A consulting editor for many years for Psychology Today magazine, Sam Keen is the author of the bestselling Fire in the Belly. In this fascinating paperback, he takes what he calls "an inward bound journey to explore boredom." Keen admits at the outset that he is a person used to maintaining a high level of intensity in his life. When daily life does not send him to either the heights or the depths, he feels let down and disappointed. Instead of allowing extremes to define his moods, the author decides to take a hard look at boredom, a malaise that he and millions of others have fled with great trepidation. With the creative sense that pervades most of his works, Keen states "think of boredom as a common cold of the psyche." This spiritual malaise has been charted by Georges Bernanos in Diary of a Country Priest, in the poetry of T. S. Eliot, in the contemplative writings of Evagrius of Pontus, and in the philosophical musings of Blaise Pascal.
Instead of running from boredom or pretending that it doesn't roll in regularly like a fog, Keen offers a different approach: "Surrender. Go into it. Study your dis-ease and it will lead you to health. . . . The awareness of boredom is the gateway to the hero's journey." This malaise is "an equal opportunity employer" and it can have a desultory effect on our lives leading to numbing, the eclipse of fantasy and imagination, the curtailing of creativity, the disinclination to action, the loss of freedom, and the surging of resignation, resentment, and rage.
Keen explores blue Mondays and black moods and the draggy feeling of monotony when familiar routines seem confining. The author comes up with many interesting ways to cope with boredom including wonder, imagination, enthusiasm, being present in one's activities, meditation as a way of examining what is, and practicing the art of doing nothing. Keen concludes that "authentic happiness is only possible when we allow ourselves to experience the full range of human emotions, including boredom, fear, grief, anger and despair"