Samuel Johnson, the distinguished 18th century English man of letters, famously said that “when a man is bored of London, he is bored of life”. When I left London in 1977 at the age of 30, I wasn’t bored with the city or with life. I just though that life in Asia would be more exciting. And I was right.
One often hears people say they are dying of boredom. But you’re unlikely to die of the normal run-of-the-mill boredom, though indirectly, it has probably killed many people. It is often a major factor that drives people to do daring and sometimes crazy things like bungee jumping, sky diving and other extreme sports.
Certain personalities that gravitate toward high-risk lifestyles also experience chronic boredom, but it can kill in more benign ways such as falling asleep while behind the wheel while driving long distances
We all know what boredom feels like. For many of us we itch for something to do, but our bodies don’t always respond. And some of us feel a sensation of lazy restlessness.
My 90 year-old mother in England always says there is so much to do in life, no one should ever be bored. I think she’s right. Finding new interests or hobbies, physical exercise and mindfulness have all been shown to reduce boredom.
And then of course there are boring people. Yes, we all know someone we dread bumping into at the mall as we know we’re going to be stuck there forced to listen to a boring monologue — usually focused on the speaker.
These bores have never realized the reason God gave us two ears and one mouth is so we can hear twice as much as we say.
One person who was surely not at all boring was the suave Russian-born English film actor George Sanders, who portrayed villains or charming heels in films such as Manhunt, Forever Amber and Samson and Delilah. He was also the villainous tiger Shere Khan in The Jungle Book. His career spanned more than forty years.
But, alas, he literally died of boredom.
On 23 April 1972, Sanders checked into a hotel in Castelldefels, a coastal town near Barcelona. He was found dead two days later, having taken five bottles of the drug Nembutal. He was 65 years old.
He left behind a suicide note, which read:
“Dear World, I am leaving because I am bored. I feel I have lived long enough. I am leaving you with your worries in this sweet cesspool. Good luck.”
It must be noted, however, that Sanders suffered from depression. He’d had three failed marriages — his wives included the Gabor sisters Magda and Zsa Zsa — and his fourth wife, Benita Hume, died of bone cancer, so this suave suicide note probably came from a deeply troubled man.