Holman walked and worked very slowly, trying to keep his organs and muscles in good condition without using too much oxygen. He had to rest frequently and got into the habit of simply sitting in the central room, getting up occasionally to feed the stove, watching the patches of window light glide across the walls, thinking, and watching his thoughts. Gradually he became aware of this watching, of awareness itself. Unable to waste his limited energy on the past or scenarios about possible futures he found himself trapped in a narrow space called the present, a present that consisted of a strange ghost town in an almost airless forest, this stone house, this room, this body slowly but deeply breathing in, slowly but deeply breathing out… “If this was a story, he thought, it would be boring as hell.”
“No,” said a voice. “Hell is much more boring than this.”
Holman raised his gaze from the intricate weave of the carpet to a dark figure who sat on a cushion with its back to the window, its front and face in shadow. “I lived here long ago,” it said, “in this very house.”
“The resident ghost,” said Holman. “I hope we’re not intruding.”
“No worries,” said the ghost. “It’s nice to have some company for a change.”
“No offence,” said Holman, “but I don’t really believe in ghosts. I think my mind produced you to distract me from my boredom.”
“No offence taken,” said the ghost. “I don’t believe in ghosts either. There is of course no evidence that I exist anywhere but in your mind, and it is possible, as you say, that I am just your mind’s attempt to distract itself from its boring self.”
“Are you saying that I have a boring mind?”
“No more boring than a leaf or a stone,” said the ghost. Anything is boring until we examine it more deeply. You could say that boredom is the mind’s refusal to explore itself and its world.”
“Why does it do that?” asked Holman. “Why choose boredom.”
“Boredom is stasis,” said the ghost. The bored mind walls its life inside a shell, like the meat inside a nut. It refuses to explore what is outside or what is inside that shell. It justifies this stance by claiming that it has nothing more to learn about the world outside or the life, the soul if you will, inside the shell.”
Holman was silent for a moment.
“But when a man reaches a certain age,” he said, “he can see that nothing changes. The more things change the more they stay the same. After a time you see how the same things just keep happening. Every day the sun comes up, every night it goes down. Winter follows summer. People are born and live in a boring circle of desire, aggression, hunger and worry punctuated by fleeting hours of pleasure, the whole insane carousel surrounded by ignorance. And they teach their children to exist in the same way.”
The ghost was silent.
“I don’t choose boredom,” said Holman. “I just recognize the truth. Life is boring.”
The ghost was silent for a moment.
“So there’s no wall between you and the world,” said the ghost. “It’s just that you’ve seen its essence and there’s no reason to explore further.”
Holman was silent.
“And there’s no reason for you to look into your heart because you know that all men have the same sad, hungry, fearful heart and there’s no reason to explore it further.”
Holman was silent then he raised his head to look at the ghost again. But it was gone. He was alone in this room, in a world he knew too well.