The concept of boredom, which means something dull, tiresome, or tedious, is not necessarily a bad thing. I mean, if that is the case, then we can just switch to something that isn't dull, tiresome, or tedious, right? Unfortunately, however, that's not always possible because the object of the boredom is often a person we have to endure (like a dear Aunt Hortense who never tires of talking about her antique doorknob collection), a job we must keep (because creditors often take a dim view of those who quit their jobs), or an event we must attend (a graduation ceremony that comes prepackaged with a long-winded, boring speaker). We all suffer through those things because they are just a part of life. There's an entire infrastructure of books, programs, and conferences that has been created to address these issues, so let's not deprive all those creators of their methods for making a living.
Boredom is an odd (or even boring) topic to write about, I know. Most people would rather have their fingernails ripped off than be afflicted with boredom! I believe I am qualified to address this topic, however, because I am easily bored myself. My mind has to be stimulated most of the time: I don't enjoy boring colors, books, TV shows and movies, people, or events.
Boredom, especially for children and teenagers, is often looked upon by them as a form of torture: "Mom, I'm sooooo bored," which means that Mom is expected to alleviate the boredom. As a child, I never said that to my mother, at least not more than once! She would definitely find something to remove my boredom--such as help around the house, or (horrors), wash the dishes. I hated washing dishes. Still do. In any case, at that time, it didn't occur to me that she might appreciate some spontaneous help with those things. Oh, I did my assigned tasks, but I wouldn't usually help with anything else unless prodded to do so. She worked full time and was probably tired--and never had the time to be bored herself.
By the way, why should others be expected, or made to feel obligated, to relieve our boredom? And, with all the gadgets and technology today that are dedicated to entertaining us, why are we ever bored? But back to my hypothesis . . .
Despite all that, I still think that boredom can be a good thing, and I have several reasons for thinking so.
When boredom sets in:
(1) reassess the root cause of the boredom, then take steps to rectify it. In thinking through the reason for the boredom, we just might stumble upon something worthwhile and enjoyable to do.
(2) realize that there are things far worse than boredom, such as being in the hospital, falling off a cliff, or being chased by a horde of starved spiders! (I've been dying to use that description since I saw it for a movie blurb on our TV guide channel. Ewwwww . . . and I didn't watch that movie, needless to say.)
(3) rethink the what we could be doing instead of thinking about ourselves (isn't that what boredom is?). Reach out to someone else with a cheery phone call, an invitation to an activity, a nice note, or even a brief visit.
(4) revel in the boredom! Yes, that's right--revel in it. Some of us don't have enough hours in the day to accomplish everything, we stay on the go nonstop, we have more responsibilities than we can handle, or we are just plain worn out--if that is the case, then, what on earth is wrong with just enjoying a peaceful time without expecting to be bombarded with sensory overload?
Our forefathers would not have understood the modern concept of boredom, I'm certain. They worked so hard to scratch out a living that they seldom had any time to even think about it (unless, of course, one's forefathers were wealthy and idle, often doing only silly things to alleviate their boredom). I think that our lifestyles today foster more boredom than the lifestyles of a generation or two ago. Today's gadgets I mentioned often lead us to believe that we must be entertained, connected, or interrupted at all times.
As unintended by-products of alleviating boredom, our imaginations are shot, our creativity is blunted, and our mental acuity is diminished. A case in point: a store cashier trying to figure out a customer's change manually if the computers are down. Most of the time, the person either has great difficulty accomplishing that task or simply cannot do it without help from a supervisor. As a career educator, I know that students' attention spans have steadily gone downhill over the years. Today, the ancient art of listening--or even taking notes while doing so--is just that: a lost art. Since fast-paced TV shows and movies are far more exciting with buildings exploding, steroid-saturated beings turning into futuristic vehicles, along with commercial breaks every few minutes--we are now programmed to require constant mental variety.
There's a story dating back to the Old West stagecoach days. A gentleman comes out of the hotel in a small western town to catch the stagecoach bound for his next destination. Upon being informed that the stage had already left and he had missed it, he matter-of-factly states: "Well, I'll just catch the next one when it comes through next month." NEXT MONTH? I can't even wrap my mind around how boring it would be to wait that long, can you?
What can we do about boredom? The way I see it, we have two choices: (1) do something else, or (2) succumb to it and just enjoy it. The best antidote I've found for my boredom (which comes far less often than in my youth) is by "doing something else": counting my blessings and thanking the Lord for them.
After all, I keep thinking about that horde of starved spiders, and mere boredom sounds so much better by comparison.