Not by Tedium

I was under the wrong impression that the human world was held together by tedium. There is a quote from the book The Pale King that captures the mistaken idea:

“I discovered the key. This key is not efficiency, or probity, or insight, or wisdom. It is not political cunning, interpersonal skills, raw IQ, loyalty, vision, or any of the qualities that the bureaucratic world calls virtues, and tests for. The key is a certain capacity that underlies all these qualities, rather the way that an ability to breathe and pump blood underlies all thought and action.

The underlying bureaucratic key is the ability to deal with boredom. To function effectively in an environment that precludes everything vital and human. To breathe, so to speak, without air.

“The key is the ability, whether innate or conditioned, to find the other side of the rote, the picayune, the meaningless, the repetitive, the pointlessly complex. To be, in a word, unborable.

“It is the key to modern life. If you are immune to boredom, there is literally nothing you cannot accomplish.”

But no one really controls what they pay attention to. The things that you find interesting appear to be just that—inherently and obviously interesting or important for good reasons. Boredom is not willed away and it should not be. (But sometimes spirits are broken into dank submission.)

The world works because people find the right things interesting enough to pay attention to.


Why don’t airplanes fall out of the sky?

How does every interconnected piece of a sophisticated machine function so reliably well that we gladly ride it?

Not willpower. Willpower is shallow. Thin. Fragile. Fleeting.

Meaning keeps us. Like a web woven around a particular thing and then connected to every other thing and back again.

Meaning. Like the interdependence of an ecosystem, a community, an economy. Woven thoroughly and curiously.