Years ago, as a young college couple, my husband and I often had fellow students over for dinner. Once the nerve-wracking experience of getting a coordinated meal on the table was over, I enjoyed the company. Except, perhaps, for the young man who came for lunch and stayed for dinner. During that epically long afternoon, someone mentioned reading somewhere that the more intelligent the individual, the more susceptible they were to boredom. “That’s true,” remarked our boring guest. “I get bored very easily.”

It was the funniest thing he’d said all afternoon. But I doubted the proposition, even then, because it seemed to me that one sign of intelligence might be a lively general interest. As Robert Louis Stevenson wrote, in a little couplet called “Happy Thought,” The world is so full of a number of things, / I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings. (Written, incidentally, by a man who was sick for most of his life and spent interminable days in bed.)

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