 years. It is likely that many human experiments led to the premature extinction of individual tribes. However there were bound to be some notable successes, which would survive and thrive, creating great nations. Their experimentation with weapons led to some technical advances, which allowed them to dominate the other creatures of the planet and possibly cause the extinction of the other humanoid type creatures including the Neanderthals, who had lasted so long. So while many experiments were unsuccessful, the ones that were successful led to advances, which inevitably propelled homo sapiens sapiens to the head creature of the planet. The need to experiment with forms was based upon the ability to be bored. So the ability to be bored provided an evolutionary advantage, which propelled human achievement beyond the other creatures of the planet.

The Greater the Potential for Boredom, the more evolutionarily fit

The human has this underlying urge for diversity, buried deep within our psyches because it provided us with such an evolutionary advantage. This potential to be bored seems to be accelerating with the modern times. Food, fashion, and entertainment tastes seem to be changing more rapidly all the time. Being enamored with the novel is nothing new however. Even within the fairy tales, they speak of kings who are bored and crave something new. The story of the Nightingale is one such story. In some ways because the ability to be bored confers an evolutionary advantage, those with the greatest potential for boredom are the most evolutionarily fit. Thus when your child says, "I'm bored." Say, "Good, may it propel you to heights undreamed of by those of us with a low potential for boredom."

Bored & Dissatisfied, Content & Happy

The person, who is happy with things the way they are, might be more content, but will not be experimenting with new forms and ideas. The individual with a greater potential for boredom, might experience more dissatisfaction, but will instead be motivated to experiment with her environment. The hillbillies might be quite content with their never changing lifestyle but the technological advances instituted by those who are not so content inevitably affect them.

Boredom & Pain communicate

In some ways, it is necessary to cultivate the potential to be bored in order to have an effect upon the planet. Treating boredom as a hang-up is like treating the symptoms of pain with painkillers that mask the underlying causes. Boredom and Pain communicate to the organism, both telling him to move. Ignoring pain might cause permanent damage; ignoring boredom might short-circuit a significant achievement.

The Taoist approach

Many thoughts are merely the messages of the neural networks trying to preserve themselves. Urges, messages and thoughts are continually bombarding consciousness. A Taoist approach to meditation is to watch the emerging thoughts as a mirror watches the world, i.e. without investment. The meditator watches the thoughts without jumping on top of them. Instead of viewing the thoughts as illusion, which they are, they are given as much credence as they deserve, but not more. The Taoist is not trying to achieve Liberation from this Plane of Existence. Instead the Taoist is trying to escape from the Dust of thoughts. He is trying to be himself without the undue influence of the Brain. Thoughts are not dismissed, just given their proper importance.

The Primary Clear Light of the Void

Deep in meditation all these neural networks are yelling, "Me! No Me! Me! Me! Me!" Observing this clamor without investment the meditator finally sees a worthy cause emerge to the surface. He does not dismiss it and indeed may act upon it. But he acts upon it in balance, spontaneously. In some ways meditation allows the primal survival urges to emerge to the surface. In Tibetan Buddhism, they call it the Primary Clear Light of the Void. We, homo sapiens sapiens, tend to respond from greed, desire and attachment, rather than from survival urges. Meditation minimizes the surface attachments and maximizes the urges of the Primitive Being. These urges have carried us this far, let us trust them rather than our personal desires and cravings which don't necessarily further survival.

D. The Homing Principle

The Boredom and Homing Principle hand-in-hand

Along with the Boredom Principle comes the Homing Principle. This is counter-intuitive. On the surface of the Boredom Principle is the idea of change based upon Boredom. If something is the same too long we become bored with it. Intuitively thinking, we would say that this principle would dissolve the family and the home. We would feel that boredom with the sameness of the faces, the environment and the repetitive tasks would drive Homo sapiens sapiens crazy, if he is really so motivated by boredom. The exact opposite is true.

Bored with Change

On a moment-to-moment basis the Boredom Principle would destroy the family, as the parents of any teenager will testify to. However the Boredom Principle is broader based than just moments. While it operates on moments, it also operates upon days, weeks, months, years and lifetimes. It also operates upon itself. The Boredom Principle gets bored with change itself and requires stability for balance to the sameness of change.

Stability is a Change from constant Change

As well as being bored with sameness, we humans also become bored with change. To establish a basis for change it is necessary to establish a home. Thus the craving for diversity on higher levels is stability balanced with change. We become bored with change and settle down. We become bored with home-life and take a vacation. We welcome routine after a period of turmoil. We welcome excitement and adventure after a period of routine. The Yin & Yang, the balance of change and stability. Be moderate in all things including the need for extremes, moderately extreme.

Quote: Humans like a place to call their home.

Thus the early humans as well as traveling great distances in a nomadic manner, also established home sites, in a manner that none preceding them had done.

"At the same time, even though they were based in different places at different times of the year, the hunter-gatherers developed a strong sense of home. Whereas non human primates had always stayed together when searching for food, these humans probably divided their labor, some of them going off hunting expeditions that could last for days while others of the group were scouring the area close to the campsite for nuts and vegetables. Constant scattering of the group made it essential that all of its members have a base to return to, and this need for a secure focal point gave the camps of Homo sapiens sapiens a feeling of semi-permanence that was lacking in those of their predecessors." Time-Life Books, Time Frame, The Human Dawn, p. 64

While practical considerations pushed the early humans into homes, this also satisfied the Boredom Principle. The thrill over diversity, variety, for the early humans that inspired them to experiment with their environment, traveling everywhere, also inspired them to establish home sites.


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