What’s happened to me? I used to be an intellectual. I used to care about ideas. I used to read voraciously. I used to hang out in cafes and have long talks with like-minded folks about philosophy, politics, you know, real “issues.”
Over the years, however, as I have nestled into my creature comforts and my reliable routine, I find myself numb at times, indifferent at other times, and downright cynical most of the time.
I get excited every now and then by a fine glass of wine, a decent meal in a restaurant, some new gadget or other, or some new song on the radio. But for the most part I feel like I’m in a funk. Am I experiencing a common midlife crisis or is this something deeper?
The short answer to your question is that you’re suffering from a condition known as ennui, a general boredom with life. A longer answer might be that you are becoming, like most of us languishing through Modern Life, the kind of creature Nietzsche dreaded—the Last Man, a well-fed, consumer who relying on technological advancement and science for his wellbeing finds himself to be somewhat of a spiritual eunuch.
People deal with their ennui in many ways. Some go on spiritual quests, venturing to exotic, remote parts of the world and finding a gaunt guru. Others find a deity to their liking and an institution that packages their deity in a way that seems palatable. Still others join web chat groups where people obsess over some consumer product—watches, shoes, handbags, cars—which becomes a proxy for religious worship. Others become lost in creative work or some political ideal. Others become obsessed with finding romantic or erotic love, which becomes a sort of abyss where they become eternally lost and distracted.
I’m sorry I cannot prescribe some one-size-fits-all solution to your crisis. Nor can I offer you Ultimate Truth on a silver platter. But at least you’re aware that something is not right inside of you, which is evidence that there is some kind of life still roiling in your veins.
All I can do is leave you with a quote from Franz Kafka: “Truth is what every man needs in order to live, but can obtain or purchase from no one. Each man must reproduce it from within, otherwise he must perish.”