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One of our great fears, which haunts us when we go out into the world
and socialize with others
is that we may in our hearts be really rather boring.
But the good news and a fundamental truth too,
is that no one is ever truly boring.
They're only in danger of coming across as such
when they either fail to understand their deeper selves
or don't dare or know how to communicate them to others.
That there is simply no such thing as an inherently boring person or thing
is one of the great lessons of art.
Many of the most satisfying artworks don't feature exulted or rare elements.
They are about the ordinary, looked at in a special way
with unusual sincerity and openness to unvarnished experience.
Take for example some grasses
painted by the danish artist Christian Købke
in the suburb of copenhagen in 1833.
Outwardly the scene is utterly unremarkable
and could initially appear to be deeply unpromising material for a painting
and yet, like any great artist,
Købke has known how to interrogate his own perceptions
in a fresh unclouded, underivative manner
and translated them accurately into his medium,
weaving a small masterpiece out of the thread of everyday life.
And just as there's no such thing as a
boring riverbank, tree or dandelion, so too
they can be no such thing as an inherently boring person.
The human-animal witnessed in its essence
with honesty and without artifice is always interesting.
When we call a person boring,
we're just pointing to someone who's not had the courage
or concentration to tell us what it's like to be them.
By contrast, we invariably prove compelling
when we succeed in saying
how and what we truly desire, envy, regret mourn and dream.
Anyone who faithfully recuperates the real data on what it's like to exist,
is guaranteed to have material with which to captivate others.
The interesting person
isn't someone to whom obviously and outwardly interesting things have happened:
traveled the world, met important dignitaries
or been present at large geopolitical events.
Nor is it someone who speaks in learned terms
about the weighty themes of culture, history or science.
There's someone who's grown into an attentive, self-aware listener
and a reliable, honest correspondent
of the tremors of their own mind and heart
and who can thereby give us faithful accounts
the pathos, drama and strangeness of being alive.
What then are some of the elements
that get in the way of us being as interesting
as we in fact are?
Firstly and most crucially, we bore when we lose faith
that it really could be our feelings
that would stand the best chance of interesting others.
Out of modesty and habit
we push some of our most interesting perceptions to one side,
in order to follow respectable but dead conventions of what might impress.
When we tell anecdotes we throw the emphasis on the outward details:
who was there, when we went, what the temperature was like
rather than maintaining our nerve
to report on the layer of feelings beneath the facts.
The moment of guilt, the sudden sexual attraction,
the humiliating sulk,
the carreer crisis, the strange euforia at 3 a.m.
Our neglect of our native feelings isn't just an oversight,
it can be a deliberate strategy to keep our minds away from realizations
that threaten our ideas of dignity and normality.
We babble inconsequentially to the world
because we lack the nerve
to look more closely and unflinchingly within.
It feels significant that most five-year-olds are far less boring
than most 45-year-olds.
What makes these children gripping
is not so much that they have more interesting feelings than anyone else,
far from it,
but that they are especially uncensored correspondents of these feelings.
Their inexperience of the world
means they are still instinctively loyal to themselves
and so they will candidly tell us what they really think
about Granny and their little brother,
what their plans for reforming the planet are
and what they believe everyone should do with their boogies.
We are rendered boring not by nature so much as by a fateful will
that begins its malevolent reign over us in adolescence to appear normal.
Yet, even when we're honest about our feelings
we may still prove boring because we don't know them as well as we should,
and so we get stuck at the level of insisting on an emotion
rather than explaining it.
We'll assert with ever greater emphasis
that a situation was extremely exciting, or awful, or beautiful,
but not be able to provide those around us
with any of the sort of related details and examples
that would help them viscerally understand why.
We can end up boring,
not so much because we don't want to share our lives,
as because we don't yet know them well enough to do so.
Fortunately, the gift of being interesting
is neither exclusive nor reliant on exceptional talent.
It requires only direction, honesty and focus.
The person we call interesting is in essence
someone alive to what we all deeply want from social intercourse,
which is an uncensored glimpse
of what the brief waking dream called life
looks like through the eyes of another person,
and reassurance we are not entirely alone
with all that feels most bewildering,
peculiar and intense within us.