The Value of Boredom

"Creativity is the residue of wasted time"

It's a refrain we have all heard before: unplug and relax, but even though there might be some value in the statement, like anything that is repeated a hundred times, the underlying utility can be overlooked because of its seeming ordinariness.

The speaker did offer several unique insights though. The most important was that boredom is fundamentally a way of life. What is interesting though is that we are largely able to avoid it with our phones, computers and tablets. My routine was quite similar to the prototypical American she describes. I woke up, checked Facebook, email, and texts. I thought about going to the flea market but there wasn't enough time so I decided my talk of the day would be on boredom. My quest is to avoid it. In the same way that I seek to avoid unpleasant feelings,

Second, and more unique point, was that the word boredom is a modern creation which is inextricably linked to options. She talks about how the word did not enter usage until the latter half of the nineteenth century. Before that point in time, one was simply idle. Boredom is not simply having nothing to do, it is that the sheer availability of options makes the alternative of doing nothing particularly distressing.

I also liked her imagery. She talked about how our devices are like a backpack of small birds all screaming for food, demanding our attention - and that particular moment when the demands on these creatures exceeds our interest/ability/time to care for them. I can relate to that, especially when I am active on an online dating site. It begins to feel like work.

Obviously one underlying theme of Western society is productivity. The idea of "doing nothing" seems completely foreign and approaches the level of nonsense. I know I used to share in that hyper-logical view. Why stop for stillness when I could be learning/helping/earning money or just sleeping.  I think this is particularly true about Meditation. As I watched her video, I began to think that it might in fact be too much for a society that no longer experiences boredom. Her video began to make me think of boredom as a bride to meditation. That instead of a meditation practice, maybe I should first have a boredom practice as preparation for meditation. Weaning myself off might be easier that way.