On Monotony

A short essay by Tao Gaede

We tend to view life as a sequence of distinguished events, yet most of life is monotonous. We mistakenly become bored in this monotony and ignore the opportunity for reflection and burgeoning ingenuity.

Monotony has a dreariness connotation to it. This dreariness is boredom, which is the anxiety to do something more distinguished than currently. Boredom reveals the irony of our view of life: most of it is desirably monotonous for the sake of stability and creativity, but we nonetheless seem to wish to avert monotony with constant anxiety. One has to go to great lengths to swim without getting wet, and similarly we do many strange things to avert monotony.

Averting monotony may seem noble in a sense, but it’s actually quite tragic because the seed of ingenuity: reflection, is only possible in moments between distinguished events. Ingenuity is our primary feature as human beings, and when we omit it from our lives in boredom, we lose our main source for creating substantial and unique distinguished events in the future. Intelligence, our secondary feature, can bring us to distinguished events, but they are usually created by others, and so don’t quite enable us to tap into what we have to offer most effectively. For only we, when we are being authentic and fair to ourselves, know what we can best offer to humanity. Alone, intelligence can only carry us through already laid out events; but in monotony without ingenuity, boredom takes over, which does not generate life. Ingenuity is required to generate life and avert monotony without tragedy.

Averting monotony has erroneously become equivalent to averting boredom, and therefore it is seen as a positive norm to commiserate about. This has the unfortunate consequence of making entertainment a means of assuaging boredom as opposed to its true function of stimulating reflection and ingenuity.

All this to say that monotony should be seen positively as the opportunity to open the door of reflection and let in ingenuity.