On Boredom

On Boredom

We have a saying in our family, “If you are bored, then clearly you suffer from a lack of imagination.” with the immediate implication that you need to get to work at improving your imagination. We use this statement to directly combat the dreaded “I’m bored” complaints from the kids, to which our kids keenly learn not to say at an early age.

Boredom, as such, is a bad word in our family. But Boredom is making a comeback in modern hyper-kid-focused suburban America now that “mindfulness” has taken full root into every level of our educational system. Boredom will soon be marketed as the solution for the over-schedule lives of our children, and parents with too much time on their hands that fill the void with their children’s social and mental enrichment. People will be embracing Boredom, and justifying it for not running to the next activity… at least for the next 15 minutes, and then we’re off to that soccer game for your 1st grader.

So my thoughts this week has been how do you reconcile those two defensible but opposing states. Is Boredom the antidote for the over schedule child? Or is Boredom the indicator that a mind lacks imagination to be aware and inspired to life?

Ok two caveats of course:

  • First, you could make strong the case that they are different meanings of the word. But I’d like to keep them wrapped up together and place it as a dot on a continuum for the thought experiment.
  • And second, Boredom is arguably the state of being agitated with the lack of intellectual stimulation while meditation is attempting to obtain a silence that ideally is a level of fulfilled stimulation. But admittedly, I’m equating the two due to my thus-far rebellion against silence due to my aggressive desire to have fully conscious and conveyable thought – neurons firing, not neurons silencing.

So to the debate, we have thus:

And while drawing that continuum, I was reminded of another continuum covering mental state, that I keep in my head:

So do they overlap? My conclusion is that the growing move to embrace boredom is simply a pendulum swinging in society, rather than moving to the correct goal – a focused consciousness and mastery of life. And that as a result, hopefully society will use the Boredom state not as an end state for what we preach to our children, but as a pendulum swinging stepping stone to eventually correct to the center – a more focused and mastery based perspective.

And then with that focus, the overlap to the mental states is clear. Hyper activity, with all its distractions, is the realm of comfortably numb. You fill your void with distractions, so that you never are forced to confront awareness. You are stressed to mundanity, but numb to awareness. The move to “boredom” (now adopting the more mindfulness meaning) is the movement to awareness – it is the overcoming of numbness through the removal of distraction. But it is not the end state. It does not get you to be awake, just opens the possibility of it. The work will have just begun if you can free yourself of distraction.

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