In Praise of Boredom
Need something to pass the time during the lockdown? Here’s one idea that uses no carbon and costs nothing: Find Boredom.
Yes, seriously. Boredom is undervalued. Nowadays, it’s hard to feel bored because there is too much pablumedia (pablum + media: mushed up content fed into our minds) trickle-stimming our brains. We feed into the illusion that a constant (usually electronic) input stream is either useful or entertaining or important or humorous but the downside is that we rarely let ourselves become truly bored. And that’s a shame because boredom is the fertile ground from which ideas and motivation grow.
Complete boredom is best – no radio or TV background noise, no eavesdropping of café conversations, no perusing the sales flyers or newspaper. and no checking the bleeps and tinkles from your social media devices–turn those puppies off. Just try it. Find a quiet 20 minutes sitting in the kitchen or laying on your favorite lounge-couch staring at nothing. If you have mentally challenged pets at home, or significant others who want to spend quality time with you, or kids needing homework help or diaper changes, then you’re not fully engaging with boredom, you’re fulfilling your familial obligations. Absolute boredom is what we should seek. Mundane work or chores can sometimes suffice, but only if they are mindless activities such as washing dishes, shoveling the walkway, folding laundry and so on.
Two things occur when we are bored. First, we use less energy sitting around doing nothing or using only our limbs to do simple work. Second, our minds start to wander into interesting territory – the undiscovered realm of empty time. In that unfamiliar territory our thoughts can wander aimlessly, kicking around rusty old concepts, turning over decaying memories to see what’s underneath them, peaking into empty places where no thought has gone before. Without any conscious effort at all, before you know it, something useful, creative, constructive, and beneficial will occur to you. Our minds can’t help it. Our brains are not designed to be idle. If you cut back on your sensory input, you automatically go into creative mode and start pumping out ideas.
So if you are sitting around twiddling your thumbs, keep doing it until inspiration strikes. If you feel the need to do something, chill that notion, turn off the input stream, take some calming breaths, find a window overlooking a bird feeder, or just study the paint on your wall to see if it’s still drying. Don’t problem-solve, don’t work on mental puzzles, just stop, relax, and wait. Guaranteed, in less time than it takes to watch or listen to the nightly news, weather and sports, you’ll have come up with an idea that puts a smile on your face and some enthusiasm in your steps!