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The Meaningfulness of Experiencing Boredom, Loneliness and Impatience.

Boredom, loneliness and impatience are feelings that everyone experienced at least once in their lives. We identify them as extremely negative and would surely escape these feelings if we could. But what if we could grasp their potential? What if we were able to accept them as a fundamental part of our experience, that can reveal something about what it means to be human? Radboud Reflects and Go Short International Film Festival hosted an engaging online event on boredom, loneliness and impatience and their philosophical value. Tim Miechels - Phd candidate at Radboud university specialising in continental philosophy and editor at Filosofie  Magazine - and Aoife McInerney - Phd candidate working on Hannah Arendt and phenomenology at Radboud university and Limerick University - held short lectures and engaged in conversation on three short movies, moderated by Simon Gusman, .

Heidegger on Boredom

The first short lecture on Heidegger’s notion of boredom was delivered by Miechels. In The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics: World, Finitude, Solitude, the German philosopher Martin Heidegger describes three different types of boredom: being bored by something, being bored with something and existential boredom. In the first case we are bored by a specific situation and we try to find distraction in order to make time go by faster. Imagine, for example, to arrive at a train station, in the middle of nowhere, only to discover that your train is four hours late, your phone is out of charge and you have finished your book. You will need to find distractions to make time pass. In the second case, boredom comes from inside. It is not caused by an external event, but it has to do with our own experiences. In this case, we try to do something meaningful - go to a dinner party with friends, for example - in order to escape this feeling. Eventually, existential boredom is an inescapable and encompassing feeling that makes the whole world meaningless to us. While the first two types of boredom can be intersubjectively shared, existential boredom is an extremely lonely moment. It comes into our lives as a breakdown that allows us to question the real meaning of things. That is why Heidegger recognises it as the starting point of philosophy.

The first short movie, Balcony by David dell’Edera, said Miechel’s, perfectly depicted different kinds of boredom and our need to let boredom in. Like the characters in the movie, we should accept boredom as a way to develop an eye for what happens in our everyday life. Only when we allow ourselves to be bored, something meaningful and unexpected can come into our life.

Hannah Arendt on Loneliness

McInerney introduced the role of loneliness in Hannah Arendt’s philosophy. True loneliness, she explained, comes when you are abandoned by others, when you become alienated and you do not have a place in the world anymore. That is, when ‘self’ and ‘world’ are lost at the same time. Arendt claims the existence of a mass loneliness has a crucial political relevance and leads to a state of deprivation. Mass loneliness is described by Arendt as an extremely dangerous feeling. Indeed, it causes an erosion of the individual’s reality, and, when it happens, simplistic ideals become more acceptable. Being lonely, the individual is no longer part of the public space and becomes extremely vulnerable. This happens because loneliness stands in contrast with the plurality of the public sphere, and thus with reality and politics.

The second film, Women without a child by Eva Saiz, masterfully showed the process of getting out of a situation of loneliness, says McInerney. The protagonist lacks her own personal and sexual identity, and has no relations to the outer world. In other words, she lacks a public space, and because of this, an identity of her own. The woman gets in touch with the outer world from the moment she rents out a room to a young student that brings her back to an intersubjective state.

Impatience and Time

The evening ended with the short movie, Enough by Anna Mantzaris. It showed how impatience can lead to strong and unexpected actions. Actions that can be extremely liberating for ourselves. Discussing impatience, both McInerney and Miechels agreed on the importance of its temporal dimension, which stands at the basis of this feeling. Moreover, not only does time play a crucial role in feelings of impatience, it also plays a role in feelings of boredom. Impatience is somehow the opposite of boredom, Miechels argued. Heidegger would compare it to curiosity, with the need to constantly find something new, never really engaging with things.

Miechels and McInerney provided a beautiful insight on boredom and loneliness. They showed how being bored and lonely are fundamental, but also meaningful, experiences of human beings. Boredom, on the one hand, should be welcomed with acceptance. We should learn to let it enter our lives, because through it, reality can gain a higher meaning. Loneliness, on the other hand, has a strong impact on our lives and can lead to world and self-alienation. It is therefore something that we have to overcome in order to regain ourselves into the world.

This report is written by Sabrina De Biasio as part of the Research Master Philosophy at Radboud University.