I Try to Be Bored as Often as Possible

According to an article in The Boston Globe, written by Carolyn Y. Johnson and published on March 9, 2008, our “empty moments are being saturated with productivity, communication, and the digital distractions offered by an ever-expanding array of slick mobile devices.”

http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/ideas/articles/2008/03/09/the_joy_of_boredom/

CellPhones on Train Platform

Well, that’s obvious every time I ride the train. Over the past few months, I’ve overheard (thanks to cell phones):

  • mundane business deals being made
  • dinner parties being planned
  • boyfriends being dissected
  • people calling their cable company to complain about errors on their bill
  • and, my least favorite, people telling their significant others, “I’m on the train. Yeah.”

I suppose I can only feel lucky that I’m not exposed to their text messages as well.

It makes me think back to when I was a train commuter over twenty years ago. Way back then, once you left your house, you were on a solitary journey. There was no phone in your car as you drove to the train station. There was a pay phone at the station, but who would you call, unless there was an emergency? Standing silently on the platform, waiting for the train to screech up, you could think, rest, yawn, scratch, reapply your lipstick, and just be bored.

As the article states, “To be bored is to stop reacting to the external world, and to explore the internal one . . . There is a strong argument that boredom — so often parodied as a glassy-eyed drooling state of nothingness — is an essential human emotion that underlies art, literature, philosophy, science, and even love.”

Are the cell-phone talkers on my trains these days exploring their inner world through conversation, or are they avoiding true reflection? I choose to think the latter. I believe people are afraid to feel bored, because they are afraid that boredom leads nowhere, when actually it leads everywhere.

I can’t say that I wrote a novel in my head while being bored on that train platform way back then, or that I solved the problems in my life’s relationships, but I do know that I felt calm and contented when I stepped up onto the train, instead of feeling frazzled and overstimulated.

Somehow, the train riders of the 1980s survived the trip without being connected to everyone they know by some electronic device, just as the train riders of the 1880s survived the journey west without pay phones on the prairie.

Maybe one day someone’s cell phone battery will run out, and she will be forced to be solitary and bored on the train platform. Maybe she will discover, after the initial fear and discombobulation subside, that being bored isn’t the worst thing in the world.

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4 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    […] June 11, 2008 · Filed under Life Expansions &#183 Tagged Homeschooling There’s a new Carnival of Homeschooling out today, with so many posts that look like rides I want to try. Please check it out! I’m there, and so is Life Without School, with a great post about being a human being and not just a human doing. It reminds me of my post about being bored. […]

  2. 2

    […] distractions offered by an ever-expanding array of slick mobile devices.” Susan Gaissert presents I Try to Be Bored as Often as Possible posted at The Expanding […]

  3. 3

    BrentD said,

    I find that often boredom acts as a kick start for creativity. Some of my best ideas come during mundane mindless chores. Plugging this “entertainment gap” can effectively stifle your creativity and guarantee uninspired results.

    Good post.

  4. 4

    Good Therapy said,

    It reminds me of running away from your problems. I’ve often wondered if we’ve lost some of our ability to reflect on our life by staying so busy with cell phones and computers. Probably it will take generations to know if this has had any adverse affect. Of course years ago when the phone was first invented I’m sure our ancestors were appalled by the thought of their children becoming dependent on the telephone and the impact.


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