In the beginning of the summer, I was reading A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by Joyce. Even while reading it, I was pretty bored. I remembered it was a precursor to Ulysses, but that’s about it. If you asked me what happened in that book, I would have no idea.
My grandmother suffers from anterograde amnesia, and it is very hard for her to make new memories at this point in her life. I’ve told her that I graduated college at least a dozen time by now, but she cannot retain the information. At one point, I remember she was watching television, and she kept on watching the same episode over and over again. It was one of those family sitcoms that was filmed 30 years ago in China with characters that seem quite antiquated nowadays. She seemed entertained, and she kept watching.
I was thinking how we do a lot of things in our lives to relieve boredom. There is an entire entertainment industry out there built to create media that keeps us entertained. In many ways, I think this trait is the pitfall of humanity. Between people who create entertainment and people who consume entertainment, what is left for the rest of society when we eventually reach a state where work has become obsolete?
I used to think there was some sort of permanence to consuming art or literature or music or media. Once you consume it, you cannot unconsume it. What you consume becomes a part of you, and you should be able to draw upon it at will. I realize now that there is no permanence in consumption. Everything is momentary, even things that make an impression on us. Sooner or later, we forget what we consume. We forget what happens in movies quickly, and we forget what happens in books even quicker. Then, we are forced to consume it again and again until we remember. It is an endless cycle of consuming then forgetting and then consuming and forgetting again.
I was thinking back to my grandmother watching her Chinese sitcom, noticing the parallels between her cyclical viewing of her TV series and the human condition at large. It really is one episode after another episode and then back an episode because you forgot what happened in the previous episode. I remember I watched the last season of Sherlock twice — once this year, and once when it came out — because I completely forgot that I watched it at all. I didn’t remember the plot or the characters throughout the first two episodes; it was only until the last episode, during an especially cringey explosion scene, that I remembered I had watched it in the first place. I can’t help but wonder how much other media out there is privy to the same experience.
I guess it all boils down to a sense of confusion. If we eventually forget everything that we consume, what’s left of there in life? Just an attempt to escape boredom through entertainment, only to forget how we spent our time being entertained, followed by the same fear of boredom again. I wonder if there’s more to life than that.