For once, nurture boredom

For once, nurture boredom

I remember my professor, who would consider our boredom of having had enough lectures before his, by inviting us to do a quick write-up on ‘what made you feel bored’ before he let us free for that day. The onus was squarely upon us to do some quick thinking, but writing on boredom was no less boring. It was a kind of drubbing that we could hardly escape. Net result, rarely could we take advantage of his generous offer.

We did feel bored surely, but were not able to translate it into words. Back-to-back lecture classes were often tedious and monotonous, and I suspect if these are any different now. At home, my mother would often wonder what made youngsters feel bored as there was no such word in her dictionary. She thought we were too lethargic to engage ourselves meaningfully, and therefore felt bored. As for her, she always had some household chore to perform.

Like many of the present generation, we didn’t know that Charles Dickens had coined boredom in his writings much before Greek philosopher Lucius Seneca had drawn reference to it. That we felt bored was a reality which we were often up against. What gave us solace (and dismay too), however, was that teenagers in every era defaced public property to counter ‘temporary boredom’.

That boredom has a darker and a more complicated side is a later revelation for me. Had it not been so, literature would not have created characters (like Madame Bovary or Jack Torrance) for whom boredom had become dangerously existential. But, boredom isn’t all bad, as encouraging contemplation and daydreaming can spur creativity. Surprisingly, it is considered to be the stuff that can help unlock the next big idea.

Equally surprising is the fact that the world’s bore flock to deliberate on their boredom at what is called the London Boring Conference. Now in its eighth edition, the conference wants people to use the mundane as an impetus to creative thinking and observation. What worries the deliberations is that far from using boredom as an intellectual stimulus, the world is achieving intense stimulation at the click of a mouse or touch of a screen. This is killing the much desired human trait of boredom.

Since boredom is considered ‘an aversive experience of wanting, but being unable, to engage in satisfying activity’, it is viewed as an amazing idea that should be carefully nurtured. Don’t get me wrong if I suggest enforcing boredom across your family members, especially the children. Only by pumping boredom can we make children seek engagement in creative ventures. We may need to make them watch light flicker or milk boil, by putting away their smartphone for a while. Else, it is only a matter of time that the world will become a boring place, if it isn’t already!