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In appreciation of boredom

When was the last time you felt truly and utterly bored? Thanks to the merits of digitisation, we have eradicated boredom almost completely. Every second of our lives is filled with entertainment. And the best part is that we don't even have to actively seek to be entertained. Entertainment and distraction have become the default. If we want to not be entertained or be bored, we must actively seek boredom. To be bored is no longer a natural state.

 

Having freed ourselves from boredom may feel like an achievement at first. Alas, it is a pyrrhic victory. There are many accounts of writers, musicians and other artists who cherish boredom as a key driver of their work, as summarised in this article by the BBC.

 

So, let's not waste those "empty" minutes and hours and appreciate the little specks of boredom still remaining in our lives. Let's consciously enjoy our moments of boredom, for they are now a precious good. In a world over-saturated with distractions, commitments and busyness, boredom may have become the ultimate luxury.

 

There's a difference between boredom and unwinding or relaxing, however. Boredom isn't a spa visit on the weekend to recover from a busy work week. Boredom isn't paying attention to your breath for twenty carefully planned and timed minutes on a meditation cushion. Boredom is sitting in the waiting room at your doctor's office for half an hour past your scheduled appointment, with your phone's battery dead and all the magazines in the waiting room looking too ragged and filthy to touch.

 

Boredom is not scheduled downtime. It's unscheduled, forced-upon downtime - not something we would normally actively seek. Quite the opposite: entire industries try to shield us from it at all costs.

 

My challenge to you is to recognise moments of true boredom when they arise throughout your day and then deliberately stick with them and ride them out. The impulse will be to seek distraction, which, today, means typically taking out our mobile phones. See if you can resist the urge and instead pay attention to how boredom makes you feel. Can you sense tension arising? Or is there a feeling of ease? Or something entirely different? Either way, see if you can stay with the feeling for a while, let your mind wander and see where it will take you.

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