What is it with bores? I mean the sort of people who always have to hold the floor. They talk constantly at you, hurling their words like spears, each one tiny enough but nearly deadly in their collective effect. Almost all bores seem to have been born with, or to have developed, an amazing capacity: they can talk and take in air at the same time, so there’s never a moment to drop in your own two cents. On they go. They take no interest in you or anything about you; at best, you’re a stage prop in the one-person drama that they compose, produce, and star in. These are the people who like to proclaim that they are about to make a long story short, when what they usually do is make no story at all interminable. They’re the people who clear their throats, look you in the eye, and, with great finality, say, “My point is . . . ,” then proceed to ramble on with no point whatever in sight. They’re the people whose idea of human interaction seems to be turning up the volume on the monologue that’s always going on in their heads. William James dignified this flow of words by calling it the “stream of consciousness”; in bores, the stream comes at you like a flooding river. Nothing stands in its way. Plutarch, the historian and moralist, dedicated an essay to this sort of person, and his assessment of the type was anything but sweet. Having a bore as a doctor, he says, is worse than having the disease; “as a fellow passenger he is worse than seasickness, his praise is more annoying than any blame.”
What is the bore trying to tell you? Is it “You are nothing and I am all”? An acquaintance of mine, when asked how he is, inevitably replies with an interminable list of the places he’s visited recently and then of where he’ll be going next—the more exotic the place, the longer his dilation. As he talks, I feel myself shrink further and further toward oblivion.
Sometimes he’ll name a place he’s going to see and I feel that green clutch of envy. I wish I was going there too. Overall, it’s no pleasure to be envious, but the good thing about envy, assuming that there is one, is that when you feel the bite, you learn something about what you want. When I hear about the trip to Paraguay and my stomach clutches, it probably means that Paraguay is a place to put on my wish list. On the matter of wanting, a lot of us go around dazed and confused. We don’t really know what we’d like—there’s so much available in our consumer utopia, it spins the brain. Knowing what you want isn’t always an easy trick, though most children seem to master it. I understand that for some time Parisian followers of the psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan used to greet each other in the street with the salutation “Where do you stand in regard to your desires?” (I’m sure it sounds more elegant in French.) The salutation had the effect of reminding both parties that they’re desiring beings—capable of wishing and having the wish come true (maybe), thereby attaining happiness (perhaps).
Remotely related: Hmm =)