How Boredom Kills

People gather in front of the Israeli Embassy on February 27, 2024, to mourn Aaron Bushnell, 25, an active-duty member of the Air Force, who died after setting himself ablaze in protest of Israel's ongoing war in Gaza. (Photo by Fatih Aktas/Anadolu/Getty Images)

Here’s a different take on Aaron Bushnell. He didn’t kill himself for a righteous cause. He killed himself because he was bored. 

Let’s put a pin in that for now. 

Boredom is one of the least boring topics in human history, but it doesn’t get nearly the attention it deserves. One reason for this is: It’s sort of invisible. Historians, journalists, social scientists, filmmakers, and other chroniclers of the human experience look at the things that people do. But people very often do things as a way to fight off boredom. Here’s a weird way to think about it. Figuratively, we’re all minutes away from dying from a kind of internal poisoning. But there’s an antidote that we have to consume every few seconds or minutes or we’ll succumb to it. The antidote is called “air,” specifically “oxygen.”

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