The following is an excerpt from Marc Wittman | April 4, 2016 | Huffingtonpost.com |
Boredom—Agonizing Time and Self
A memory of mine from Hong Kong: on one of the picturesque mountains over which the city extends — overlooking the bay, the sea of skyscrapers, and the forested islands — stands a park; here, there is a simple cage, maybe five by five meters. A lone chimpanzee is the occupant, sitting on a rubber floor with nubs. I can no longer recall the details, but the cage contained few objects for the animal’s entertainment. I watched the chimpanzee for a few minutes. He seemed to be lying down more than he was sitting. His fingers toyed apathetically with torn nubs, performing repetitive motions. His eyes stared listlessly at the floor. I thought I heard a sigh. I was filled with empathy, for I understood that the chimpanzee was bored.
There is always a risk of anthropomorphizing animals, that is, conferring human traits on them. However, research conducted in the last few years indicates that the chimpanzee, as a self-aware animal, is capable of feeling a kind of boredom, experiencing the passing of time in a way that approaches what human beings feel.
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