A third cause of common Errors is the Credulity of men, that is, an easie assent, to what is obtruded, or a beleeving at first ear what is delivered by others. — Sir Thomas Browne
Though I do not remember the specific date, and though the specific location may only be guessed at — a good guess, mind you — I distinctly remember the confused individual some eight or nine years ago who, in response to something I had said, blurted out, “Kansas? Oh my, I’ve driven through Kansas. Kansas is so boring!” Never mind that this was stated from an individual who grew up and was presently residing in the state of Iowa, a state not generally advertised for its excitement. Never mind that the author of these mournful Amblers does hail from Kansas and can thus not properly address this topic without some level of bias. But the central issue of the matter hinges on this watery notion of boring. I have by my side a common dictionary which defines bore as “to weary by monotony, dullness, etc.” and boredom is the state which corresponds to that description. Now, I do not presently have access to the Oxford English Dictionary, but I will create a fact to support my own argument. For I would not be so surprised if the whole notion of boredom, the very word bore, in this sense, did not come about until after man created that devil of a device we call the T.V. I very well could, and am tempted, to continue a very harsh indictment on how if any of the fifty states which make up our divided union should be described as “monotonous” or “dull” that state would inevitably be Iowa. But seeing as how I do not believe this, I wish to once and for all do away with the silly notion that a thing in and of itself can actually be boring, let alone an entire state.
Now, if one is to be bored, one must necessarily be wearied by monotony or dullness, and we must question whether this weariness is affected by something outside of the individual or if it is affected from within. It should be noted that nearly every object which we mindless moderns label as “dull” or “monotonous” are really the least dull and monotonous things in the world. If anything is “dull” or “monotonous” it is the very nature of the universe. For the planets continue on their course; the sun rises the same every morning; one season follows the preceding; all children are born equally, and every death has already happened. Nothing new occurs under the sun, yet I never hear any one yelling at the sun for being monotonous or at the seasons for being dull. But any time an old man gives a lecture on iambic pentameter, or the landscape appears very flat and very green, we can’t seem to find enough words in the thesaurus to describe them as boring. It is, perhaps, our modern insistence on applying judgment at the surface-level: An old man may seem very old and thus very lame, but an old man may have more wisdom and wizardry in him than any ten galaxies floating in the heavens. A landscape may be very monotonous indeed if we are arguing from a negative — if by seeing what is not there we cast judgment on what is there. But then we forget that a tree is only dull because it is not unique, as if mere frequency of a thing makes it less worthy of wonder.
The western plains of Kansas are said to be boring for a variety of reasons. The least logical is that the plains are boring because they are very plain. Because no oceans or great lakes, no mountains, or great hills, dominate the landscape, they are boring. This person, in a sense, would have the whole of dry land be one mighty mountain. But because no mountains break up the landscape, one concludes the scene to be monotonous. It is thus assumed that “all blades of grass are created equal,” and even a tiny break in the action is too small a deliberation to still the madness of monotony. It is further assumed that monotony is necessarily a first fruit of boredom. But we must here agree that if anything in this world appears monotonous it is the sea, and plains are just that — vast seas of yellow and green which appear to majestically continue forever.
If one happens to be in Western Kansas, they will not discover monotony. In the southwestern nook, near Garden City, the wheat fields shimmer in the sunlight and contrast nicely with the smell of cattle if one is downwind. The green, which leaves very quickly, is often conquered by a brown and tan dusting, and in high winds — a common occurrence — the dust is picked up and blown sideways, overtaking everything in its path.
If one travels due north from Garden City, heading toward Scott City, they will encounter more wheat fields — a sea of enchanting gold whose waves sway with the wind as if the very breath of God inspires their movement. Indeed, because so few trees obscure a man’s view of the heavens, he may consider the acts of nature to be divinely inspired. For in Western Kansas, storms move in at a rapid pace, quickly dominating the skies like great black ships conquering the seas. The once peaceful skies soon speak of His majesty and justice, and man has nowhere to run for cover.
But if one mistakenly believes that Western Kansas is nothing but wheat, winds, and storms, he would be in for a surprise if he continued on the road between Scott City and Oakley, Kansas. For between Scott City and Oakley there is a hidden gem of open lands, uncluttered by tree or crop. Hills become cliffs, overlooking valleys which stretch for miles. The terrain here is anything but flat, and the smaller hills only hint at the much larger Rockies to the further west, and one gathers the inhabitants of this land have that fact forever hovering over them as if some medieval monarch overlooks their land. Indeed, each smaller valley only reminds us we are captured within a much larger valley.
Though Western Kansas has its own beauty, I believe the most enjoyable part lay in between Great Bend and Ellsworth. For here both corn and wheat fields exist in harmony. The forests of the east are complimented with breaks of open plains in which one can see again for miles on end before some valley reintroduces a grove of trees. Certainly, if one were inclined to amble about such a seemingly boring state, I believe they would only be bored because they are boring. For boredom is a very subjective state, and he who is bored has found himself in such a state not due to the world being filled with unexciting trifles but due to his own boring nature. A modern may arrive at the Grand Canyon and pull out his ipod; he will look on the vast landscapes like Oscar Wilde and conclude that they point to no greater truths; he will only find meaning and joy and love in his own self-constructed solar system in which anything that does not immediately please has no objective value. A modern looks out his backyard and complains there is no sea or swimming pool; a child turns the family tree into a fortress or forest. It is enough if the landscape have a lone tree or a forest of trees. For the miracle exists not in frequency but in life.