Earl Gray

Earl Gray
"You can argue with me but, in the end, you'll have to face that fact that you're arguing with a squirrel." - Earl Gray

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Entertaining Boredom

Earl the Squirrel's 25th Law

"Leave it all and like a man,
come back to nothing special,
such as waiting rooms and ticket lines,
silver bullet suicides,
messianic ocean tides,
racial roller-coaster rides
and other forms of boredom advertised as poetry."

   - Leonard Cohen, "Field Commander Cohen"


    What is more boring than watching paint dry?
Alexander Fleming
Watching mold grow.  Nevertheless, that is precisely how Alexander Fleming developed penicillin.

    Who among us hasn't attended a dull performance, let our minds wander, and come up with a fruitful idea?  Okay, our brilliancies don't necessarily change the world the way wonder drugs did but their source is often no more exciting than [Archimedes] watching bath water rise.  A hundred attendees at a mordant council meeting can, depending on their occupations or interests, ponder a hundred problems ranging from mathematics or clothing design to plumbing or beating a Tampa-2 defense.  As the performer prattles on and we float in our mental miasma, random juxtapositions conjure strange analogies and metaphors, provoking lateral thought.  I'm told the Four Point Principle was created while the innovator was trying to avoid listening to an ear-gouging rendition of "Four Strong Winds" (not this one, certainly).  Speaking for myself, I came up with my most successful thesis while watching--or not watching, really--a television show so vacuous I refuse to divulge its name.

    Without unbearable reality television, the neighbors' holiday slides, our niece's school play, senseless lyrics on the radio, information overload and serendipity human progress might come to a standstill.

     You cannot live forever but if you want it to seem so watch a lot of C-Span.  Ignore those rumors about it permanently lowering your metabolism. 

    Currently, then, the poetry reading serves as a cornucopia of boredom--a vital if common resource.  Nota bene:  a performance doesn't have to be remotely competent or interesting in order to inspire great thoughts or accomplishments.  Indeed, a terrible product can be more inspirational and influential than a classic;  the viewer sees a mess and says:  "Hell, even I could do better than that!"  And they're often right!

    The challenge is to either synthesize the byproduct (creativity) without being forced to undergo the treatment (boredom) or to find a more palatable treatment.  For example, if worried about rickets would you rather take cod liver oil or a vacation in sunny Rio de Janeiro?

Enter Entertainment
Max (Kat Dennings) and Caroline (Beth Behrs)
For fans, sitcoms such as "Two Broke Girls" or "Mike and Molly" can provide welcome "veggie time":  half an hour of freedom from our worries and obsessions.  While tedium slows time to a crawl entertainment causes it to blur past.  None of us glanced at our watches the first time we watched "Star Wars" or "Casablanca".  In every sense, then, entertainment is the antipodal opposite of the typical poetry reading.

At the end of this "time well wasted", though, what do we have to show for it?


    If we have monotony to stir creativity and entertainment to satisfy an audience where is the need for art?  Or, more specifically, poetry?

    Art/Poetry combines the worst aspects of boredom and entertainment:  the need to escape from the former and the time-collapse of the latter.  In essence, it multiplies two significant minuses to produce a profound positive.

    If you are a frequent reader of "Commercial Poetry" you know that poetry is verbatim:  a quoteworthy product that survives not on book shelves but in our memory and speech.  It inspires various endeavors, including its own replication.  Poetry's medium is entertainment and its currency is, at once, time and timelessness.  It is what remains.  As such, while boredom may provoke thought once, well-written and well-performed verse can do so forever, and without causing the adverse reaction that "poetry" readings do.

     It's not just the real deal.  It's the Rio deal.

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