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Friday, March 14, 2008

The Bliss of Boredom

So we've turned the corner from impending doom to simple boredom. Below is an excerpt from another fascinating article I found this week, this one from the Boston Globe, and titled "The Joy of Boredom":
As Ralley studied boredom, it came to make a kind of sense: If people are slogging away at an activity with little reward, they get annoyed and find themselves feeling bored. If something more engaging comes along, they move on. If nothing does, they may be motivated enough to think of something new themselves. The most creative people, he said, are known to have the greatest toleration for long periods of uncertainty and boredom.
The article's basic premise is that as we become more connected with technology, we're less bored. While that may sound like a good thing, the writer wonders if it is in fact the opposite.

I've always been one of those people who has said that I'm never bored because I'm so good at entertaining myself. And not just with books or TV or the Internet, but even when I'm without anything, I can find a way to engage my brain in some kind of activity, even if it's only daydreaming.

So what does this have to do with bliss? I don't know about you, but I find the more quiet, reflective time I have, the more likely I am to have those a-ha! moments that have proven so valuable in my life. I recognized in a meditative moment without distraction that quitting my job was not so much a desire as a need, and that nothing else would do, so I would have to apply myself to figure out how I would make that happen. Plenty of other things have come to me in moments like this--everything from story ideas to interesting insights to memories that I replay and then reanalyze for new information.

I actually think I tend to cultivate a life that gives me moments like this: I'm not the kind of person to overplan my life, or architect an elaborate social calendar or even get involved in the kinds of drama that so engage so many people. Some people are drama seekers, and their lives seem exciting. However, all that excitement, I think, usually leads to neuroses. No time to think. No time to reflect. No time to learn or get creative.

So the next time you're bored, see if you can refrain from jumping on the computer, switching on the TV or picking up the phone. I just read about someone who does a tech-free day on Sunday. Maybe I'll try it too--I could certainly benefit from a little more boredom in my life, too.

I mean, is anyone immune from the endless siren song of all this connectivity? I know I'm not, and let me tell you: I'm bored with never being bored.

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3 comments:

Erzsebet said...

Immune to the connectivity? I don't know if I am "immune." I do know that the deluge of information on the internet and on the television or even in the newspapers is overwhelming to me. In general, I avoid checking my email more than once a day and I visit only three websites routinely (GimmeBliss, PostSecret, Arts & Letters Daily). I find that getting lost in the information adds a sense of anxiety: I have no time to create a framework for understanding before the information changes, the page reloads, and there's some new bit of information to incorporate. I felt guilty "unplugging," but it has opened up more time to think, journal, read, write, and create. In the final analysis, cultivating a sort of hermit-like "boredom" has helped me journey inward to find a sense of self, and a sense of participation in the world.

-erzsebet

Nihara in the Jungle said...

Hi tiffanila, I am here!! I have only just discovered your little goldmine. i was dallying on the net and realised i had not checked your blog for a while and lo and behold it has multiplied. My comments on your commentary? I believe I have had most creative thoughts sitting in the john- why? Because of all the things you say; its quiet, its where I have to stay till I'm finished and so if I let my mind wander, all sorts of thoughts and images coalesce and around my head. And a few minutes is all you need for an idea to be born, no?

Tiffany Hamburger said...

@Erzsebet--glad to hear you're able to disengage. I hear you, though, about going on an information diet! (And I feel honored to be one of the sites you consider valuable enough to keep checking! Thank you!)

@Nihara-yep, you're right--all you need is a few minutes for an idea to appear! I like the shower and walking for my boredom meditations... glad to see you here and hope to see you here again soon! Miss you, as always! :-)