I am sitting in meditation in a yoga class. The teacher is giving her opening spiel around settling in and being with the troubling ways of the mind. At one point she says, “It has to get boring as hell for us to be able to notice, that it is actually, not.” Yes, I think. I know this to be true for myself, and for what I saw with my own children when they were growing up. The way that suddenly the inertia of the boring-ness will bust out into something truly vital and engaging if given half a chance; turning into something both mesmerizing and alive. Exactly the opposite of boring.
And then I think, What is to become of the ones who will never experience boredom? The ones who will never have the chance to bust through to the other side. The ones who are growing up now terrified and avoidant of ever getting anywhere near this experience. And the myriad of parents training their children to believe that boredom is akin to subjecting their kids to the plague; leaving them to run their children ragged with too many things to do, and too many ways to fill their minds.
And then of course, there are the screens, and their glowing promise to keep any of us from ever having to experience such a difficult and noxious state. But what if this is all wrong? What if boredom holds something truly precious for each and every one of us in the most quintessential of human ways?
What if boredom was exactly the state that would bring us back to noticing The Great Mystery? The truly precious nature of human existence? That which is beyond the busyness and the drive to be entertained 24/7. Would we accept boredom then?
Boredom is defined as the state of being weary and restless through lack of interest. Maybe this is exactly what it takes. A kind of weariness and restlessness that arises out of the absence in our lives of anything that truly grabs our attention, that we may then go on to find what it is that is actually worthy of that very same precious attention. But in order for us to make use of this valuable and necessary information we would actually have to leave some space in our lives; making a commitment to not fill it up with something. For armed with this kind of knowing we are primed to build and build and build in our discomfort until it finally reaches a critical mass that serves to propel us forward into something more life-affirming.
But now, because there is always something in the form of a screen to fill that void, immediately and continuously, that fertile space of boredom never gets a chance to pull us in, and then to sling shot us back out into that which captivates and motivates.
And herein lies one of our biggest problems in The Age of Technology; how can we notice the lack of something not happening? How are we to notice that because there is no space, there is no boredom, and therefore no compelling experience towards what we did not even know we are missing out on? This is the trade-off now that we are up against.
It sounds kind of crazy to even suggest what I am about to suggest. To even be living in a time and place where we actually have to create space to be bored, but here we are. Could you imagine it? Could you imagine making a point in your life to be bored? Could you imagine not filling the gap when the urge arises with a screen? Could you imagine when your children came to you and said, “I’m bored,” you said, “Great,” and then left them to their own devices (and not the electronic ones)? Could you imagine not filling the space for them out of guilt or some preconceived idea that they must always be entertained?
Taking on boredom willingly just might be one of the most revolutionary things any one of us could do not only for our own lives, but for the greater good of all. A kind of antidote and balm to all of the incessant doing and filling of the paltry empty space any of us even has.
Ironically enough, even with all that we have to occupy ourselves, look around and notice how many of us appear “weary and restless” despite our most obvious lack of boredom.