In my last post I talked about the gadgets in our lives and how they provide a constant source of distraction from whatever might be bothering us. We never have to be bored, for example, not for a moment. That’s a loss for us, I believe. If we eradicate boredom from our lives, we choke off the flow of our own creativity. Constantly fleeing boredom, we end up always bored.
When I tell my son it’s time to stop playing video games, he’ll mope around for a while, complaining that he’s bored, that there’s nothing to do. I used to say the same thing when I was his age (long before video games), and my mom would tell me, “Well, if you’re looking for something to do, there are plenty of chores.” At which point I’d quickly find a game to play or something to read.
Over the years I’ve come to see boredom differently. When I feel that familiar restless urge to escape from now, where nothing enjoyable or interesting seems to be happening, I give in, and let boredom be. And what usually happens is that the mind starts to work. The gears of the imagination begin to turn. If it’s not getting any outside stimulus, the mind starts to make its own excitement. It starts to ponder, speculate, invent, play. These are the moments when new ideas are born. For me, the spark of a new story often happens here. Without the vacancy of boredom, there’s no space in the mind for creativity to grow in. (Maybe when we say "I'm bored out of my mind" we should turn it around and tell ourselves to go ahead and be bored into our minds. And then see what happens).
Now, when my son tells me he’s bored, I say to him, “Really? What a wonderful opportunity this is for you. Go ahead and be bored for a while. Who knows what you might come up with. The human brain has evolved over millennia to seek stimulation from its environment and ….” Usually by this point he’s already left the room and found something else to do. There’s nothing more boring than Dad’s lecture on the value of boredom.