We hate boredom. We find anything to fill the time. How many pounds accumulate due to mindless eating due to boredom pack? How many hours get wasted in front of mediocre TV shows? How much trouble have teens found just to “have something to do”?
Do you remember when you were not bored? Mothers once shooed their children outside to beat summer boredom. What happened with nothing to do?
You laid down in the luxuriant green grass. Its aroma filled your nostrils, and the blue sky canopy enveloped you. As you laid there thinking of nothing, cottony clouds floated overhead shapeshifting constantly. In those rain-laden patterns you saw elephants, dogs, rabbits or the faces of the famous. You only stared at the sky and imagined.
Were you bored…or were you peaceful?
We’ve banished boredom with the glow of the portable screen. There’s a device for every situation, so you don’t have to be bored. Are you standing in the grocery store line, tapping an impatient foot? Don’t worry. Take out your phone and read your Facebook feed. Whether in doctors’ offices, airport lounges or coffee shops, technology promises an end to boredom.
There’s a problem with this bombardment of the senses with constant stimulation. It’s the four pounds of tissue between your ears. The genie of the small screen stimulates the brain flares with stimulation like a fire with lighter fluid dumped on it. Today’s problem is not stimulation but the lack of stimulation. In short, we miss boredom. We need it for three reasons.
We need rest for creativity to develop. Creativity is not coming up with the unknown but reassembling patterns into something different. When our brain rests, it gets the opportunity to see the patterns and possibilities. In short, we find creative solutions to our situations. (Perhaps this is the real reason for lack of creative thinking as much as anything.)
We need rest to absorb memories. The people we encounter and experiences we have need time to be stored. This process takes place when the mind has nothing else to do. While Google can look up an address, it cannot recall the sound of your mother’s voice and fill it with the emotion. Without the boredom of life, we run the risk of a culturally-caused dementia.
We need rest to reflect. Socrates observed, “the unexamined life is not worth living.” For many, a terrifying experience is to be in a house in the midst of a power outage with nothing to do but think about their lives. When we have (or take) the time to be still, we hear the still, small voice of God and get to rearrange our lives with Him as the guide.
Instead, we have substituted Xbox for creativity, Instagram for memory, and Facebook for reflection. Are you alive because something occupies your mind or because something infiltrates your soul?
When you find yourself in that grocery line and are tempted to reach for your phone, you have a choice. You can choose boredom and all the benefits that go with it.