Yesterday I read an article by an author who was complaining that most of her friends were boring. More than that, they were badly behaved, in that mediocre self-centred kind of way: bringing cheap wine to the author’s dinner party and drinking twice as much of their good stuff; taking up all the air-time with bone-wearying monologues about traffic and dull jobs, without bothering to ask a question of their host.
I don’t know this author’s friends, but to me she was describing people who were spiritually depleted. Comfortable, late-career, middle-class, entitled and getting close to empty.
Someone recently told me that to her, the word ‘spiritual’ meant something close to ‘spirited’. Adventurous, curious, generous, open-hearted – a ‘spirited’ person is someone who lives life by paying attention to what is going on, and heartily embraces the mystery of what may or may not come next. I rather like this definition of ‘spiritual’.
There are many things that cause a person’s spirit to ebb away: poverty, racism, sexism and all the other great downward-pointing thumbs of this would that attempt to pin people to the ground and keep them in their place. It also occurs to me that a person’s spirit may become weak and atrophied in the presence of too much comfort. The author wrote longingly of her younger friends, who lacked secure employment and may never own their own home, but were plenty fun to hang out with. These were spirited people.
It seems to me that for some, the antidote to being a bore is not simply to ensure that one is well-travelled, because one can be comfortable, self-centred and boring almost as well in Nepal as they can be while guzzling nice wine on a friend’s couch. Just talk to any tourism operator. I think a better cure for boringness is to tend to one’s spirit, and give it the space to be adventurous, curious, generous, open-hearted and attentive. Funnily enough, your spirit can do all this on your friend’s couch: the Himalayas, if you have the means, are optional.