Many of you may have already encountered this 2008 remark by Valerie Jarrett about Obama:
“I think Barack knew that he had God-given talents that were extraordinary. He knows exactly how smart he is. … He knows how perceptive he is. He knows what a good reader of people he is. And he knows that he has the ability — the extraordinary, uncanny ability — to take a thousand different perspectives, digest them and make sense out of them, and I think that he has never really been challenged intellectually. … So, what I sensed in him was not just a restless spirit but somebody with such extraordinary talents that had to be really taxed in order for him to be happy. … He’s been bored to death his whole life. He’s just too talented to do what ordinary people do.”
We talk a lot about Obama’s ego, and rightly so. But if Jarrett’s perception is correct (and she’s the adviser closest to him, and has been at his side for more or less his entire political life), then the worst sentence in her chilling quote may just be this one: “He’s been bored to death his whole life.”
Think about it. Jarrett is saying that as a compliment, not an insult. Boredom, however, is not a sign of intelligence (unless one is sitting in a classroom learning something one already knows). Perhaps Obama thinks he already knows everything? Perhaps he is depressed? What on earth could make a person bored his or her whole life, not to mention bored “to death?”
There’s the beautiful world of nature. There’s art and literature and love. There’s always-fascinating history. There’s friends and family. There’s the challenge of studying and observing people and their almost-endless foibles and crochets. There’s everything on earth and everything in the universe.
Of course, this is just Jarrett’s perception of Obama. But it’s hard to believe it doesn’t reflect a certain reality. What it really puts me in mind of, however (because I’ve got all those old poems floating around in my head), is poet John Berryman’s “Dream Song 14,” published in 1964.
Yep, that’s what I said. Take a look:
Life, friends, is boring. We must not say so.
After all, the sky flashes, the great sea yearns,
we ourselves flash and yearn,
and moreover my mother told me as a boy
(repeatingly) “Ever to confess you’re bored
means you have no
Inner Resources.” I conclude now I have no
inner resources, because I am heavy bored.
Peoples bore me,
literature bores me, especially great literature,
Henry bores me, with his plights & gripes
as bad as Achilles,
who loves people and valiant art, which bores me.
And the tranquil hills, & gin, look like a drag
and somehow a dog
has taken itself & its tail considerably away
into the mountains or sea or sky, leaving
behind: me, wag.