Is there a mother or a teacher who has not heard these two words?
As chronology creeps up on me, my appreciation of boredom grows. I remember my own childhood as filled with boredom, but in its midst I created imaginary worlds in my mind, envisioned myself living the lives of historically significant people such as Elizabeth Blackwell and Marie Curie. In my boredom, I created a vision for my life and set goals as I sat on the front porch swing and sang to my cat, Cricket.
I hated being told, "Find something to do" and "Play a game." when I proclaimed my boredom.
As my own children were growing up, they too shouted I'M BORED frequently, even though they lived childhoods far more scheduled than my own. And like my parents, I too echoed the "Find something to do" and "Play a game" advice offered to me.
To keep my boys creating, I let them climb mountains near our home and build forts in the back yard. My youngest son frequently gathered scrap wood from our neighborhood as houses sprang up and used his finds to build skateboard ramps, which my husband promptly hauled to the dump to make room for more.
I often tell the story of Corey's ingenuity in transforming a skateboard into a trampoline accessory by removing the wheels and replacing them with an old pair of sneakers. He put the contraption on his feet and mounted the trampoline and began to jump. Not satisfied with jumping, he performed backflips and somersaults. All went well until the dismount. Corey slipped and used his hand to brace himself. That resulted in his third trip to the hospital for a broken arm.
Perhaps I felt comfortable making room for my boys' creative enterprises because my father once hauled a playground-size slide home and set it up in our back yard. It became a gathering place in our neighborhood. We performed on the platform my father built atop the slide. My sister practiced her high-wire act on the bar that extended from the platform to a huge oak tree. I watched the train from atop the platform and imagined where I'd go if I were riding the rails.
Through boredom we see the possible.
Sadly, most kids today miss the benefits of boredom, despite research that suggests boredom breeds creativity, that we need boredom. A 2014 Psychology Today article traces the modern history of boredom to the 19th Century and the idea that boredom results from "unmeaningful activity" during the industrial revolution.
We eschew boredom for many reasons, including fear of facing our own realities. During moments of boredom we're confronted with our thoughts and fears, but we're also given the gift of contemplation. Boredom births creativity, opens opportunities for new ideas, and helps us reassess our lives.
The philosopher Bertrand Russell has some wise thoughts about the benefits of boredom: "A generation that cannot endure boredom will be a generation of little men, of men unduly divorced from the slow process of nature, of men in whom every vital impulse slowly withers as though they were cut flowers in a vase."
We need moments of occasional boredom to flourish. The next time a moment of solitude presents itself, instead of looking for ways to fill the time with the business of being busy, simply BRING ON THE BOREDOM!