Tag Archives: boredom

The value of being bored

Now that we have screens, we can take amusement with us into any and every situation. Headphones, and perhaps a battery of some sort, and you will never be bored again. Children will never be bored again. What progress!

Except that boredom has a value for adults and children alike.

I grew up in a rather boring place, and at the risk of sounding old and clichéd, we had to make our own fun. I am no doubt richer for that. As I see it, the entire folk music tradition comes from bored people with limited resources obliged to make their own fun. Pubs exist for people to gather and amuse themselves. Or you’d have to go out and kick a football around rather than watch someone doing it for a lot of money.

Boredom is the parent of creativity and innovation. Being bored now and then is good for us because it spurs us to come up with solutions, or get off our bottoms and go somewhere more interesting. If the little screen of endless distraction is always there, you never get chance to do that. Big dreams come out of idle wondering. Big visions come out of empty days, if we use that space. The urge to make and do, to meet and encounter comes from a feeling of lack. What we get when we fill some of our time from our own resources does more to nourish us than staring blankly at little time killers.

Last night on my way home I saw a group of kids heading towards the park to do poi and such like, so it’s evident that the little screens aren’t stopping everyone from having a good night out. That cheers me greatly.

Many of us live in an overstimulating reality, plying our brains with more information than they can take in. It’s good to stop, do nothing, be bored and let your mind catch up once in a while.


The importance of being bored

It may seem counter-intuitive, but boredom is a good thing. I’m conscious that a lot of modern children live very scheduled lives. Outside of school there are clubs, extra lessons, and when those run out, the television and computer games will provide. Many children do not experience boredom. At the first sign of grumpy inspiration-fail, parents rush in to provide distractions. After all, bored children are horrible. I think this probably true for a lot of adults as well – both the boredom-avoidance, and the being horrible in face of it.

There is a difference however, with being an active participant in your own life, and killing time. There’s a mid ground, a place of occupied but not happy, which is very easily achieved. Filling up the time with noise and trivia makes us not notice it. Then sometimes, when trying to go to sleep, or when there’s a power cut, or something else to break the rhythm, the absence of anything real to do can become painfully apparent.

Boredom is not a thing to drown out or suppress, but a thing to experience when it comes. If there is an underlying ennui, a sense of dissatisfaction then maybe a bottle of alcohol and a film will make it go away for a while, but it seldom fixes it. Boredom can so often be born of soul-hunger and a need for substance. If we drown it in quick fixes, it keeps floating back to the surface.

My child does not have a television, or a games consul. Sometimes I find him things to do, but every now and then he gets some time when no one directs him. He responds to this in all kinds of ways – grumpiness included. There are times when even a book won’t help him, and he gets restless. Out of that restlessness comes a will to do something. From the knowledge of boredom, comes the knowledge of that which he really enjoys. It gives him perspective. He’ll start talking about grand schemes for wild adventures, and nurturing big aspirations.

I’ve noticed that if I allow myself the space and time to be not-busy, I become more conscious of the things in my life that frustrate me. I start to feel where the lacks are, where the need lies. This can be a depressing sort of process, but I’m learning to go with it. Like my child, when I’ve had enough time to get properly uncomfortable, I start imagining what I really want. From there, I can start imagining how to go about it, and once that’s in place, good action can follow.

Sometimes, what boredom creates is an awareness of my need to do something, make something, change something. Out of what seems like stasis, comes energy for renewal. But without allowing the bored stage, that doesn’t happen, we just run round the same little tracks in the same little circles, using the same sorts of tricks to distract ourselves from thinking too much.

For me, thinking about things is very much a part of my druid path. It’s through thinking and questioning that I find my way forward. Anything that reduces my willingness to explore and create change, does not seem like a good idea to me. Too much insulating comfort suppresses hungers that, when allowed some space, turn out to be for other things entirely. Too much facebook can make me feel dull and disorientated. Time outside feeds my soul. If I sit indoors and never turn the computer off, I may never find the impetus to go out. When I turn everything off and look around me, then I find the will and energy to do something different.