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Boredom’s Gift

“Boredom’s gift” by Saelen Ghose

Two Bored Boys

Boredom used to be a portal to creativity, a springboard of sorts, carving out space in the mind for ideas to enter. But the good old days of boredom are long gone, joining the Dodo Bird, Pet Rocks, and The Three Stooges on the path to extinction. Instead we’ve replaced them with gizmos, toys, and gadgets that keep our kids, and us, entertained and distracted. Why would we do that?

We’re afraid of boredom. It connotes laziness. It signifies either a lack of progress, or even worse, an unwillingness to progress. It’s also a state of mind that is unsettling at its core, because it forces us to sit and listen to ourselves think. And being reflective is not something that comes very naturally to us, mainly because we’re out of practice.

We’ve done our best to pummel boredom into extinction. We certainly don’t want our kids being idle. First we came up with TV, a mostly harmless device, delivering some entertaining shows and the nightly news. In fact the first televisions doubled as exercise equipment because viewers had to actually get up off the couch to change the channel. The remote soon took care of any cardio benefits, and cable expanded our choices of stations, keeping us tuned, but not very toned.

Then video games joined the fray, beginning with Pong, the ever so simple game we used to think was the coolest thing besides free toys in cereal boxes. Currently the video game industry is one of the fastest growing industries in the world, spewing out countless new titles every year, helping us keep boredom at bay.

Now we have ipods, smart phones, electronic readers, and a host of other devices that distract us from ourselves. Their universal ringtone is, “Thou shall not be bored.” And that’s a call that we can’t help but answer. However it’s boredom that leads to innovation. It’s boredom that forces us to dig deep to discover new twists and turns on existing ideas, and then help us figure out new ideas to replace them with. If we continue to shut off each faucet, soon all our faucets will run dry, and we’ll have no way of reaching our inner core. And that not only impacts us as individuals, it narrows the potential field of innovators, and limits us as a society.

I might be a parent, but I’m no dinosaur. I’m amazed at the technology of today. It’s a lot of fun to be able to send texts to friends, or look something up on the internet, or dial up a tune on an ipod. But those devices have made boredom obsolete. And I worry how that’s impacting the creativity of our future scientists, artists, doctors, and entrepreneurs.

Kids towed the “I’m bored” party line back when I was growing up. But back then parents would say, “Figure something out.” And we did. We’d leave for the day, and somehow come up with all sorts of things to keep ourselves entertained. Some of these things I shall not repeat for fear of incriminating myself. And some of the things we did-like careening off a 10 foot jump on our banana seat bikes with no helmets and not much space for a landing-make me wonder how I was able to even have kids. But our boredom caused us to reflect, take in our surroundings, and devise some plan. It was creativity at work, something that is sorely missing today.

I realize it’s a different time with different rules. I don’t let my kids roam around the neighborhood doing whatever they want. And I certainly have a better sense of what they’re up to-at least that’s the party line I tell myself. But there is something to be said for allowing kids to figure it out for themselves. There is something to be said, for giving ourselves some space to wonder. We don’t need to fill up every moment with “noise” because those quiet moments of reflection help us find ourselves. And that’s when creativity can germinate, and grow.

Do you think boredom and creativity are linked?

What do you do when your kids say they’re bored?

Copyright 2010

Read in The MetroWest Daily newspaper.

 

2 Comments on Boredom’s Gift

  1. Apparently I am a dinosaur because my kids do sometimes complain that they are bored. And when they do, I tell them to go find something to do or I will give them something to do. Since my things to do usually involve chores, they are usually pretty anxious to go find something themselves.

  2. My kids will play non-stop and immediately say they’re bored. I like to say “Well find something to do”.

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